Induction

The induction process, often overlooked, plays a significant role for new staff. It provides avenues for new members to learn their way around the team, department, institution, and lay solid foundations for a successful career and the development of professional relationships. 

All HEIs have specific induction programmes which usually include induction events organised by faculty and/or department, and possibly a university-wide one scheduled a few times a year. In addition, there will be usually be mandatory online training including risk assessment, ethics approval, data protection and EDI training. 

Personalised induction

The Charter Institute of Personnel and Development, who set professional standards for HR and people development, has an induction checklist which offers ideas of what other support you can provide for your new postdoc.  Similarly, eLife have produced an article on induction to your team's research culture which, whilst aimed at laboratories, has useful information for all disciplines.

The role-specific and the learning and development sections offer some good suggestions including:  

  1. Clear outline of the role, including the responsibilities with internal and external stakeholders 
  2. Specific plan for regular meetings, 1:1 and as a team, to be mutually agreed
  3. Expectations in terms of outcomes of the project, such as publications, authorship, grant applications
  4. Development opportunities and discussion of a personalised development plan

This last point is especially important for postdocs.  

Personal development plan 

Thinking about a career plan can feel uncomfortable and unnecessary to many postdocs, especially if this is done at the beginning of their employment. But it is an important subject that should be addressed on a regular basis.  

“I discuss with them actually career development from the very beginning. In fact from the very moment that we offer them the job, for instance we actually start talking about; what are the things that we are going to do in order to support them but also ask them about their expectations straightaway, what they want to do, where do they want to go? I do that really regularly, whether that is over coffee or over a plan.”

Dr Patricia Murrieta-Flores. 

Supporting the career development of postdocs is not only been identified as an integral element in creating a healthier and more empowering research environment in HE (see the Concordat); but it is also essential for the fulfilment of the postdocs themselves. 

Focused career development conversations around plans and hopes, and training needs will greatly help your postdocs. During the induction, when discussing a personal development plan, you could: 

  • Help them reflect or give them space to reflect on what their values and needs are (LINK What career would suit me) 
  • Suggest they undertake a skills audit (LINK) 
  • Encourage them to develop a career development plan (LINK Ongoing learning and development) 
  • Agree how often they wish to review their development plan and what support you can provide at each stage 

Laying the foundation, from the start of your relationship, about your and your postdoc’s approach around professional development will enable better communication and increase trust around career pathways and outcomes. 

Research plan

Planning with your postdoc from the very beginning has multiple benefits for your project and their career. A written research plan crafted between PI and postdoc:

  • Can foster greater levels of investment and productivity
  • Helps postdocs to clarify their career goals early on
  • Supports time and resource management
  • Acts as an explicit commitment and obligation to each other

A series of studies by Davies (2009) found that compared to those who didn't make a written plan with their PI at the outset of their contract, postdocs with a written research plan have a:

%

higher submission rate to peer-reviewed journals.

%

higher submission rate of first-authored research papers.

%

higher rate of submitting grant proposals.

Whilst you don't need to write a plan during the induction process itself, discussing the intent to write a plan with your postdoc at this stage can let them know your expectations and demonstrate to them that you see them as a collaborator, building a sense of trust between you from the start.

References

Davis, G. 2009. Improving the postdoctoral experience: an empirical approach. In Science and Engineering Careers in the United States: An Analysis of Markets and Employment, Edited by Freeman, R.B. and Goroff, D.L. pp99-127, http://www.nber.org/chapters/c11619

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