The University of Southern Queensland has been twice recognised for its EDI initiatives this month, as it earned a first and second SAGE Cygnet Award.

Staff satisfaction improved with better onboarding

The first of these awards focussed on building support and consistency across the onboarding process, which had been identified as an area for improvement to support staff retention.

The University developed an entirely new strategy for onboarding, guided by Compliance (to rules and policies), Clarification (about roles and expectations), Culture (organisational norms) and Connection (establishing interpersonal networks and relationships). They also sought to boost employee engagement with existing available information modules.

They saw a significant improvement in employee onboarding satisfaction in under two years: from an average rating of 3.2 (out of 5) in 2020-2022, to 4.5 in 2023. Feedback reflected this, including from rehired staff who noted the successful improvements since their last onboarding experience.

Supporting equity in the STEMM pipeline

UniSQ’s second Cygnet Award was awarded for their progress towards a more equitable STEMM career pipeline.

Internal analysis showed that  women w are entering and completing higher degree by research (HDR) STEMM studies at lower rates than men, leading to continued gender inequity throughout the academic pipeline.

UniSQ offered targeted women-only PhD scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships,  allowed academic employees (with identified positions for women and First Nations employees) to buy out time from work duties to progress their doctoral studies, and improved the visibility of women in STEMM faculties, including by conducting a roadshow to familiarise staff with the SAGE initiatives.

Against 2018 data, the university saw an an 8% increase in female STEMM doctoral students, and academic gender balance was improved by 1-8% across most STEMM schools.

Strengthening the university’s future

SAGE CEO Dr Janin Bredehoeft congratulated the University on making such demonstrable gains in equity and staff satisfaction.

“This reflects the commitment of leadership to improving EDI at many different levels of the institution. Congratulations to everyone who drove these initiatives forward.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor John Bell said, “These Awards are recognition of the University’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion within our workforce, and are really critical in terms of building a stronger university for the future.”

Both of UniSQ’s applications for their Awards, detailing their actions, outcome and impacts, are available on their SAGE profile page.