Our Values - building together


30 / 10 / 2009

The organisation

What we did and why

How we did it

Results and next steps

Tips for other trusts

Contact details


The organisation

NHS West Midlands is one of ten Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) that came into effect on July 1st 2006 as part of Commissioning a Patient-led NHS. We were created following the configuration of three previous SHAs: Shropshire and Staffordshire, Birmingham and the Black Country and West Midlands South, as well as the integration of West Midlands Deanery.

The SHA employs around 440 staff, working across three sites based in Birmingham and Redditch. The workforce is mainly administrative and managerial, including project and programme managers. There are also around 90 medical and dental workers, employed on sessional contracts providing clinical tutoring.

What we did and why

The programme - Building Together - was conceived in November 2008, when the staff survey highlighted that employees were not as engaged with the organisation as they could ideally be.

The objective of the programme was to engage employees more closely with the vision, mission and values of the SHA.

With the culture of the SHA more closely aligned to the goals and ethos, a stronger feeling of meaning, sharing, appreciation and belonging would enable and empower employees to ‘live’ the values,  thereby creating a heightened quality of experience both for those working for the SHA and those who come into contact with the organisation. A case of internal investment to improve external delivery through well motivated employees.

The specific aims of the programme were four-fold:

1. Define the local SHA values in a way that made them meaningful and inspiring for our people
2. Create training and learning experiences to help employees understand how they could ‘live’ the values
3. Stitch the values across HR processes and procedures
4. Sustain and support the developing values-driven culture through a review and overhaul of internal communications processes

How we did it

‘Building Together’ was largely organised and delivered by the SHA human resources and organisational development team. 140 volunteers (32% of the employee population) and the senior team actively took part in the process of defining the values. The work was highly inclusive, cross- functional and multi-grade in terms of involvement.

Smaller cross-functional working parties and steering committees have been set up to ensure that the programme remains inclusive and takes account of diverse interests and needs.

The four separate aims of the programme were delivered in the following ways:

1) Defining the organisational values.

Ten separate workshops were externally moderated in March 2009 to enable multi-disciplinary teams to define the values, based on the NHS Constitution template. Outputs were analysed and distilled to create five distinct values, along with definitions and a set of indicative behaviours which clearly demonstrated that value in action.

2) Training and learning experiences

The outcome of the work was announced by the Chief Executive at an all-staff briefing and met with a great deal of positive support. The Executive Board then agreed upon a series of quick wins, which they could lead, in terms of clearly evidencing values-led behavioural modelling and leadership, to start to embed the changes we were looking for.

A training programme for all managers is currently under development, to help them understand how the values support their role, how they can embed cultural growth through behavioural modelling and leadership techniques and what this means in relation to releasing capability and capacity.

3) Stitch values into HR process

To provide an appropriate support framework for the developing cultural norms, we are currently fully reviewing and reworking all processes, policies and procedures - from selection, recruitment and induction through to personal development reviews - to adapt everything to align to the values. The work consistently supports and complements other key HR processes, such as KSF which underpin the health and well-being agenda.

4) Review and overhaul internal communications processes

To sustain and nourish the developing values-driven culture, the entire suite of internal communications has been reviewed. Improvements and new tools such as a remodelled core brief, use of Symphony, posters, newsletters, notice boards and internal cascade processes have all been introduced or redeveloped.

Communication on work progress has been achieved through all the communication channels mentioned above.

Results and next steps

As the programme was only recently launched, no quantifiable longer term success indicators exist yet. However, culture questions were included in the June 2009 staff survey to create a benchmark and we have also developed a cultural inventory questionnaire to measure more specific process on an annual basis.

Other benchmarks would include retention in key areas, customer satisfaction, grievance numbers, absence percentages and long term sick numbers, value of cost savings, monitoring of newly introduced processes and whether all the initiatives planned to achieve under the banner of the ‘Building Together’ programme were delivered.

Quotes from employees:

 “I’ve seen a number of culture change initiatives come and go during a very long time working within the NHS. This is the first time I actually believe that things will really change for the better”

“ To be honest, I was apprehensive about moving from a small organisation like CSIPP to the SHA, but having experienced the inclusive way the values have been developed, I feel very reassured that this is a good move for me and that I’ve joined a good organisation.”

Next Steps

  • Roll-out the training to help Managers embed the cultural norms defined by the values.
  • Finish the HR reviews and adaptations of processes, policies and procedures.
  • Work-up and roll-out the remaining new and re-developed comms materials and processes, amending and refining on an iterative feedback basis.

Tips for other trusts

  • Get the Executive Board entirely engaged and actively leading the process, not just paying lip service or passively ‘going with the flow’.
  • Be highly involving and inclusive in allowing employees to be part of defining the values and deciding how best to embed the culture changes the values then dictate.
  • Getting the three work streams of training, HR adaptation and communications, up and running rapidly – development and progress needs to be seen to follow quickly after launch.
  • A measure of external facilitation to demonstrate the values as defined are set objectively and not part of someone’s internal agenda.
  • Set up cross-functional teams to steer and deliver projects so that it’s not seen as ‘an HR thing’.
  • Over-communicate what you’re doing, why and how through every relevant medium you have available, in order to ensure employees start believing it’s real and not just a tick box exercise.

Contact details

Michelle Usher
Organisational Learning and development manager
0121 695 2475

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