HR & The NHS - A Healthy Collaboration

HR & The NHS - A Healthy Collaboration

NHS bod
Last year readers of HR Magazine recently voted HR Director of NHS Employers, Dean Royles, ‘Most Influential HR practitioner 2012’. And running the HR of such a vital organisation is no mean feat.

Although work related stress, pressure leading to presenteeism, sickness, organisational values and communication are important issues in every organisation, they are arguably even more so in the NHS.

Failure to address these issues and to react to them quickly not only affects members of the profession, but could, quite literally, cost lives.

So how should the NHS go about tackling and keeping on top of issues such as these?

The NHS employs around 1.4 million staff, and in addition to this, it’s not a matter of 9 to 5. The organisation is operational 24hrs a day, 365 days a year. Mr Royles admits that the NHS has faced some really big HR issues since he took the position in December 2012.

He told HR Director that he owes much of his success to the fact that ‘engagement in the health service continues to improve, because we respond to feedback and try to work hard with staff to put things right’.

Although implementing holistic and successful performance management processes in the NHS is a mammoth task, the key, as with all good performance management procedure is a basis founded on on-going feedback and communication, which pervades the entire organisation.

The other huge consideration when it comes to implementing a really successful performance management process in the NHS is that it must suit and work for each specific organisation within the trust.

It must be implemented in a way that engages the employees, as in a role such as this, which is so reliant on interaction with patients and their families, disengaged employees can have a huge effect on service, user- experience and the health and recovery rate of patients.

The NHS has conducted an annual staff survey since 2003. However, questions concerning engagement were not added until 2009. The survey now asks;

“Whether appraisal was useful in helping the employee understand how to do his/her job”
“Whether clear objectives were set during appraisal”
“Whether the employee left the appraisal feeling valued by his/her employer” P.13
As a result of the feedback gained, it was found that only 43% of staff thought their team had clear objectives, and worked closely together to achieve them. As concerns engagement levels, the survey report stated that ‘staff with high levels of engagement were less likely to report stress, and were less likely to feel pressure to come to work when they are unfit to do so’.

Obviously, this is a particularly relevant finding in the healthcare sector, as not only can coming to work when unfit to do increase the danger of passing illness on to patients as well as co-workers, but absenteeism also increases considerably in cases of staff disengagement.

NHS absenteeism loses the service 10.3 million days per annum, which equates to a loss of £1.7 billion each year.

Aside from the great loss of money and resources the survey also found that staff disengagement and a lack of clear goals and objectives was ‘significantly linked to patient mortality in acute trusts’.

So, good performance management and clear objectives that can be reported on easily within teams is absolutely paramount to the successful functioning of the National Health Service.

It was found that staff who have the ability to communicate and report on their progress toward objectives, and who have the opportunity to suggest goals on which their team should concentrate showed higher levels of engagement.

Those staff with some opportunity to be involved in the decision making process that affects their area were also found to be hugely beneficial to the operational success of that sector.

The 2012 King’s Fund report, ‘Why Engagement Matters’ found that ‘staff who have clear objectives, control over their work and well-structured appraisals are more likely to report that they are engaged in the work of their organisation than those who do not’.

So the question is, in an organisation the with the size and importance of the NHS, how do you ensure that staff have the necessary processes in place to set and report on objectives, and to be involved in appraisals which foster a two way trust and genuinely useable results, without taking up too much valuable time or resources?

This is where online performance management can be so helpful. Not just through the provision of 360-degree appraisals, but also using a system of online goal setting that is flexible, amendable and can be reported on at any time, without having to rely on endless meetings and paperwork.

Online goal setting means that feedback is instant, and can be accessed by whoever needs to see it, so teams are always connected and working towards the same objective. It also means that any problems or changes in circumstance can be quickly and easily highlighted and addressed before posing any larger problem, which, in an organisation that is directly responsible for many lives, is a must.

Encouraging staff on the ‘shop floor’ as well in more managerial positions is hugely important, and online reporting and goal setting can serve to keep this huge workforce focussed, working together, and give them a voice.

Having the ability to divide goals into smaller sub sections is also a very useful tool, as within the aims of a certain trust are separate wards, individual staff and patients, all of which form pieces of a puzzle that must fit together to achieve overall aims. And after all, that is what HR is all about – the human connection – it must give individuals a voice and clarity concerning their role and duties, and that is what leads to successful employee engagement.

Nowhere is that more important than in the NHS.

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