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Does employee experience fit within the NHS Long Term Plan?

09th December 2019

Big data is king and the digitisation of the NHS is promising to revolutionise healthcare in the UK. Are staff members in danger of being forgotten? In this article we look at why employee experience is key to the success of the LTP and why it is critical to any organisation.

In previous blogs we have covered why the NHS is going digital and we set out a business case for digitising healthcare. Central to both articles is the driver of patient experience and patient outcomes. ‘Experience’ and ‘outcomes’ are buzzwords and are used more frequently than almost any other term when discussing NHS improvements. The NHS Long Term Plan is highly focussed in these areas.

Improvements cannot be made in isolation, there is a delicate ecosystem that must be balanced to increase patient recovery and satisfaction rates. Factors such as appointment availability, waiting times and interactions with staff members all impact results. The enabling aspect of all of this is employee experience and engagement.

With limited funding and competing priorities, managers with responsibility for public health are careful with NHS funded resources. It might be tempting to focus on big data rather than employee engagement but this would be a mistake. To do so would be a missed opportunity to maximise the effectiveness of health spending as the following linked articles will demonstrate.

It is well understood that happy employees are more productive. This study by The University of Warwick confirms what most might consider a general good business practice – we work harder when we’re happy. This article by Forbes draws on many sources and experts to make a compelling business case for keeping employees happy.

Measured investment in staff wellbeing and engagement is the right call from both a business ROI point of view and from a moral standpoint

Common problems with staff engagement

Working for the NHS is very demanding and stressful. Staff absenteeism is the ultimate result of employee non-engagement and dissatisfaction. As more staff members leave or are signed off long term the pressure on those that remain builds. The likelihood of further staff absence then increases and a vicious circle develops.

It is commonly reported that interactions with patients become strained or even confrontational when individuals do not take the much needed stress-related absences. Such matters are cited as ‘the final straw.’ The negative impact of staff confrontation with patients can be profound and cause significant damage to your establishment’s reputation.

According to HR leaders the penultimate ‘straws’ for staff leaving jobs in UK Healthcare is often given as:

  • being overwhelmed by the workload
  • exhaustion due to long shifts
  • a poor work-life balance
  • becoming emotionally drained by the nature of the work

Secondary to these factors is a lack of support from the organisation and a feeling of not being valued by the employer.  Whether this is real or perceived.

Staff shortage is a major issue for the NHS. It is something that affects all areas of business and the ability to deliver a quality service to patients. But what is the answer?

The answer is to develop and sustain employee engagement.

The answer is Digital.

Success allows staff members to engage and collaborate with management and their organisation. Employees that are engaged with their organisation will take up offers of help and support making them better equipped to manage work stress. This means more productivity and longer fuses when dealing with difficult patients.

It is also highly useful to garner staff feedback on what processes are working and which could use improvement. Staff on the frontline of service delivery are the best sources of innovation inspiration.

In the modern era it’s challenging to foster engagement. Working in the NHS is high stress and high demand with little slack available for any non-patient care projects. The most effective method of improving staff engagement in work environments like the NHS is digital.

How digital tackles these issues

Digital is the most engaging medium available, especially where the social media giants are concerned. They are so successful to the point that some people are over-engaged with their digital life. Harnessing the good aspects of social media to achieve business goals enriches the entire workplace ecosystem.  This benefits patient outcomes, staff engagement and cost efficiencies.

An app for a large organisation is the most effective way to harness a healthy level of engagement. Easy, fast access to data sources allows staff to manage large volumes of information and speed up operational processes. This increases levels of positive customer experience as they are dealt with more quickly and effectively.

Digital Strategy

Implementation of a digital strategy is not as complex as you might expect. Your workplace may have already naturally evolved towards digitisation and your staff are using sound digital processes on a daily basis.

Moving forward with the modernisation of your establishment can seem daunting – a task too big, too complex and too expensive. These are valid points and are similar to the concerns expressed by business leaders when the computerisation of the workplace was in discussion.

The incredible efficiencies brought about by computers are undeniable. The leap forward in technology, medicine, business processes and business collaboration are all down to the effective use of an incredible tool. Digitisation, including artificial intelligence and machine learning has the same potential to revolutionise – but it has to be done correctly.

In our full guide here the benefits of digital are expanded upon. This guide lists the considerations for implementation and provides insights on how digital can be harnessed for greater efficiency. It also contains details within the guide to help you map out the functionality and future-proofing of your investment.

Remember, your workplace is an ecosystem where changes cannot happen in isolation. Employees are central to any business process and digitisation is no exception. Meeting or exceeding the expectations of the NHS Long Term Plan in terms of digitisation can only be achieved through employee engagement.

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