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Preparing and completing an SDPR/Career conversation: a guide for HoDs and Reviewers

This page includes information for Head of Departments and reviewers in all job families around the annual feedback and appraisal process.

SDPR/Career conversation: Frequency and key points

When to hold an SDPR/Career conversation

All core (not casual) staff who have completed probation are required to undertake a SDPR/career conversation annually, and HoDs are responsible for making sure this happens through their usual management structure. Staff normally have their first SDPR around six months after completing probation, allowing them to reflect on objectives and development goals set in the end of probation review. This interval may vary to fit the business cycle of the department.

Who is having the SDPR/career conversation

For professional services, the conversation is usually conducted by the line manager. As an academic HoD it may be useful for you to think about who is the best person to have the conversation with the staff member, such as a HoD/ Deputy HoD or senior colleague and how the actions agreed within the conversation is fed back to you. A tool which might aid you in this is the career development dashboard.

Key steps for arranging and completing an SDPR/ career conversation

  1. Reviewee to identify and review the relevant forms for the reviewee's grade/job family, and complete in advance where necessary.
  2. Complete your relevant training.
  3. Reflect on the elements of the conversation and think about what you would like to get out of the meeting.
  4. Conduct your conversation.
  5. The reviewee will complete the relevant forms
  6. Upload the record of the conversations/SDPR to iTrent, the reviewee will have sight of this on Employee Self-Service (ESS).
  7. Complete any relevant actions or feedback to the HoD/Department executive

Completing the relevant training

If you are conducting an SDPR/career conversation for the first time, you must complete the reviewer training beforehand. More information including course dates can be found below:

  • SDPR: Conducting an effective review (for reviewers − all staff)
  • You can also self-enrol and complete the online course on Moodle called Staff Development and Performance Review (SDPR) at any time.
  • If you are conducting a Career Conversation, it might be useful for you to review the resources from the career conversation workshop found alongside the form on this webpage

Additionally, here are some other training courses that might be relevant:

You can also access online tools and support on-demand via the Development Toolkit, such as:

SDPR/Career conversation forms

Keeping a record

The SDPR/career conversation form enables the reviewee to capture the main thoughts and commitments from your conversation. This is a way of focusing their thought process and to have something to refer back to, but having 'something to put on the form' does not prove that the meeting was a success. Aim for a rich and honest conversation that leaves your reviewee feeling valued and clear about how they can have a fulfilling and successful year. Please note, recording in iTrent is used only to document that the meeting took place and to provide a secure place for the notes, so you can refer back to them in the future.

As a Manager you can record and upload forms for the people you directly line manage onto iTrent through Manager Self Service (MSS).

In academic departments the SDPR/career conversation forms are usually logged by:

  • department coordinators for Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Readers and Professors
  • line managers for research staff

Once your SDPR/career conversation form has been uploaded to MSS, employees can view their own forms through Employee Self Service (ESS). As a manager if wish to see the forms for those people you line manage, you can view them via MSS.

Using the correct forms

There are a variety of different forms that have been developed over the years, depending on the grade, job family, whether your Department is using the Effective Behaviours Framework (EBF). A number of departments have also adapted the standard form to better fit their practice. It’s important to empathise that the value lies in having those powerful, meaningful conversations and designing a path towards the future rather than filling out the form.

The purpose of the form can be:

  • Record of mutual plans and promises
  • Means to communicate the conversation to the HoD/Department executive
  • Aid to structure the conversation
  • All of the above

All forms and guidance can be downloaded from the following SDPR/career conversation forms and guidance pages:

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