More transparent recruitment with the HR excellence in research label

The University of Montpellier has made public its recruitment policy for researchers and staff by publishing its OTM-R charter. This action is part of the renewal of the European HR Excellence in Research label , the result of the UM's human resources strategy for research (HRS4R). This strategy, deployed since 2015, aims to better support researchers in their careers, foster working conditions and mobility for researchers, while strengthening the university's attractiveness.

" It's not a revolution in our recruitment methods, but it is another step towards greater transparency," explains Frédérique Gerbouin, head of recruitment, training and support in the Human Resources department, about the publication of the OTMR recruitment charter. OTM-R stands for open, transparent and merit-based recruitment. A literal translation that the manager prefers to qualify: " Merit doesn't quite mean the same thing in English and in French, so it should be understood as recruitment based on objective criteria of competence". Initially designed for the recruitment of researchers, this charter has been extended to all UM staff, and soon to doctoral students, and made available for consultation by all on the institutional website.

Facilitate recruitment and harmonize practices

The first objective of the OTM-R charter is to make the various stages of recruitment at the UM - from submitting an application to taking up a post - easier to understand and understand, and to make job offers accessible to all applicants, whether internal or external to the institution, French or non-French speakers, by practicing " internationalization at home, i.e. internationalization within the institution to better meet the needs of a diverse public. This involves increasing the proportion of information available in English," explains Nathalie Modjeska, HRS4R project manager, who is also responsible for MUSE's international programs. It's a quality approach, the idea being to recruit the best-qualified person by opening up the field of applications as widely as possible, particularly internationally. This approach contributes to the implementation of our human resources strategy, and has earned us the HR Excellence in Research label.

The establishment didn't wait until 2020 to apply these recruitment principles, whose official publication is now mandatory to qualify for renewal of the HR Excellence in Research label , a scheme created in 2008 by the European Commission to distinguish research establishments applying the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (C&C), two Commission documents aimed at harmonizing the practice of research professions with a view to facilitating mobility and careers in the European research area. " Research is highly collaborative internationally, so facilitating researcher mobility seems logical," adds the training and support manager.

With this in mind, the UM has set up a human resources strategy for research (HRS4R), led by the vice-president in charge of research, Jacques Mercier, and involving more than 13 departments. In March 2015, UM became the first French university to receive this 5-year label, underlining its excellence in human resources for research. " Paradoxically, this label is often misunderstood and poorly valued by teacher-researchers. And yet, this project was originally designed for them. It aims to improve their working conditions, encourage their mobility within the intra-European community and better support their careers," explains Nathalie Modjeska.

A label for research

This label is beneficial to UM researchers in a number of ways, starting with their ability to obtain European funding. " In the event of equal marks, the response to a European call for projects submitted by the accredited establishment will be given priority for funding. "The establishment's label also meets the European Commission's requirements regarding the obligation of establishments receiving European funds to implement a human resources strategy aligned with C&C (article 32 under the Horizon 2020 program). It therefore plays an essential role in securing the European funds obtained by researchers at the University of Montpellier - some 10 million euros a year.

The label also helps to significantly enhance the school's attractiveness on a national and international level, by giving greater visibility to job offers published by the UM. " Thanks to the HR Excellence in Research logo affixed to the job offers we publish, we stand out as a good employer who cares about working conditions. Not to mention the fact that it increases the visibility of our ads published on the Euraxess platform, since they are automatically included on Nature et Sciences" continues Nathalie Modjeska.

Frédérique Gerbouin adds: "We need to encourage researchers to use this logo whenever possible, and to add it to their signatures and responses to European calls for tender . We also support them in the publication of their job offers, so as to highlight the label. It can really make a difference! A toolbox has been created on the intranet to guide them in this process.

Renewal for 3 years

The application was submitted to the European Commission in December 2020 and published on the UM website. Researcher and teacher-researcher representatives, members of the HRS4R Steering Committee, were consulted throughout the process, including at an interactive workshop in November 2019. Europe really expects researchers to be stakeholders in this process," explains the project manager. Together, we've been thinking about possible improvements to the way they do their jobs. Many suggestions came back, and the vast majority of them have been turned into actions in the new 2020-2023 plan (see box)."

All that remains now is to convince members of the scientific community to seize this new opportunity: "Among the objectives of the new plan are thepursuit of dematerialization and administrative simplification at the UM, and efforts to harmonize procedures with research organizations on aspects that can be dealt with locally. Indeed, joint research units operate with as many tools, processes and timetables as there are supervisory bodies! This measure could facilitate the work of our teams ," conclude Frédérique Gerbouin and Nathalie Modjeska. The results of the assessment of the renewal application by 3 European experts will be known in several months' time, following an audit scheduled for the2nd quarter of 2021. Stay tuned!

A 23-point action plan

  • Theupdated version for the 2020-2023 period sets out 23 actions, many of which are already underway or completed;
  • Attractiveness policy for young researchers, post-docs and established researchers (action 16);
  • Enhancing the value of teaching by creating a teaching award based on the model of the innovation award (action 17);
  • Raising agents' awareness of the need to develop a personalized career plan, as explained by Virginie Fattore, career path advisor, in this video (action 19).

New features include :

  • The launch of joint workshops to promote exchange and understanding between researchers at different levels and with administrative and technical staff (action 5);
  • Pursue dematerialization and administrative simplification (action 6) ;
  • The creation of a committee to harmonize procedures and forge closer links with research organizations (action 7);
  • Dissemination and application of OTM-R principles through training courses and follow-up in the annual social report (action 9);
  • The pursuit of greater gender balance through the equality plan (action 12);
  • Improved communication on career progression and tenure timetables and procedures (action 18);
  • A range of training courses to develop managerial skills for all managers of structures, departments and services (action 23).