The University of Amsterdam is the largest university in the Netherlands, with the widest range of study programmes. An intellectual hub with 34,000 students and 3,000 PhD candidates connected by a culture of curiosity. But the UvA is also an employer of more than 6,000 employees. These employees - with their wealth of knowledge, talent and motivation – are their most important capital.
When the HR-unit of the UvA embarked on a mission to compose the HR-agenda for to upcoming years, they felt the need co-create and to use a design-approach to anticipate the changing behaviors and needs of their employees. Reframing Studio set up and facilitated a design process in which a broad-based programme group worked together and prepared a draft HR Manifesto over the course of three months.
The world, and with it the context in which the University of Amsterdam operates, is rapidly changing. Technological developments are creating a wealth of new opportunities. Interdisciplinary collaboration and the democratisation of information are driving new types of interactions between academia and society. In a parallel development, the meaning and value employees attach to their work is changing. Traditional labour relations are being replaced by constantly evolving processes. These developments are all impacting the behaviour, needs and interests of the UvA-employees and therefore impact the role of the University of Amsterdam as an employer.
What does the future of work at the University of Amsterdam look like? How do we build a meaningful and lasting relationship with our employees in that future context? And how do we remain a magnet for talent? These questions formed the starting point for a design process centred around the future of work at the UvA. For this project we teamed up with UvA’s HR-unit to organize a series of reframing-sessions for a broad-based programme group (consisting of UvA-employees).
In a networked future society we can consider the value of the UvA from three different perspectives: the human capital (the individual employees), the social capital (the teams, departments, community) and the cultural capital (the UvA in relation to the outside world; institutes, organizations, the government and citizens). These three lenses reveal a multitude of future challenges for the UvA as an employer.
• How to ensure the well-being of employees?
• How to create an inclusive working environment where everyone feels safe and respected?
• How to offer people the freedom they need to venture and explore beyond the confines of the university?
These are three examples of these challenges. Together with the programme group we developed a positive values framework that would guide them in anticipation of the challenges revealed.
The programme-group together with the HR-unit formulated nine ambitions for the UvA in coming years. Each ambition addresses the question: how do we empower UvA employees to meet the challenges we are facing? These nine ambitions make up the HR manifesto. This Manifesto was then used as the funding of HR-programme for 2026.
Together with Laura van der Steen we created a video to introduce the Manifesto to the UvA employees.