Most Health Boards and Trusts in the NHS are large organisations, employing several thousand staff based in different locations. Senior leaders cannot possibly know everyone in the organisation. These action points, however, should help to ensure that individual employees, and the teams they are in, stand a better chance of being engaged with both their work and the wider organisation.
The literature on job design and engagement indicates that a good job-person fit is essential. This suggests that job descriptions should be accurate and that person specifications should be really clear about the type of person who is being sought – not just skills and experience, but attitudes. Candidates should have a chance to ‘preview’ the job, via online tools such as virtual tours and recordings of existing staff describing the role, and/or discussions with team members on the interview day. Psychometric testing and aptitude tests might be appropriate for some roles.
Research indicates that the first few weeks in the role are crucial. New joiners who are welcomed, are given a good induction, meet their line manager and new team members straight away, and are equipped with the right resources from day one, are far more likely to feel engaged and positive about their role. Both to demonstrate how important and valued the newcomers are, and to explain the organisation’s commitment to its values, a senior leader should attend all induction sessions.
Most Health Boards have a set of values, and these should be clearly linked to expected behaviours. Some organisations are taking this a step further and introducing values-based recruitment. However, existing staff (often long-servers, who may have seen many ‘initiatives’ come and go) will need reminders about values-based behaviour, too. The strength of values-based behaviours is that staff have often had a huge amount of input to designing the UHB’s values, which should encourage a greater sense of ownership.
The NHS staff survey is an excellent way of finding out staff opinions and experiences over a wide range of issues. However, many Trusts opt for the ‘sample’ approach, meaning that the majority of employees do not have a chance to express their views; and the survey is held only once a year. It is really important that individual employees and teams feel they have an opportunity to voice their views, offer opinions and suggestions, and input to decisions that affect them. The line manager plays a key role here, but senior leaders should work with HR to ensure that there are mechanisms to enable employees to have a voice: a few examples are staff forums (both physical and virtual/on-line), a comment board on the intranet, team briefings that request the line manager to gather opinions to feed back up the management chain. Some organisations are now using internal social media tools such as Yammer, which gives people a chance to air their views and pose questions, and which enable the organisation to see which issues are particularly important to staff at any one point in time.
Work with HR to really understand the NHS staff survey results
This will help to pinpoint possible problem areas (locations or staff groups that are returning unusually low engagement scores) or conversely, areas where engagement is notably high. Both should be investigated, and good practice should be identified and shared.
Some relatively simple techniques, based on the principle of ‘positive psychology’, can help to boost employees’ resilience, coping mechanisms, and awareness of self and others. This is very important in the NHS, where jobs and situations can be extremely stressful and resources are constrained. More information is available on the Employee Wellbeing Service internet pages.
This is appropriate for people working in extremely emotionally-demanding areas, where clinical/professional supervision alone may not be enough to maintain people’s mental equilibrium. The required skills are likely to be beyond the scope of the line manager; they will need to be provided by professional psychologists, therapists and/or trained counsellors.