Steven Weeks is policy manager at NHS Employers and oversees the staff engagement programme.
It has been a summer like no other. COVID-19 has changed the game for much of the NHS and this has impacted on our approach to staff engagement. There are some key lessons from local experiences which we will be sharing over the next months. In discussion with local organisations the learning has included:
- Adapting existing local staff engagement.
- An initial priority was developing a single source of information.
- Organisations implemented a variety of innovative feedback mechanisms from virtual chats with CEOs to real time/online platforms and dialogue with particular staff groups.
- Many organisations reintroduced their own local surveys after a pause to ensure staff were able to give feedback - redesigned to give focus on key issues.
The lessons learned during the initial outbreak should be a basis for building on for future challenges whether new outbreaks or as part of restoring services. At NHS Employers, we have been taking on board this learning and are in the process of developing case studies to share the experiences across the NHS and will also be communicating this via a forthcoming webinar. The key has been for organisations to adapt their methods while continuing a commitment to responding to staff concerns.
The NHS People Plan was published in July and sets out an ambitious People Promise, setting out how staff should experience work, and includes a commitment to giving staff a voice at work. The plan does not prescribe how this is done locally but there is a renewed emphasis on building an inclusive and compassionate culture with effective team-working.
As part of the People Plan, there is commitment to review the NHS Staff Survey and align it more closely with the People Plan promises. We will be keen to get your views on how the survey questions that deal with staff engagement may need to change to achieve this. The existing questions look at various dimensions of engagement to produce an overall staff engagement indicator. This will be an opportunity to ensure we are asking the right questions and measuring the right things.
Alongside this review of the NHS Staff Survey there is also a plan to develop a quarterly staff survey which would provide more frequent information on how staff are feeling. We will be responding to proposals on this and welcome views. We will be updating colleagues as soon as we have more information. Although there are positive benefits to having a more regular indicator set, there are also risks such as staff feeling over-surveyed and the space for local surveys being affected.
Finally, I'd like to thank colleagues across the service for all their work over a very challenging summer.