British Business Bank makes off with Award for Excellence in Public Service HR

The team from British Business Bank collect their 2017 trophy
Photo: Ed Telling

The HR strategy pursued by British Business Bank particularly impressed the judges at the Personnel Today Awards, but the state-owned economic development organisation was run close by a very strong group of runners-up.


British Business Bank

The priority of British Business Bank (BBB) is to increase the supply of finance to SMEs, and the HR strategy aligns and supports this. BBB has grown from 50 colleagues to circa 250 over the last year. This was partially organic growth and recruitment combined with the merger with a new organisation of 60 colleagues (Start-Up Loans).

HR strategy reflects the size and needs of the organisation, while demonstrating value for money. Without being able to compete on remuneration alone BBB attracts and retains colleagues by focusing on the wider elements of the employee proposition, culture and role content.

The first intake of interns took place in 2016. They were tasked with a group CSR project to help develop their skills by supporting a local charity.

The first employee engagement survey was also introduced in 2016. The second in February 2017 showed improvements to all questions asked. A highlight was that 89% of colleagues say they are proud to work for BBB.

A careers site was launched to raise BBB’s employer brand awareness and give potential colleagues an understanding of the unique culture. 1:1 development sessions were held to coach colleagues on different development opportunities available both in the organisation and in government.

In the annual engagement survey showed the organisational value of integrity scored the highest.


Argyll and Bute Council

As part of Argyll and Bute Council’s transformation agenda HR and Improvement teams faced budget reductions of around 20%. The challenge was to deliver quality HR and organisational development (OD) activities, mitigate the risk of redundancies and deliver significant savings in the process. The two teams’ joint proposal was to redesign a new single HR and OD service over the three-year transformation project ending in March 2018.

Three work streams were identified. First, demonstrating return on investment while maintaining advice and support on key business processes and achieving budget reductions.

Secondly, automating processes through technology, and, thirdly, redesigning planning and performance management to move from measuring performance to measuring impact.

Significant engagement with key stakeholders took place, including the team themselves. Team members were retrained to take on new roles.

The talent management team came up with a proposal to expand the council’s training centre with a commercial focus. This resulted in a successful bid for a contract to deliver in-house modern apprentices providing funding of up to £19k.

The redesign has already delivered £126,000 savings and is on track to deliver the remaining £449,000 when fully implemented in April 2018. Out of 60 employees, to date two have taken voluntary redundancy and there are four who will not have a post in the new structure.

NHS Supply Chain

NHS Supply Chain, a business within Deutsche Post DHL, provides healthcare products and supply chain services to the NHS. Services include procurement, logistics, e-commerce and customer and supplier support. The business employs 2,500 colleagues.

In 2015, the contract was extended for two years until September 2018 and commitments were made including: a greater degree of transparency necessitating more collaboration with the customer, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA); a cut in operating costs by £17m (15%) by September 2018 – delivering £458m in procurement savings to the NHS.

HR acted as a strategic partner supporting the leadership team in reviewing business structures, and as change agents to ensure reduce uncertainty. A two-stage leadership transition programme for senior managers (about 80) aims to explain the changing nature of the business and provide guidance and skills to prepare managers.

An engagement strategy was launched adaptable to a blue and white collar audience covering seven operational depots and four regional offices. An engagement programme for all people managers (about 390) was also launched.

The organisational restructure programme generated an annualised benefit of £4.7m. Only 36 out of the 206 people impacted by the organisational restructure left the business, saving £2.4m in redundancy costs. Absence levels have reduced from 5.6% to 4.4% since October 2015 generating a saving of £380,000 per annum.

Overall satisfaction with the HR function also saw an increase of 5% from 2015 to 2016.

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT) employs 3,000 staff, providing health and social care services to 500,000 patients annually. Although NDHT ranked fourth for staff satisfaction in the 2014 and 2015 NHS Staff Survey, it aims to improve dialogue with staff. With its disparate, shift-based workforce spread over multiple sites, face-to-face events required significant resources, and were not enough to regularly reach all staff.

In May 2016 NDHT implemented a solution based on technology from Questback to create Staff Voice, an online community to share feedback and best practice, take part in surveys, respond to quick polls and submit ideas.

Within the first eight weeks nearly half of all staff (42%) logged onto Staff Voice, rising to 62% in year one. All staff had viewed discussion threads and 60% visited the innovation hub.

Data can be compared quickly and broken down by staff group, rather than just location. The number of surveys carried out has dropped, because managers have access to existing information and response rates are rising.

As Staff Voice is linked to the electronic staff record, it is easy to communicate directly with the right groups, for example contacting nurses around revalidation. This reduction in untargeted emails improves responses rates.

Staff Voice is contributing to reduced employee turnover, leading to projected potential savings of £250,000 in its first year, solely based on process costs.


oneSource was established in April 2014 and is a partnership between the London Boroughs of Bexley, Havering and Newham, which serve a combined population of 800,000. The HR&OD service covers Havering and Newham councils, which have a combined workforce of 7,600.

Both councils face big cuts in funding by 2020 (about £140-150 million). oneSource HR&OD is managing projects to support each council deliver their own savings, and also had to develop its own strategy to with target of £40 million savings.

In early 2016 the service was reviewed leading to a new service in three categories: a core service to the councils; a bespoke service offer to external businesses and income generating services. The staffing ratio of 131:1 was set to increase to 162:1 by October 2017.

A new operating model brought together two teams into one structure, with common job profiles and co-located in a single office, thus reducing overheads. A new role – the Senior HR Consultant (Commercial and Financial) – manages external businesses.

The single integrated and streamlined team has delivered savings of £600,000 (19% cost reduction). Income over £97,000 was generate via external business in the first six months. The mediation service lead won the Professional Mediators Association Rising Star in 2016 and the service saved about £800,000 of costs.

Thurrock Council

In 2015 Thurrock Council’s new chief executive launched an investigation to address feedback that training was too Civic Office focused and did not reflect and meet the needs of staff on the frontline.

Quick wins were identified, such as making sure that all of staff benefits, promotions and taster sessions were taken to people to fit with their working pattern. The occupational health service also ran preventative health awareness sessions.

Training covering equality and diversity, customer care and professional boundaries – tough subjects to sell to the frontline teams – was embedded in core and runs monthly. The HR organisational development (OD) team is now consulting with staff on new ways of delivering key messages.

A community hubs training programme, co-produced between the council HR OD team and the community and voluntary sector led by Thurrock Council for Voluntary Services (TCVS), offers a combination of digital learning, bite-size sessions and team building. Managers tailor approaches to the needs of the team.

Participation in staff engagement surveys results have increased substantially with a 38% return rate in 2014, 56% in 2016. The most recent pulse survey (which focused on key issues of motivation) saw an increase to 78% specifically from that group.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust’s transformation began in 2012-13 with the aim of creating a patient-centred, safety focused and forward-looking organisation, with a leadership built around clinical and stakeholder engagement.

The aim was to build a culture of continuous improvement where every individual had a part to play in developing and shaping health care, and in ensuring patients received consistently high-quality services in a sustainable way. The Trust needed to encourage and facilitate innovative thinking, maintaining the balance between “the need for control” and the “need for experimentation and innovation”.

Leadership behaviours had to continually reinforce that care and quality are the top priorities for UHMB-empowered clinical teams to innovate, improve and raise quality as well as embracing uncertainty and diversity.

The Listening into Action programme, which is based on the simple premise of empowering staff to lead on making positive changes to clinical care, led the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to state the programme “has led to significant quality improvements for patients”.

Leadership development has focused on both governance and innovation, helping to deliver the “how” as well as the “what” in the organisation.

Central to the Trust’s drive was the #FlourishatWork campaign, which encouraged employees to take simple measures to improve their health and wellbeing. Interventions included a Trust-wide step challenge supported by daily walks, installing watercoolers in every area and removing sugary drinks and goods from vending machines, organised sporting activities and mental wellness giveaways.

As a result of these initiatives CQC ratings have improved from “inadequate” to “good”, with an “outstanding” for patient care. There have been improvements across a range of patient safety metrics. Employee engagement and staff satisfaction are up and employee turnover has been cut across key staff groups. Attendance levels have improved across the organisation.

Worcestershire County Council

As part of a major change programme Worcestershire County Council (WCC) decided in November 2015 to develop a high performance culture to encourage agility and resourcefulness in the workforce.

While individual coaching support has been offered to all staff for a decade, a talent management programme launched in 2016 uses coaching in a more formalised way, identifying the potential of future leaders. Everyone on the programme is assigned a coach from a pool of 51 practitioners.

They are also assigned a mentor to help facilitate developmental opportunities. Mentors are in-house managers operating at various levels. Coaching takes place in working hours.

The service is promoted on the staff intranet and managers are encouraged to discuss the service with their staff if appropriate. Due to the strictly confidential nature of the sessions it can be difficult to monitor the effectiveness of coaching across the organisation. WCC has introduced evaluation forms for coachees and coaches.

Since 1 January 2014 the WCC coaching service has had 237 referrals. The top reasons for referrals are: feeling stressed at work and low self confidence. Coaching supports individuals to take personal control before issues escalate.

Data from service enables WCC to spot trends within the organisation. Feedback so far is positive.

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