Worker feedback drives HR policies at NHS trust

An Essex NHS trust has based its HR policies on feedback from staff to boost
recruitment, development and motivations and improve services to the public

An innovative NHS trust is aiming to boost recruitment, training and patient
services by building its HR policy around what staff want.

Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust has surveyed staff, and is basing
recruitment, selection, induction, training and appraisals on what they said
was important.

Nick Groves, the trust’s director of workplace development, believes it is
essential to feed staff opinions into HR processes, and in turn, for this to
form part of the trust’s overall strategic vision and corporate objectives.

In response, it has introduced a two-day team ship and communication
programme – developed in partnership with a team of business psychologists –
which spells out what an individual is good at and potential areas for
improvement. It has also adopted a behavioural interviewing process to pick
suitable employees and an induction programme which empowers staff to manage
their own learning progress.

The trust first made fundamental changes to the way it formed policy after
conducting a staffing review in 2001 and 2002 when it found many workers
believed they weren’t respected.

Groves said: "We had a lot of comments from domestics saying ‘I love my
job, but don’t like being looked at like I am a bit of dirt on someone’s shoe’.
Or a healthcare assistant saying ‘I am happy to do more, and take on more
skills, but why should I when the nurses are sat on their arses at the nursing

It became clear the way staff felt about their job and the trust related to
the way people behaved on a day-to-day basis.

The trust gave workers a questionnaire asking what they liked and disliked
about working there. In all, 800 staff replied, and their answers helped create
a new staff charter. "People have their own values, and it’s about
eliciting them," said Groves.

Now the trust aims to use these values when determining all HR policy.
"We are trying to attract, recruit, appraise, develop, re-organise, and
manage employees based on our staff values," added Groves. "There is
no use conducting a staff review unless you are prepared to address the issues
that are fundamentally important to them."

Groves said it wasn’t difficult to get senior management buy- in –
especially as research backs up the theory. "Focusing on behaviour can be
seen as one of those woolly HR things. However, it helps to have research by
Aston Business School which shows a clear relation between team-working and patient
outcomes [when getting senior management on board]."

A copy of the staff charter is included with the trust’s recruitment pack,
so people are aware of the organisation’s work culture before applying for a
position. Its application form puts emphasis on the values outlined in the
staff charter, more emphasis on teamwork, and asks what people have learned in
the last year.

Groves said the new application pack asks people questions that have to be
filled out in their own words, rather than using tick boxes. Groves believes
this helps the trust pick the best candidates at the shortlist stage.

Mid Essex has adopted behavioural interviewing which focuses on what people
have done, rather than say they will do.

A new induction programme includes teaching about managing your own learning
and organisational values. It also asks people what they liked and disliked
about their last job.

The teamship and communication programme tests employee strengths and
weaknesses. To date, 17 per cent of staff have been through the course, which
culminates with individuals being presented with a report showing what they are
good at, and potential areas for improvement.

Groves said the trust is also focusing on skills escalators – getting staff
into training and moving through the ranks – to ensure individuals are able to
reach their potential and to meet skills shortages.

He believes one of the ways to solve recruitment problems in the NHS is not
only to make itself a great employer, but to tell people that it is. "If
you consider that a million people in this country work for the NHS, if our
existing staff simply told their friends and family that it was a great place
to work, that would probably solve most of our recruitment difficulties,"
he said.

By Quentin Reade

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