The Personnel Today Awards 2022 take place on 15 November 2022 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Among the finalists are public service organisations that went above and beyond during the pandemic – in this article we outline the achievements of those shortlisted in the Excellence in Public Service HR category.
Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Prior to the pandemic, the People and Organisational Development (POD) service at Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust was made up of five teams: HR, organisational development, people information, resourcing and workforce wellbeing. But when Covid-19 hit, they adopted a multidisciplinary approach to the challenges they faced.
Everyone began to work from home, while team members adapted their hours so work was covered at least 12 hours of every day, including Christmas Day. The team shifted to a more democratic approach to how it was managed, and staff needed to build relationships with other teams across the Trust such as the vaccination team, infection prevention and emergency planning. A ‘Covid-19 Workforce Cell’ remained on top of daily updates and kept the rest of the workforce informed.
Personnel Today Awards
The Personnel Today Awards 2022 will take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel on London’s Park Lane on 15 November 2022. Book your table now
The resourcing team expanded their pools to include not only bank and agency staff but also returners, students and volunteers. The education team ensured that induction and mandatory training requirements were met and that a range of wellbeing and engagement activities were on offer for all staff. The scale of the team’s Covid-19 response was impressive: it facilitated more than 6,000 test and trace conversations with staff; dealt with almost 5,000 self-isolation cases; supported 537 staff who were required to shield; dealt with almost 30,000 pandemic-related queries; and took on 198 new employees via fixed term and bank contracts, alongside 600 volunteers.
Civil Service HR Casework in partnership with MatchFit
The Civil Service HR Casework (CSHR) team had previously supported managers across 43 government departments on a range of HR issues. However, a steady increase in grievances, absence and low morale meant a new approach was needed. Together with MatchFit, CSHR created the HR Technical Consultancy (HRTC) – a means of shifting culture and building the capability and confidence to deal with complex HR cases.
A team of consultants from HRTC and MatchFit work in partnership to identify key trends and audit HR issues. This means they can better manage HR cases and address the organisation’s appetite for risk. An intervention process addresses cultural issues in the bud and so drives down the number of incidences, while stakeholder workshops increase staff buy in. There are two core focuses: cultural immersion to capture a clear picture of challenges through 360-degree analysis, one-to-one interviews and immersive workshops; and intervention delivery, which takes the results of these investigations and ensures any issues are addressed.
Since its inception at the start of 2020, the service has been delivered to 38 business areas with similar levels of success. Senior leaders believe it has led to better line management, more trusting relationships, and improvements in culture and performance levels. Managers’ confidence in their ability to deal with issues increased by an average of 23%. Time taken to conclude HR cases has fallen by up to 51%, freeing up leaders to focus on successful delivery of public services.
Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital
The challenges faced by colleagues during the pandemic highlighted the need to adapt quickly and work differently at LHCH. The HR team had identified an increase in behavioural related issues that was impacting not just on peer relationships but also had the potential to impact patient care. The HR and OD teams embarked on a ‘back-to-basics’ campaign that aimed to drive up engagement and ensure employees felt valued.
An initiative urging employees to “Be Civil, Be Kind” was born, including a civility charter that was incorporated into the appraisal process, reminders to live these values every day, HR business partners engaging with teams to encourage conversations around civility and kindness, a recognition programme promoting positive behaviours and the development of e-learning modules to help cultivate a united approach. Since its introduction, there has been a decrease in behavioural-related grievances and managers/HR are more able to resolve situations informally.
In addition, LHCH facilitated behavioural insight sessions for all employees so they can better understand how their actions are viewed by others. This contributed to the hospital gaining the highest level of staff engagement in the country in the 2021 NHS staff survey. LHCH also came top in ‘care is our top priority’ and place to work categories when benchmarked against other acute specialist trusts. It also ranks highly for patient experience, with an overall experience score of 9.07 out of 10.
Northumberland County Council
In March 2021, it was announced that the formal partnership between Northumberland County Council and Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust would come to an end in September 2021. This would mean the TUPE transfer of 650 adult social care employees to the council, increasing its headcount by around 15%.
While a formal partnership agreement would no longer exist, there would need to be a new relationship in place to ensure the best quality of patient care. The HR team at NCC was tasked with creating plans to ensure operational continuity and support. This included a communications exercise to show that terms and conditions would not put anyone at detriment. There was also a substantial job evaluation exercise to evaluate all roles coming into the council, and early engagement with trade union colleagues. A dedicated email inbox, Yammer site and telephone hotline were set up.
As part of its onboarding, the council’s Sharepoint site included video welcomes from the chief executive, executive team and other NCC colleagues. Tailored induction and drop-in sessions were delivered including HR Q&As, corporate / management induction, health and wellbeing, staff network and learning drop-ins. Branded transfer packs were sent out to all transferring employees. Since the transfer, feedback has been positive and staff have embraced NCC values. A third have so far adopted the council’s terms and conditions, while many have joined network groups. One remarked: “At a time when staff felt understandably unsettled, it was reassuring to feel welcome in the new organisation.”