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CASE STUDY: A University Dives Deep into ‘Otherness’ at Work

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Using Plaetos, a university dove deep into ‘Otherness’, inclusion and diversity in the workplace. From the discussion, the Head of I&D learned where the most urgent changes needed to be made. They turned their staff’s candid stories into precise “trustable” action to increase employee satisfaction and reduce churn.


A number of successive annual culture review surveys had flagged issues among staff that posed challenges to the university’s commitment to providing a safe and productive workplace, with potential impacts on some staff's wellbeing. It was one thing to know there was a problem for many, but — until Plaetos — there was no way the university’s management could know enough about what had to change to fulfill their duty of care and improve conditions, in particular, for staff minority groups. The university, as a globally competitive brand, also had an eye to ensuring it was best in class to retain and attract top flight employees, creating a virtuous circle for their reputation for attracting students. The university's budget cycle also meant they needed to know where to allocate scarce I&D resources to get the best outcomes and reach their targets. The Head of I&D knew it would be difficult for less powerful employees to speak up, but still needed a quick way to validate the survey and find the priority actions needed to solve the real issues that were happening.


The issues the university needed to dive deeper to understand out of their culture review survey included:

  • Gender equity;

  • Cultural and linguistic diversity, and;

  • Workplace behaviour.

All professional and academic staff were invited to a Plaetos forum to discuss these issues amongst themselves, and with an independent moderator. Many different points of view on very specific experiences raised in the discussion gave the university unprecedented access to the different voices on these issues.


Over a week, more than 700+ staff participated in the discussions, telling stories both good and bad, and proposing specific solutions. Among many issues raised were the frustration with lack of action and accountability when procedures intended to protect against gender and diversity breaches were disregarded; fear of consequences if a complaint was made; and how these issues could be dealt with. It was also revealed that precarious employment militated against reporting incidents.

Participants from minority groups shared what contributed to their feeling 'Other' at work, and how the university's culture and practices lacked true inclusivity. One of the most powerful outcomes from this forum was the fact that these stories were directly from the university’s people, and not hiding behind an expert report. The AI analysis through Plaetos was able to tell the university which groups felt most strongly about which issues, which told them where the most urgent changes needed to be made. The use of a forum onboarding survey meant that mood, sentiment and specific issues raised could be matched to comparative groups, such as academic/professional, gender, faculty, and STEMM or non-STEMM without any risk of revealing identity.

The Plaetos problem/solution matching algorithms also surfaced employees' most supported solutions. Changes to policy guidelines, as well as greater and more proactive communication of university codes of practice meant that the university was able to reduce its risk of noncompliant behaviour in the workplace and ensure their culturally and linguistically diverse workforce members feel included.

The Head of I&D was able to recast the company's I&D strategy and allocate budget resources to programs that would respond to the most validated issues. Follow up surveys show higher levels of satisfaction, and early signs of reduced churn.


The University could sense their staff didn’t trust surveys to be anonymous, so the proven anonymity on Plaetos was a very powerful tool in bringing out their freely given, candid stories.

“We wouldn’t have heard these stories any other way. Survey data gave us the evidence, but the stories really helped us understand.” —Deputy Vice Chancellor, Education

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