Supporting line managers with staff engagement

Steven Weeks

In his latest blog, Steven Weeks, policy manager at NHS Employers, takes a brief look at what employers can do to support line managers to make the most of the NHS Staff Survey results.


As the 2019 NHS Staff Survey is now well underway, it may be useful to consider how the NHS can make best use of the survey results once they become available. In particular, how can organisations support first level supervisors/line managers to understand and act on survey results. This issue was also recently raised on a web chat with Prerana Issar, chief people officer for the NHS.


NHS Employers published a short briefing on how to make best use of Staff Survey results at a local level and how you can support managers. The briefing highlights the importance of communicating the results across the organisation, including line managers. It’s not just the responsibility of HR and the chief executive to take action, it should be a priority for all managers to understand the results and discussions needs to take place with managers around how the survey findings should be used.


Provide meaningful analysis

One way to help ensure line managers recognise survey data as relevant for them, is to have the results analysed at the most meaningful level possible. Organisations can get a breakdown by directorate level and reports can be produced that are more tailored to particular areas. This needs to be accompanied by an explanation for line managers, rather than simply presenting raw data.


An integrated approach

Operational line managers will be most interested in issues affecting delivery of care, such as staff reporting stress (as this will link to absence statistics and impact on agency and other costs). Clinical managers will have an interest in the staff perception of patient care as this has proved to be a good predictor of problems. All managers should be interested in the overall message from the survey and should be briefed on how the organisation intends to take action to address these. Organisations have a range of ways to do this and some have moved away from the you said - we did model into an a more integrated approach where NHS Staff Survey data is one source which informs planning and not a one-off event.


Giving feedback

The Staff Survey also includes data on staff perception of line managers and how they undertake their role. This is generally fairly positive and it is worth communicating this to line managers. There is however scope for improvement on some questions, for example, about giving feedback and there is variation between organisations and within them. The organisation may wish to look at trends, but the data should be used in a supportive way rather than as a proxy for performance evaluation. On some key questions, such as health and wellbeing, data shows there is more confidence in action by line managers than in the organisational level.


Staff Survey training for managers

It has been suggested that line managers should have training or support in how to understand and use NHS Staff Survey data. I would be interested in getting feedback from colleagues on this. Is this needed? Are their organisations which already do this and if so how? A growing number of organisations have developed training for line managers in recent years. Could using Staff Survey data be incorporated into such training and are there any existing models for doing so? NHS Employers will be seeing what it can do to help on this over coming months and organisations may find it useful to review their own approach and share any good ideas. Please email

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