There can be no doubt, that the impact of covid has stretched to the limit, the goodwill and commitment of the many health & care workers across the UK, and indeed the world.
Having been a hospital Chief Executive during the pandemic, I saw first-hand the lengths that colleagues went to in order to provide safe care during unprecedented times and situations, and the personal toll it took on them, their colleagues and their families.
The last decade has rightly seen a focus on patient experience – that is after all why we work in healthcare – but I wonder if we have got it right when it comes to a focus on employee experience, or in simple terms, how it feels to work for my organisation.
We have seen brilliant wellbeing programmes set up across the health and care sector over the last couple of years, and I personally hope that the focus on this remains beyond the pandemic, and is there when people may need it; even if that is in 2 years time. Equally, there are great examples of ‘how we do things around here, even when people aren’t watching’ – culture programmes which are so critically important in understanding the experience of people that work in your organisation. But fundamentally, there remain too many examples of where we get peoples pay wrong on their first month because of process failures or people dependent processes; new hires waiting weeks to get a uniform or access to IT systems and inductions that fail to inspire – all of which have a long-lasting impact on how that person feels about working in that organisation, and who they also tell about how they feel about working in that organisation.
We have a workforce crisis; simple, and therefore ensuring that the experience of those that work in our organisations is so very important if we are to create more of what the CIPD refer to as ‘enthusiastic stayers’ (‘Should they stay or should they go’, CIPD 2021) – people who want to stay and buy in to the culture, the leadership and the values of the organisation. Only with the right workforce can the health & care sector meet the expectations placed upon them in tackling the backlog, driving innovation in care and being part of high performing teams safe in the knowledge that their leaders have a tight grip and control on the strategic workforce, operational and financial plans (all of which should be aligned) which will mean that they are well supported to manage the demands now and in the future.
Of course, there is more to the employee experience than how they get onboard (‘joiners’). Of equal importance will be when they get promoted internally (‘movers’), or when they leave (‘leavers’). Many of us will have either had the experience personally, or heard from others where increases in pay get delayed, or the whole leaving experiences fails to recognise the commitment or effort and therefore becomes a negative experience. So what is the answer?
Here are my thoughts – it would be great to hear yours too!
- We need to fix the basics. A bit like building a house – we can’t build even the first floor if the foundations are poor. Putting ourselves in the shoes of those joining, moving or leaving our organisation should help us better understand their experience in order to improve workflows, automation (humans and machines working together) and how each step makes them feel – putting equal importance on the employee experience, as we do with the patient experience.
- Evidence that we are thinking about today, and the future. We all accept the impact of the pandemic, but our people become reluctant leavers because they cant see that things are going to get better. Leadership has to be about evidencing that there is a good plan to support the employee experience, including wellbeing programmes, talent management, effective workforce planning, and that my organisation genuinely cares about me.
- Customise our recruitment and retention plans. How many recruitment episodes focus on the process or a target rather than the individual? What if we better used technology or workflows to allow us to really focus on the employee experience before they have even set foot through the door; Bespoke remuneration packages; focussed development programmes that support career aspirations; flexible benefits that are tailored to the employees lifestyle (better supporting work/life balance); and ongoing wellbeing support that doesn’t fade when budgets get cut.
Many organisations collect data on why people leave their organisation, but do we do anything meaningful with it? Organisational agility is key, and we must be able to customise our approach to retention which focusses on specific areas and reasons why people are leaving, to then create more enthusiastic stayers.
Of course, it isn’t easy, but will it be worth it? Yes – and the only way to achieve this (in the worlds of Professor Michael West), is to genuinely ‘listen with fascination’ and act.