UKOLN Good Practice Guide for Developers of Cultural Heritage Web Services

Human Resources


This section was first published as part of the NOF-digi Technical Advisory Service Programme Manual in 2003.


Human Resource Management is concerned with the processes of acquisition, development, motivation and maintenance of people. We will be focusing on the recruitment and selection of staff, team building and the roles that individuals play within teams, and the training and development of staff.

Projects by their very definition are finite activities with staff employed or seconded to the project team for the fixed duration of the project - which can vary from a few days or weeks to a number of years. The short-term nature of project work can be challenging to the management of people. Because of the short time scale you need to ensure that the right people are recruited to the project as there will often be little time for extensive periods of training to get people 'up to speed'. Indeed training and development of project staff can often be overlooked entirely whilst the goals of the project take priority. This is a rather short-term view however as effective training and development can lead to greater motivation and satisfaction of staff; both of which can be beneficial to the achievement of the ultimate aims of the project. A successful project will often lead to follow-on activities being developed and staff from the original project will go on to manage and develop these subsequent programmes. You also need to be aware of how project staff will fit with your existing staff and organisation structures. It can be a cause of resentment amongst existing staff if you have to pay more to recruit good, IT aware staff, for example.

Recruitment and selection

Recruitment and selection are fundamental in the HR management process particularly, as we have explained, when managing project work. It is recommended that some time is spent establishing the 'profile' of a vacant post through the three documents of job analysis, job description and person specification.

The first step in recruiting to a vacant post is to carry out a job analysis to identify the:

The information identified for the job analysis provides the data used in the job description and person specification.

A job description states the purpose, responsibilities and reporting structure of a job. It clarifies exactly what a job involves and provides the individual, their line manager and others in the organisation with a clear picture of the purpose of a post. Documenting tasks and responsibilities provides an opportunity of ensuring that these are always contributing to the overall aims of the project. As well as a recruitment tool the job description is a valuable documents for individuals. Having a set of defined job tasks and responsibilities is an aid to self-evaluation and can be used for initiating an appraisal discussion or other staff development activities.

The exact layout of the job description will depend on your organisational circumstances and in-house practices but it should include the following:

Title: which should be descriptive of the post

Purpose: probably one sentence describing the overall purpose and objectives of the job

Reporting structure: job titles of the line manager and any posts reporting to the post

Tasks and responsibilities: a list of responsibilities and duties which should be clear and precise, using adjectives such as 'designing', 'planning'; avoid vague terms such as 'in charge of'.

Scope of the post: an indication of the importance of the job, how it fits into the organisation, external contacts

Other information: statements on (for example) equal opportunities and other terms and conditions of employment.

Job description templates

Templates of job descriptions for the key roles of Project Manager and Technical Officer have been provided. The bullet pointed suggestions of areas to include in the descriptions can be included/excluded as required. It is acknowledged that organisations may have their own 'house style' and that local recruitment practices will have to be followed. However the templates included here are an attempt to demonstrate best practice in HR management.

In addition to the job descriptions, a list of tasks and responsibilities for information and communications activities have also been provided.

Project Manager


To define, plan, schedule and control the tasks that must be completed to achieve the [project] goals.

Reporting structure

The post-holder will be a member of the [team/department etc.], supervise the work of the [project team] and will report to the [Job Title].

Tasks and responsibilities

General activities:

Contacts outside of the organisation

Maintain contact with the funding body and join all relevant mailing lists.

To collaborate with other projects and other relevant organisations tasked with similar work.

Equal opportunities

The post holder will carry out their job responsibilities with due regard to the organisation's Equal Opportunities policy.

Terms and conditions

These will be stated in the Contract of Employment.

Date of completion: xx xxx, 2004


Technical Officer


To contribute to the development and management of a Web-based project delivering digitised learning materials to the public.

Reporting structure

The post-holder will be a member of the [team/department etc.], supervise the work of the [xxx] and will report to the [xxx].

Tasks and responsibilities

General activities

Contacts outside of the organisation

Liaise with any Technical Support Services from funders

Join appropriate mailing lists

To collaborate with other projects and relevant organisations.

Equal opportunities

The post holder will carry out their job responsibilities with due regard to the organisation's Equal Opportunities policy.

Terms and conditions

These will be stated in the Contract of Employment.

Date of completion: xx xxx, 2004

Information and communications tasks

In addition to the specific posts of project Manager and Technical Officer, it is likely that staff employed on the project will be carrying out tasks associated with information and communications activities. Whilst most projects may not have a specific person dedicated to these tasks (unless the project is very large) they are crucial tasks and should be incorporated into the work of others employed on the project.

The purpose of such tasks will be to:

To develop and implement a dissemination/evaluation/marketing strategy for the [XXX] service.

Tasks and responsibilities would include:

The person specification relates to the human characteristics and attributes that are considered to be necessary to perform the job effectively. They outline the attributes a candidate should possess to be suitable for the post. These attributes are usually divided into those that are 'essential' and those that are 'desirable' and would include:

Skills: that the candidate should have or be capable of acquiring to be able to perform the job effectively

Knowledge: technical, professional, administrative or organisational relative to the effective performance of the job

Experience: amount of relevant experience necessary in relation to the requirements of the job

Attitudes: behavioural qualities such as ability to work in a team, take initiative or work without supervision

Two well known and widely used methods used for compiling person specifications are Rodger's seven-point plan and Fraser's five-point plan which use criteria such as attainments; general intelligence; special aptitudes; disposition; and circumstances, impact on others; innate abilities; and motivation [1].

Internal or external recruitment?

Once the recruitment documentation has been drawn up and you are ready to advertise, you will need to decide whether you are going to recruit new staff from outside of the organisation or redeploy existing staff.

Recruiting externally is likely to be more costly and will usually take more time, however it will introduce 'new blood' and fresh ideas into the organisation.

Recruiting internally is likely to be cheaper and quicker (but you can be left with another vacancy to fill). It does however give existing staff the opportunity for development and their existing knowledge of the organisation can be a benefit. They will also probably need less time to 'settle into' their new post.

Staff within the organisation who are keen to be considered for secondments to project work could be encouraged to keep up to date copies of their CVs on record. Then, when vacancies do arise the requirements of the post, as identified in the job analysis and person specification can be matched with the skills and attributes of existing staff.


An alternative to recruiting to fill a vacancy might be to contract out the work. Although this may initially be more expensive you can save time by contracting for specific items of work to be completed to a fixed timescale. If you employ a contractor you will immediately have someone on site to carry out specified work without a 'lead in' time for training or induction into the organisation. You can also save on having to purchase specialist equipment. Outsourcing particular activities allows you to get in the expertise that you don't have and can't easily recruit for in-house - especially if it is for a very particular or specialised skills set. Indeed for less experienced organisations outsourcing (digitisation) work may be particularly appropriate. However, do bear in mind that if you do outsource work the opportunity is missed to develop new skills in-house for the future and by using subcontractors existing staff are not given the chance to develop new skills. There may also be issues relating to pay and conditions if contractors, who you would expect to pay substantial more for a fixed, short term period, are working alongside employees of the organisation.

You could also consider outsourcing specialist tasks, such as bulk scanning for digitisation, for example, to agencies. The work would normally be carried out off site, at the agencies premises. This would be particularly appropriate if the activity is a one-off, where training your staff would not be cost effective and would require the purchase of expensive equipment that might only be needed for a short time.

Well-qualified staff with appropriate technical skills are in short supply, particularly in the public sector so you should think carefully about targeting your recruitment advertising to make the best use of limited recruiting budgets. Vacancies may be suitable for recent graduates from local universities and colleges for example, so you might consider getting in touch with appropriate college departments who may advertise posts at little or no charge. You may have to be prepared to offer on the job training for someone with the technical skills but who lacks knowledge of your organisation or community. When recruiting for specialist jobs, such as highly skilled technical staff, recruitment agencies may be useful.

Staff retention

Once they have been recruited, retaining staff on a fixed term contract (if it is for a longer period) or to work on future projects and activities can be difficult. Ideally you should be able to offer the same levels and quality of training and development including appraisals and career guidance to project staff as that which is available for all permanent staff in the organisation. As well as formal training and development activities however, there are a variety of other initiatives that can provide the motivation and job satisfaction that staff need to encourage them to remain with the project/organisation.

Building successful teams

Digitisation projects will range from small teams of one or two people to projects consisting of multiple teams reporting to the project manager. Whatever the size, there are some basic elements of team building and the roles that individual perform within the team that it is useful to be familiar with whether you are managing or contributing to a team.

A definition

A team is a small number of people with complimentary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable [2].

Roles within teams

The effectiveness of a team depends to a large extent on its members. Appreciating the particular skills and attributes of team members and understanding the roles that individuals are best able to play will ensure that a team has the full range of skills and attributes it needs to be effective. Belbin, through extensive research has identified nine team roles that are important to a team and which individuals may have as strengths or weaknesses. Individuals can play one or more of these roles and each role has positive and negative aspects, which it is important for other team members to recognise.

The absence of some or any of these roles can reduce team effectiveness whilst too many individuals playing the same type of role in the team can cause friction and damage the team effectiveness. The team roles are as follows:

Co-ordinator: able to see clearly team objectives and is skilled at inviting contributions from other members. Recognises others strengths and weaknesses, less good at crisis management, likes participative, consultative management style.

Shaper: drives the team to get things going, promotes own views, can be pushy and aggressive.

It is usually co-ordinator or shaper types of individuals that assume leadership of a team.

Plant: source of original ideas and challenges the traditional way of thinking, not such a good communicator, can be over sensitive to criticism or praise.

Resource Investigator: good at bringing in information and support from outside, outgoing and communicative, good negotiator, strong networks of contacts. Can be quick to lose enthusiasm for tasks.

Implementer: good at turning big ideas into manageable tasks. Disciplined, conscientious, practical, trusting tolerate, but degree of rigidity, not always open to new ideas.

Team Worker: most aware of the needs and concerns of others in the team, sensitive and supportive, will build on others suggestions, but lacks leadership.

Completer/finisher: drives the deadlines and makes sure they are achieved, good attention to detail, high standards but intolerant of those that do not share same standards.

Monitor/evaluator: can see all the options and has a strategic perspective, but can be over critical.

Specialist: provides specialist skills and knowledge, has dedicated single-minded approach.

The roles described above are extremes of behaviour and an individual will usually be strong in one or two areas and weak in others. The important point is that teams that are well balanced in terms of the roles that their members play will be more effective than teams where one or more of the essential roles are missing [3].

In real life of course it is not always possible to select the exact balance of attributes to form a balanced team. But by being aware of the team roles it is possible to know why some teams are more effective than others and be able to recognise shortcomings within the team [4].

To maximise team performance the team leader needs to:

Effective teams are characterised by:

They depend on:

Motivating factors of teams:

Demotivating factors of teamwork:

Staff development and training

Importance of staff development and training

Training and development of staff should be a major area of activity for all organisations. Staff are the most valuable asset an organisation employs, and therefore developing their potential to assist in achieving the aims and objectives of the organisation and project is critical. And, as we have explained in previous sections of this manual, effective development and training can be a positive force in recruiting and retaining staff onto project work. In this section we will identify some of the more widely used development activities and suggest strategies for maximising job satisfaction.

The staff development and training process benefits the organisation and the individual at all stages of their career:

Stage 1: Recruitment and induction

Benefits to the organisation

Benefits to the individual

Stage 2: In-service training

Benefits to the organisation

Benefits to the individual

Stage 3: Moving on/career development

Benefits to the organisation

Benefits to the individual

Appraisals and performance reviews

Appraisals provide a framework to facilitate communication between the individual and their manager. The individual and organisation will only benefit from the process if all understand the purpose of the appraisal system and the benefits that can be delivered. Appraisals can have a number of objectives:

Performance review: identifies training needs, provides motivation, praise and constructive criticism. The aim is to improve the performance of the individual by reviewing existing performance and deciding on future goals and training needs. Staff need their managers view of their existing performance in order to be stimulated to improve.

Potential review: predicts the level/type of future work an individual could do. Identifies potential for possible internal promotion.

Reward review: allocate rewards fairly.

An important objective of all appraisals is establishing effective two-way communication between the appraiser and appraisee. Many staff welcome systematic feedback on their performance and advice on how to improve. Appraisals need to be viewed in association with training and development; organisations must be able to deliver training once it has been identified.

Implementing appraisals

It should be appreciated that the appraisal is a very personal experience. It must be confidential and staff must feel confident to speak frankly about their strengths and weakness and any problems they may be having. It must be made clear to all staff that all records of the appraisal are confidential.

To implement an appraisal system successfully the benefits must be made clear to staff. The aims of the system should be clearly started and the process explained. Management must show commitment to the process and staff must be able to see the outcomes of the process. The developmental role of appraisals should be emphasised rather than a management/control role.

A clear structure must be established for the meeting. Appraiser and appraisee should complete forms before the meeting and an agenda should be agreed.

Prior training should be given for both roles.

An appraisal is an important occasion and should be treated as such. A degree of formality is necessary, there should be no interruptions during the meeting for example. If a system is imposed without the aims being adopted by staff there is a danger that they will simply 'go through the motions' and not benefit to the fullest extent.

Performance should be reviewed in the light of goals set in the previous year. Actions set as outcomes of the appraisal need to be regularly and effectively followed up throughout the year.

It is necessary to monitor and evaluate the process in order that it can be developed for continued success. Views on the success of the system should be sought from all participants.

The training and development process

The training needs of individuals can be identified by conducting a training needs analysis and/or as part of the regular staff appraisal system.

Training can involve staff attending specific in-house or external training courses, conferences and workshops. Other training activities include:

The training and development process should be monitored and evaluate and feedback should be sought from all participants through forms/questionnaires/interviews.

Strategies for maximising job satisfaction

The activities listed below can all contribute to the development of an individual, but are worth considering in addition to more formal training activities.

Job enlargement: extra tasks at same level of responsibility, increased variety.

Job enrichment: more responsibility and autonomy (balance with the danger of exploitation).

Job rotation: change tasks every six months, long enough to understand all processes.

Work shadowing: within own organisation or outside, watching how other jobs are performed, gaining an insight/different way of doing things, makes you think about the way that you are doing your job.

Job exchanges: actually doing someone else's work, longer than shadowing, not substantially different work from your own.

Secondments: to project or specific job for a set period of time, need to fill seconded employees job during the period of secondment.

Conferences: presenting project outcomes and experience as part of the dissemination activity.

Other relevant training courses

Training courses on all aspects of managing (digitisation) projects are widely available. Some organisations that provide courses, which may be of particular interest, are listed below.

TASI Training Programme

HEDS presentations are available from the conference held in June 2001 on planning and implementing a digitisation project.

LA Training and development

ASLIB Training

Health and safety

Compiled from material within the University of Bath Safety Manual.

Under the provisions of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act both employers and employees have responsibilities with regard to safety in the workplace.

Duties of the employer

Duties of the employee

VDU assessments

Use of computer equipment can lead to lead to problems such as muscular skeletal disorders and eyestrain. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 governs the use of computer equipment at work. Computer workstations should be periodically assessed for their compliance with the provisions of the Act. An assessment should cover the following factors:

Display screen: is this adjustable for tilt and swivel, brightness and contrast? Are screen images clear, stable and free from flicker? Is the screen free from glare and reflections?

Keyboard and mouse: does the keyboard have a shallow slope to it, does it have a separate numeric pad? Is the mouse positioned as close as possible to the keyboard? Is the mouse suitable for use with the user's dominant hand?

Software: is computer and software sufficient for tasks undertaken? Has suitable training been provided for the software used?

Workstation ergonomics

A good workstation requires good ergonomic design to allow a comfortable working position. Good posture is vital for preventing physical stress and fatigue, especially to the wrist, arms, shoulders, neck, back and legs.

Seating: a comfortable chair made to BS 5490 is essential for achieving a comfortable working position. However, there is some variation and one model may not suit everyone. Many users prefer a chair with arms. However, arms can prevent a user from sitting close enough to their desk so care is needed during selection. Adjustable (especially adjustable "T" shaped arms) or removable arms permit the greatest flexibility. Many users have found a back roll to be highly beneficial. These are relatively cheap, but they improve support for the lumbar region and encourage good posture. Various sizes and shapes are available.

Setting seat height: chair height should be set so that your elbows are at the same height as the middle row of keys on your keyboard with your forearms parallel to your desktop. In this position your wrist should be in a relatively neutral position while you are keying. Help from a colleague can often be helpful when finding this position. Periodic readjustment may be necessary to maintain a comfortable working position.

Foot rests: some users may find that when their seat is set up at the correct height their feet cannot be comfortably placed flat on the floor. This can cause discomfort due to pressure on the thighs. An adjustable footrest should be provided in these circumstances.

Setting monitor height and position: with your seat set at the correct height you should be looking slightly downwards at your monitor. This places your neck in a comfortable working position. If you have to look upward or too far downward this will place a strain on your neck muscles. The minimum viewing distance should be 400 mm. The user should sit square on to their keyboard and monitor otherwise the user has to adopt a twisted posture. This can contribute to neck and back problems. Monitor screen displays should be clear and free from flicker, glare and reflections.

Keyboard and mouse position: the keyboard and mouse should be placed within easy reach during use. Stretching to reach a keyboard or mouse can cause arm, shoulder and back discomfort and should be avoided. Keyboard and mouse mat wrist rests are popular as they can increase comfort.

Working practices: to prevent eyestrain you should work away from the monitor for brief periods during the day. A 10-minute change of activity after 50 minutes of monitor work is usually enough to prevent the onset of eyestrain.

Office environment: is the lighting suitable and sufficient during both daylight and night time hours? Is noise generated in work area acceptable? Is space in the work area sufficient for the number of persons & the equipment & furniture provided?


  1. Core personnel and development, Marchington, M. and Wilkinson, A., Chartered Institute of Personnel and development, 2000
  2. A handbook of personnel management practice, Armstrong, M., Kogan Page, 1995
  3. Human Resource Management, ATorrington, D. and Hall, L., Prentice Hall, 1998)
  4. Managing people, AThomson, R., The Institute of Management, 1993

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