Case Study

Getting to the heart of peer-to-peer recognition

Find out how Barts Health NHS Trust implemented its Barts Hearts initiative to enhance peer-to-peer recognition

17 June 2024

Barts Health NHS Trust (BHT) recently launched a new programme of recognition based on feedback following engagement with its workforce.  One of the big changes was the introduction of a recognition platform, with the main aim of enabling staff to benefit from visible and meaningful recognition from their peers. The new scheme allows peer-to-peer recognition for those who go out their way within their role to help others or an act of kindness.

Key benefits and outcomes

  • Positively impacts BHT’s long-term recruitment and retention goals. 
  • Supports building a culture of appreciation.
  • The trust’s approach builds in flexibility and adaptability to futureproof the recognition scheme.
  • Encourages staff engagement on the trust’s intranet site. Hits went from 12,640 a day to 13,350 a day post launch.

What the organisation faced

Barts Health NHS Trust wanted to change its corporate events programme to one of recognition which supports wellbeing. The trust undertook a large engagement exercise through focus groups, face-to-face chats and an all-staff survey, to understand what staff want so the design of the recognition programme could be based on what recognition means to its workforce.

The feedback from staff was clear with agreement on key desires: 

  1. Visible recognition for everyday acts of kindness.
  2. Peer-to-peer recognition.
  3. A simple thank you.
  4. Small gifts, food and discounts as tokens of appreciation.
  5. Continued recognition for long service.
  6. Continuing the Barts Health Heroes awards

Barts Health wanted to create a scheme where a thank you could be instantly given from one staff member to another. The organisation wanted a scheme that will have a long lasting and positive impact on staff engagement, recruitment, retention and satisfaction levels by creating a more appreciative culture where staff can feel valued. It is also hoped that the scheme will lead to better patient outcomes as happy staff will lead to happy patients.

Daniel Waldron, group director of people, explains the reasons behind the scheme

What the organisation did

The organisation firstly drafted a grant application, tying its approach with NHS England’s staff recognition framework, which required buy in from the group executive board, the hospital chief executive and their teams. It also had to be signed off by members of the senior team, who ensured the proposal met the aims of what they wanted to achieve and was affordable.

The programme gained funding through a grant from Barts Charity and the group director of people became the executive sponsor.

The new recognition platform was developed using the trust’s intranet system WeShare. Through this platform all staff can find the colleague they want to thank and send a quick message along with a Barts Heart. This allows for easily accessible and meaningful peer-to-peer recognition.

The Barts Heart and message is sent electronically, and the staff member is notified when they receive a heart and message. 

Making sure that volunteers and contract staff could be included in all the recognition activities was an important aspect of the programme, to ensure it didn’t lead to inequalities. The trust invited all volunteers and contract staff to sign up to the Barts Hearts recognition platform, which also meant they could access the trust’s intranet.

The scheme gives each staff member five hearts to give away to different colleagues each month. There is no expectation for these to all be used and the hearts are reset at the end of each month. When a heart is given, it does not expire and once a staff member receives five hearts, they are then awarded with a choice of eight trust-branded items which includes: a mobile phone power bank, a flask or a pedometer. 

To launch Barts Hearts, raise awareness and encourage use of the new platform, the trust ran simultaneous events across its five hospital sites and Canary Wharf offices on Valentine’s Day. At the events, the trust gave out branded merchandise, including, tote bags, sweets, chocolate hearts and flyers with additional information on about the scheme. The trust also hired a photo booth which was free for staff to use with their colleagues. The printout photos had the new Barts Hearts branding on. More than 2,000 staff members engaged with the launch events. 

"Through this platform all staff can find the colleague they want to thank and send a quick message along with a Barts Heart."

Ros Waring, corporate events manager, explains how the process works

Results and benefits

During the first four weeks of the launch, 21,333 messages and hearts were sent and 1,264 rewards claimed, which surpassed the trust’s expectations. The engagement has been far reaching and has enabled staff working different schedules and days to recognise each other at unprecedented levels.  Here are a couple of sent message examples taken from Barts Hearts platform:

“….has held the fort while I have been away for four months. She has been incredible, taking on huge responsibilities and taking it all in her stride. She has developed into the most wonderful leaders, midwife and human being. Thank you so much.”

"You’re such a kind soul. We’re glad to be welcoming you back to the team after you stint in winter pressures.”

The scheme has further benefited staff and the trust by increasing activity on the intranet. This means more staff can easily access other reward and retention offerings from the trust. 

Overcoming challenges

Board buy in is a challenge for most trusts, however, Barts Heath overcame this by co-designing the new recognition scheme with staff, following the principles of the NHS People Promise and the NHS England Staff recognition framework. They also fully costed the scheme before launch to demonstrate its long-term sustainability and affordability. 

The trust experienced delays with the delivery of some prizes, so they had to ensure that their messaging to staff was clear and managed their expectations to limit miscommunication and minimise the number of queries they were receiving regarding this issue. 

Ros also shares the aims and ambitions of the scheme

Next steps

The scheme has seen an unprecedented number of messages and hearts sent between colleagues, leading to a larger number of branded gifts being distributed than expected. BHT plans to regularly evaluate the cost implications of the gifts to ensure the initiative remains affordable and sustainable to protect the integrity of the scheme overall. 

The quarterly review group will evaluate the data and popularity of the rewards to ensure the aims of the scheme are being met. The organisation plans to survey staff after the first six months and based on feedback recommendations for changes will be submitted to the quarterly review group. The trust has committed to listening to feedback and tweaking the programme over the next three years. 

The trust will continue to promote the platform and send timely reminders, for example, when hearts have been reset or there are promotions at key points of the year.

Takeaway tips

  • The trust has found that the branding is important, so creating a name that’s unique to the organisation and makes people want to engage with it, coupled with creative promotion, has been instrumental in the platform’s success.
  • Make sure that you stick with the idea beyond its initial launch. While there will be high levels of engagement and a flurry of early rewards, a natural plateau will follow over the first six months, so regular engagement is important to maintain use.
  • Be prepared for the first few weeks to be more labour intensive and that teething issues may occur. 
  • Set out clear terms and conditions of the platform to ensure messages are in line with the aims and objectives. Staff will need to be aware that emails for volunteers and contract staff will be visible to all users of the intranet, and messages will be deleted by the organisation if any misuse is identified.
  • Go big on the launch and promote the events widely with pre-event teaser communications. 
  • Be realistic on rewards budget.  Offering small rewards rather than a voucher to a certain value gives people a tangible and physical reminder of their moment(s) of recognition. 

Contact details

  • Ros Waring, Corporate Events Manager, Barts Health NHS Trust.