Engagement Best Practice: Case Studies
- DFID – SCS Recruitment
- HMRC – Improving Engagement
- DVLA – Improving Engagement
- UKBA – Improving Engagement
- IPS – Redeployment Support
- DVLA – Wellbeing & Sickness Absence
- FCO – Flexible Working
- HMRC – Segmentation
- MOJ – Ideas for Better Working
- DWP – Senior Management Visibility
Staff Engagement Recruitment Exercise
DFID has taken a strategic approach to ensuring its senior management demonstrate effective engagement skills. The organisation has introduced a staff engagement exercise which has become a mandatory part of the recruitment process for staff seeking positions at SCS grade.
DFID has tended to score well in many aspects of workforce engagement, with the organisation achieving an engagement index score of 70% in the 2011 People Survey. This is fourteen points higher than the CSPS 2011 median benchmark. When it comes to Leadership & Management issues, scores have been more variable. Therefore, to address some of these issues and ensure its senior managers demonstrate effective staff engagement and management skills together with excellent technical skills DFID developed this new recruitment process.
The exercise assessed a candidate’s ability to:
- engage with staff in analysing issues and shaping a response
- weigh up the costs/benefits and impact of possible responses
- apply their knowledge of people management
- galvanise commitment behind the agreed actions; and
- reflect upon their own behaviour and evaluate its impact
The exercise involves a 30 minute session where the candidate interacts with a selected group of staff (four to five) from across the organisation. The candidate’s objective is to better understand a set of recent People Survey results and identify some possible actions. The candidate is expected to explore the People Survey results with the group and try to understand what the key issues are and begin to develop some ideas/options for addressing these issues with the group.
Candidates are expected to behave and interact with the group in a manner that is in keeping with a staff meeting between a Deputy Director and a small group of staff in their ‘new’ team. Directly after the exercise the candidate is de-briefed by an assessor to reflect on how the session went, what they learned, and what they might do differently. At the same time the second assessor debriefs the staff group and the feedback for both elements is scored and combined to rank the performance of each candidate.
This exercise is assessed together with the other elements of the recruitment process to determine whether the candidate’s leadership competence is sufficient to be considered eligible for any SCS post in DFID. All candidates are given feedback on their performance by a member of the DFID Management Board and those who were unsuccessful remain eligible to re-apply and participate in future recruitment exercises to the SCS.
The DFID Management Board was delighted with the process and standard of successful candidates. The rigorous recruitment process resulted in high quality candidates coming through, all of whom demonstrated effective staff engagement, management and leadership skills. The exercise underscores the value DFID places on engagement as well as its commitment to improving the organisation based upon specific feedback received from People Survey results.
How HMRC’s Chesterfield office improved engagement
HMRC’s Chesterfield office saw a dramatic improvement in its engagement score, rising from 38% in 2011 to 72% in 2012. The team was the most improved of all HMRC units in the 2012 People Survey, which is a reflection of a consistent approach since 2010 to develop Chesterfield as a high performing office.
The Chesterfield office is part of HMRC’s Debt Management and Banking Group (DMB) in Enforcement and Compliance, a Directorate which over the 4 years of the People Survey has seen lower engagement scores than other HMRC business areas because of the nature of its business. Debt recovery is rarely good news and never easy.
There are two teams based in Chesterfield, a VAT team and a PAYE team. . Despite many of the right ingredients being in place for a good level of engagement, the two teams as a whole had an Engagement Index of 20% in 2010.
This score drove Chesterfield’s initial approach for improving engagement levels. The Team Leader, Bob Ludditt was very keen to understand what was disengaging his people and to involve them in finding solutions. Initial meetings were held for everyone where they were asked to feedback on a series of problem areas which had been identified beforehand. The staff ran the meetings themselves which meant the feedback was honest but also generated some unrealistic expectations. From these meetings, an Action Plan was developed which everyone in the office has access to and which is updated on a roughly monthly basis along the lines of ‘you said we did’.
In 2011 the Chesterfield overall engagement score was 38% – a big improvement – but individual scores for each team showed a discrepancy. PAYE scored 45% and VAT just 22% despite being managed in the same way. So Chesterfield learnt from the unrealistic expectations and updated their approach to engagement in that year:
• They believed that management capability needed to be refreshed so some changes were made where managers moved to different teams.
• Chesterfield were able to find roles for some surplus staff which had a very positive impact on morale (despite the fact that the Organisational Design restructuring process wasn’t always comfortable)
• Colleague segmentation sessions were run where managers were asked to consider which segment each of their team members fitted into. They talked through how to engage each segment.
• Historically, HMRC had a ‘command and control’ culture that didn’t encourage people to speak out and share their concerns or ideas. So over the past two years, Chesterfield has worked hard to demonstrate that it’s safe to challenge here. They revisited the Team Charters and made specific reference to the freedom to challenge. Where someone has an issue, they are encouraged to work with their managers to resolve it, either individually at one to one meetings or at daily Team Board meetings and monthly staff meetings.
What made the difference in 2012?
At the Chesterfield office, ‘Engagement’ is not referred to by name; it is part of everything Chesterfield people do and is therefore known as the ‘Chesterfield Way’. This approach is based on Behavioural Change “nudge” principles. It has become “shorthand” for inclusivity and Continuous Improvement and is viewed not as an additional activity but part of good everyday management and leadership. There is an inclusive ‘can-do’ attitude in the office which is articulated as ‘We specialise in everything’ due to the variety of work centralised in Chesterfield.
Influencing performance and behaviours – The key success factor is still the conscious approach that influences both performance (the what) and behaviours (the how). Chesterfield made a decision in 2010 not to have ‘staff engagement representatives’ but to involve everyone as engagement should be part of everything that was done everyday by everyone. Behaviours are considered to be as important as productivity and quality and this is reflected in the monthly ‘one to one’ discussions between managers and staff.
Communicating the bigger picture – The Chesterfield office, which is not considered one of HMRC’s main hubs, is thought to be vulnerable to closure as part of HMRC’s estate rationalisation. Bob leads discussions on managing change that help people make the link between their work and organisational objectives so they can see the benefits and understand the context of change. People here believe that they can continue to remain a strategic site by maintaining their reputation for delivery through high performance, which is a strong motivator.
Managing change – To help people handle change better, Bob also sourced Resilience Training for everyone so they are better equipped to manage change under adverse conditions through supportive interactions with colleagues and building effective work relationships.
Maximising the opportunities – One of the success factors is what’s known as the ‘simplified Performance and Development Evaluation (PDE) process’ which was introduced following full consultation and a Problem Solve involving staff of all grades. Chesterfield made the process work well for them. Although requiring much greater input from managers in terms of monthly 121 meetings, involving staff meant that the process got the buy-in from them. The 121s give people the opportunity to talk regularly with their manager and to raise any concerns or issues. Managers complete a monthly report following their 121 discussions ensuring engagement is considered with equal weighting to performance, behaviours and quality.
Putting the People Survey in context – In 2012 managers worked with staff to get them to look beyond the language used in the survey and to consider their responses based on local achievements and what happens here that they can influence – Chesterfield is HMRC and HMRC is Chesterfield. There was also some discussion on unrealistic expectations of HMRC (which came out of the initial fact find). By emphasising Continuous Improvement (one of HMRC’s six principles) as the best way to confront issues rather than ‘saving up the moans’ for the Survey, Chesterfield also encouraged people to speak up and share their ideas.
Taking time to build a community – Chesterfield has ‘Team days’ which are advertised in advance and where the larger team decide what the work priorities are. In addition, a strong sense of community is maintained through charity events such as MacMillan coffee mornings and the Olympic Lunch when the Olympic torch passed the office.
Overall, what’s worked well for Chesterfield:
• Involving people in problem solving as it shows that leaders and managers listen and value input from their people.
• Talking to people – it sounds very basic but talking to people helps to get to know them and understand what motivates them. One example is where people in the office asked for a regular monthly meeting. Chesterfield now hold a regular informal one that covers anything people want to discuss, including things from outside work that have an impact.
• Introduce a little humour – for example, teams had seen their individual work results but were also shown total scores from other teams and for the office. This was presented in bright orange and is now affectionately known now as the carrot (rather than the stick).
• Training and development opportunities – Chesterfield has put a lot of effort into identifying development needs. They asked everyone to list what they needed to do their job well and delivered on it, whether it’s Excel training, an aide memoire or some coaching. They worked closely with their local PCS Representative who is also a Training rep to engage them with our approach.
Changing organisaional culture and improving engagment
In 2007, DVLA’s contact centre formulated a vision for positioning the organisation as the leading public sector contact centre by 2012. Management realised it would need to create a ‘cultural shift’ within the organisation in order to achieve this vision. They aimed to create a vibrant, customer focused environment where staff felt valued, empowered, respected and recognised for their achievements
As a first step after setting out its vision, management designed a plan which focussed on four pillars: performance, leadership, customer satisfaction and culture. A key component of the plan involved upskilling and training its people as well as improving processes and service levels.
A comprehensive multi-skilling strategy was developed which ensured that managers and leaders could help the centre’s people realise their full potential. The training programme applies to staff at all levels and includes general people management upskilling, techniques and models for managing change as well as general technical skills training which allows staff to broaden their capabilities.
The contact centre also developed a rewards and recognition framework that is designed to reward people for good ideas, recognise outstanding performance and motivate staff to do their best. This framework includes a ‘Star of the Month’ award where individuals who go the ‘extra mile’ are recognised. Token gestures such as vouchers for the staff cafe, choose your own shift or car parking space are presented to star performers as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for their superlative work.
The organisation also aimed to place a greater emphasis on creating an environment where managers coach staff towards achieving objectives rather than an approach which favours giving orders from the top down. As part of the performance management process, staff are now asked about how they would like to develop their skills in their own day job. Additionally, staff are given the opportunity to talk about how they would like their career to develop further down the line, as part of the performance management process. Whenever possible, they are also given the necessary support to achieve their individual goals.
The communication framework has a strong emphasis on face to face communication and promoting staff involvement. This includes weekly team meetings, monthly review meetings,open sessions with senior managers and six monthly seminars for all staff. Advisors also undertake the role of Communication Representatives, attending team meetings to provide 2-way communication. This peer-to-peer approach has proved very effective in delivering key messages and gathering feedback on the effectiveness of specific communications.
The centre recognises that technology plays a crucial role in ensuring that the contact centre is able to excel in delivering excellent customer service. The organisation therefore places a great deal of emphasis on ensuring that staff are given access to the appropriate equipment and tools so that they are able to perform at their highest potential.
Management also made a firm commitment to listening to staff at all levels. Regular ‘coffee hour’ sessions, open to all staff, are now regularly held with Director of Contact Centre Services , allowing people to speak openly with senior management about issues, concerns or ideas for better ways of working. Furthermore knowledge sharing of best practice is encouraged through initiatives such as exchange visits where people from the contact centre visit other units within DVLA and vice-versa.
Since it set out its vision in 2007, the contact centre has won numerous awards and
achievements in recognition of the progress it has made towards achieving its original objective of becoming the leading public sector contact centre. The centre won ‘Best Improvement Strategy’ in the European Call Centre Awards (2007) as well as the People Development Award (2007) and the Excellence Award for Support Team (2008) in the Welsh Contact Centre awards. In October 2012, the centre also won the prestigious Customer Contact Association (CCA) ‘Overall Centre of the Year Award’. These awards have gone some way towards confirming that the contact centre has achieved its original objective of positioning itself as the leader in the delivery of contact centre customer service by 2012.
Further proof of this realisation is evidenced by the cultural shift that has taken place within the organisation over the past five years. The centre has become a truly vibrant organisation where staff feel empowered, valued and motivated to do their best. This is evidenced by the unit’s consistently high results in the Civil Service People Survey. The centre’s results for the themes of ‘Leadership and Managing Change’ and ‘Pay and Benefits’ sit well above the Civil Service High Performers scores for these categories: 16 percentage points and 18 percentage points above the Civil Service high performing unit scores respectively.
The contact centre aims to continue to set high standards for customer service over the years to come. Management are committed to ensuring that employee engagement remains at the forefront and that the centre remains a vibrant place to work where staff feel valued, empowered, respected and recognised for their achievements. The Contact Centre is currently working on a new vision and values.
Improved Engagement at UKBA Regional Office for North East, Yorkshire and the Humber
The regional office of the UK Border Agency for The North East, Yorkshire and the Humber has recently seen a jump in staff engagement scores. The office took decisive steps following results from last year’s People Survey and managed to improve their staff engagement score by 9% this year, even in the face of continuing uncertainties for staff regarding major IT upgrades and movement of work into specialised hubs.
Steps taken to improve engagement included:
- Having each deputy director run ‘surgeries’ to open up lines of communication and seek ideas from the business as to what works well and what could be improved upon.
- Tailoring the approach for various business units so as to meet the unique needs of staff. For example, one unit established a ‘let’s talk’ action plan where weekly meetings were held by senior and middle managers and their teams, with set agendas including performance,
- quality, policy and HR.
- Introducing team communication whiteboards, including information on performance, quality, attendance and intelligence issues. This improved communications and brought messages to teams on a daily level.
- Providing training to some teams. Managers were given training on Business Intelligence and how to best support staff and weekly quality results were emailed to managers to feedback to staff at team meetings.
- Improving change management techniques. For example announcements of policy changes affecting a large number of staff, were presented verbally at whole-floor meetings by deputy directors with other senior managers present, thereby allowing staff to ask questions at an early stage
This year, the focus for engagement is already underway with an engagement plan being developed based upon the results of the staff survey 2011, with emphasis placed on continuing the upward trend.
MyFuture: Engagement in action
In 2010, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) underwent a series of changes following the end of the National Identity Service and the Comprehensive Spending Review which resulted in a large number of jobs being cut and staff needing to find work elsewhere.
In July 2010, following feedback at a ‘Town Hall’ meeting, the Myfuture initiative was set up with the aim of supporting staff in the redeployment network both in seeking work, and more generally. A group of people including redeployees and other IPS staff from across the organisation set about developing an online space on the IPS intranet for staff in redeployment, as well as plans for giving them a physical space where they could concentrate on job applications and preparation.
The online space, hosted on the IPS intranet, had four main areas: practical support, including access to job applications, financial advice and training; support for line managers to help them manage staff in the redeployment network; emotional support; and a social network for people to interact and share advice and experiences. Volunteers wrote guidance on job-hunting, writing applications and interview preparation, provided advice on where to go for support on a range of issues from financial to emotional, and set up a Skills Exchange Network so that skills could be shared to give colleagues a better chance to find a new job. The site could also be used to access learning: the Learning and Development team arranged training to help with job-hunting and skills development, and the HR Business Partner network arranged financial awareness seminars provided free by experts.
It was felt that it can be very difficult to concentrate on applying for other roles when you are working in an office environment, especially when people around you are busily doing work that you used to be involved in. One active member of the Myfuture team suggested that Myfuture could use the Identity Commissioner’s Office, left empty following the end of the Commissioner’s role. The area provided a relaxed space for people to search for jobs and prepare applications, training and development activities for small groups, and where people could meet for coaching and to compare experiences and share tips.
As time progressed and decisions were taken to make reductions in the size of other operational areas, such as the Interview Office Network and the Newport Passport Office, the Myfuture project responded by transforming itself into a virtual team; which consisted of people from various parts of IPS, holding bi-weekly conference calls to share information and ideas for events and services, that were then replicated at various locations around the country. This team also supported the set up of a centre in Croydon, through sharing all the existing materials and information they had generated with UKBA – this space was then made available to all Home Office employees in redeployment. Following the expiry of the lease on the Identity Commissioner’s office, the equipment from the London Myfuture centre was sent to the Newport Passport Office, and the team wasted no time in supporting colleagues down there with how to set up and run another Myfuture centre in Wales.
Myfuture gave people a supportive, positive environment, with guidance, advice and help from colleagues. Thanks to the tips on job-hunting, help on applying and interviewing as well as the ability to share the ups and downs of a difficult situation with others, those who lost their roles through restructuring or the end of the National Identity Service were able to look to the future and move on to jobs, sometimes using their skills and experience elsewhere in the Civil Service and sometimes leaving for new pastures. The Myfuture initiative helped IPS to manage the changes to the organisation, which involved significant reduction in staff, in a sensitive way so that staff who remained in IPS knew that colleagues had been treated with support and respect.
The commitment of the organisation’s leadership to Myfuture, and the approach that empowered the project group to develop the initiative as they felt appropriate, has also had a positive effect on perceptions of leadership as well as allowing Myfuture to understand and meet the needs of staff in redeployment, since many were involved in its development. Myfuture leveraged the skills and facilitated the transfer of knowledge that was already in the organisation, opening up to staff the developmental opportunity to coach and mentor colleagues. Also, among those providing support were senior civil servants which reinforced the commitment of leadership. Because staff volunteered their time and efforts to the group, and all involved were committed to using either free resources or those already available, there was little additional outlay but great benefit to all who used the Myfuture online and physical spaces.
Myfuture is a staff support system developed to give advice, guidance and support to staff in IPS. It began with a question to the Chief Executive from someone brave enough to ask ‘what about us?’, and developed thanks to the courage and hard work of a people from across the organisation. It helped individuals to find new jobs, and the organisation to manage the staff reductions sensitively as well as being taken on by other organisations for the support of their redeployment network.
Health, Wellbeing and Attendance at DVLA
Rates of sickness absence at DVLA have halved since 2005, following the implementation of a proactive and preventative strategy to managing attendance that focuses on health and wellbeing. DVLA’s experience has shown that capability and good management are the keys in successfully implementing a health and wellbeing strategy. Changes alone cannot guarantee good results; however where changes are managed well, employee engagement tends to increase and sickness absence tends to decrease.
DVLA is a fairly large organisation, employing over 6000 staff. Around 60% of its staff are female, and the majority are employed in routine administrative roles, with approximately 75% earning less than £21,000. In 2005, sickness absence averaged 14 days per person, costing £10.3million and leading to the publication, in 2007, of a National Audit Office report criticising the Agency. Absence rates at DVLA are highest in contact centre environments, where over 700 staff are based, and around 60% of absence days are long term (over a month).
DVLA took an approach to addressing sickness absence that focused on health, wellbeing and attendance. The aims were to improve wellbeing and the working environment, move from a culture of ‘illness’ to ‘wellness’, and develop an engaged, inclusive workforce. To achieve these, HR developed a strategic, integrated programme of work delivered through six key strands: Culture, Policy and Procedures, Support, Health and Wellbeing, Capability, and Management Information.
The initial focus of the programme was to intervene in areas where impacts could be seen quite quickly. The first steps were to develop more detailed management information, review and update policies and procedures, and develop short guides to support staff and managers. Corporate objectives on attendance were introduced for staff and managers, and more robust management of long term cases was implemented, including earlier referral, a policy of keeping in touch during absence and proactive rehabilitation. A new training course was also developed and launched to improve the capability of line managers.
While such procedural actions were implemented straight away, it was recognised that the goals of the strategy would not be achieved by these alone, but also required proactive steps to increase health and wellbeing. Targeted wellbeing initiatives were thus also developed from early on. These comprised:
- A Quality of Working Life Survey – with an action plan implemented to address issues raised through it.
- Health Promotion – a focus on wellness rather than illness, with a calendar of monthly activities in place and initiatives including a pedometer challenge, weight management programme, and smoking cessation classes.
- Proactive Occupational Health and wellbeing services – earlier support for stress-related absences and access to a physiotherapist for musculoskeletal disorders. Closer links were also developed with local GPs to ensure staff are given appropriate rehabilitation assistance and in preparation for the introduction of ‘fit notes’ to replace sick notes.
- Employee Assistance Programme – staff and their immediate families have access to a 24- hour telephone based counselling service, including information on debt and legal matters.
- Support to improve lifestyle – a fully equipped and staffed fitness centre has opened, walking trails have been marked around the estate and cycle support schemes have been re-promoted.
The results of the strategy have been notable. Between December 2005 and June 2011, sickness absence in DVLA almost halved from an average of 14 to 7.2 days per person, leading to annual savings of £5.5million. There are now 200 additional staff in work each day, resulting in a much more productive workforce. Engagement was one part of the broader health and wellbeing focus of the strategy, and improvements were also demonstrated in this area. DVLA’s engagement score, as measured by the Civil Service People Survey, increased by 4% between 2009 and 2011 (from 51% to 55%). In 2010, DVLA won the prestigious Civil Service Human Resource Award, in recognition of the work undertaken by the Agency to improve staff engagement and wellbeing in support of organisational efficiency.
Work around the strategy is still ongoing, with a flexible approach adopted, so that the programme can respond to changing circumstances and new issues. Work is being undertaken on occupational health (OH). There are ongoing assessments of which OH issues to cover, leading to the development of a programme of monthly health promotion events. Additionally, a focus on mental health has been initiated in response to a recent increase in absence due to stress and mental health issues. The Agency is taking a renewed look at the cultural aspects of sickness absence, and aligning with national campaigns around mental health to address stigmatisation and promote more open discussion of the importance of mental wellbeing.
Management information reports on sickness absence have now been developed and established. The data emerging from them is regularly analysed to enable HR to identify changes in attendance and take early action to address them. Recent reviews have identified the need for additional capability around managing sickness absence, leading to more support and training for managers in this area. Directors continue to meet on a monthly basis to discuss the data and flag up any emerging issues in their part of the business. In addition, the Agency continues to monitor best practice and changes introduced elsewhere to policies and procedures. It is then considered whether these would work at DVLA, with pilots set up to test out new ideas.
Preliminary analysis conducted by the Analysis and Insight Team at Cabinet Office on data from DVLA shows that increased engagement and decreased sickness absence are likely to go hand in hand. It finds that if DVLA continues to focus on health, wellbeing and engagement, and manages
this focus well, the positive results they have seen in terms of sickness absence are likely to continue, and possibly improve, over time.
The analysis finds a relationship between engagement and overall average working days lost (AWDL) and between engagement and the proportion of staff without sickness absence (after controlling for grade). It also finds a relationship between engagement and the average number of single day absences. From this analysis, it is possible to theorise that for a 10% increase in the engagement index we would expect to see a 1.1 day reduction in overall AWDL, including a 0.3 day reduction in short-term sickness absence (absences of less than one week) and a 0.6 day reduction in long-term sickness absence (absences of four weeks or more). We could also theorise that a 10% increase in engagement would lead to an increase in the proportion of staff with no sickness absence in the preceding 12 months by 8%, and for a unit of 100 staff there would be 9 fewer single day absences per year.
The ongoing work being undertaken by DVLA in this area is encouraging, and is likely to lead to the Agency sustaining and building on its successes in reducing sickness absence and increasing wellbeing. DVLA’s renewed focus on building managerial capability is essential to ensuring that changes are managed sensitively and effectively, and so to increasing the likelihood that the health, wellbeing and attendance strategy will continue to deliver positive results.
Many Foreign & Commonwealth staff in the UK and overseas have agreed flexible working patterns which meet the overarching business need and suit them personally. The benefits of business efficient flexible working are widely recognised – more motivated, productive and happier staff, reduced stress and absenteeism.
For the FCO, the additional effort that must go into making flexible working a success, on the part of staff and managers, is justified. Results from the Staff Engagement Survey show that FCO staff consistently scores highly compared with the civil service benchmark. In the 2011 Staff Engagement Survey, for example, FCO scored six percentage points higher than the civil service benchmark in the drivers of engagement related to the ‘My Work’ theme.
While significant benefits can be realised by offering flexible working options, a number of considerations and factors must be addressed for flexible working to be successful. The FCO has identified several key considerations and factors that will influence the success of flexible working. These include:
• Vision – on what home working can deliver for the organisation and the team.
• Culture – a positive mindset. It is necessary to trust that your employees can manage their own time and deliver.
• Process – clear structure of positions, thoughtful tasking, considered use of meetings, to ensure that objectives can be met while working flexibly.
• Property – space in buildings for remote workers to touch down.
• Technology – the most important enabler. People must have the ability to communicate reliably and securely.
• Awareness of Security Considerations, data protection issues and access to relevant guidance.
Managers and staff need to invest more in their relationship, have a high degree of trust, and be conscious of the constraints imposed by flexible working. It is important for managers to bear in mind that the majority of staff want to deliver, achieve objectives and excel, and high performance can still be achieved and measured if a member of staff works remotely.
Staff working flexibly must ensure that colleagues and managers are regularly kept abreast of their activity. This might involve regular update emails, phone calls or progress reports, particularly in cases where staff are working remotely on a full-time or nearly full-time basis.
The FCO has identified several key benefits that flexible working offers, both to the organisation and to the individual. These include:
• Cost – reduction in estate running costs (and CO2 emissions) given that FCO do not need to provide a fixed desk for every member of staff.
• Efficiency – it is easier to set aside time for more strategic thinking and work on complex or lengthy drafting, and encourages a less demand-driven and meetings-based culture.
• Productivity – reduction in absenteeism. Remote working can reduce sick leave by 20% as staff are often still able to work if they do not have to commute.
• Morale – offering flexible working often leads to greater job satisfaction and to increased levels of morale. This in turn helps to drive higher performance amongst staff.
• Global coverage – flexible working provides the opportunity to extend operating hours. If, for example, remote workers work in different time zones, they can cover different shifts or regions more easily.
• Diversity – greater flexibility helps to contribute to ensuring FCO have a diverse and skilled workforce that reflects society. Organisations have found more women will return from maternity leave if flexible/remote working is available.
• Business continuity – This can be particularly helpful when big events, such as the Olympics or national strikes, affect infrastructure in London.
Workers from a wide variety of posts and grades across the organisation work flexibly. Christine Ferguson, Head of Information Management and FCO Departmental Records Officer, has worked flexibly for a number of years. She works three days in the office and normally works two days a week from home. This arrangement allows her to commit the necessary time required to transport her children for their schooling and other commitments before her workday begins and after it ends. This is something that would not be possible if she had to commute into London every day.
Crucially, Christine has access to effective IT infrastructure which allows her to work effectively whether she is in the office or working remotely. The flexible working arrangements do not interfere with her general working practices or the overall business of her Department in any way. In fact thanks to the flexible working patterns of staff within the unit, a very large window of support coverage is available within the department, without any increased costs incurred by the organisation.
The FCO has a ‘Flexible Working Network’. This network aims to offer flexible workers or staff considering flexible work support and informal advice as well as pointing them towards official guidance. It aims to support and advise those line managing flexible workers and raise awareness of the right to request flexibility.
There is clear guidance for staff and managers on flexible working in the form of an on line toolkit which outlines full details of the FCO’s policies in this area.
The FCO makes clear that although flexible working is suitable for many posts, it is not suitable for every job or every individual. It can’t be an entitlement, nor will it become compulsory. It must first and foremost suit the business need.
Flexible working throws up challenges for the FCO and working practices and management relationships require more thought and effort. But it also supports the FCO’s objective to deliver the right workforce with the right skills, while nurturing diversity across the organisation and boosting staff morale.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was formed in 2005, following the merger of Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise Departments. As part of a strategy to improve its efficiency by 5% year on year to 2011, it has made significant reductions in staff numbers and currently employs the equivalent of 68,000 full-time people.
Employee engagement surveys have shown a continuing need to motivate and engage HMRC staff. At the end of 2009, the department began developing an employee engagement strategy and recognised the need to include colleague segmentation to support the communication and embedding of a wider customer-centred business strategy. Focus groups and one-to-one interviews were held with staff at different levels and almost 6,000 people, in all grades and from a range of locations across the UK, completed an online survey. Drawing on the survey findings the results were used to establish what staff attitudes and motivations really were and provide a deep level of insight into the drivers of colleague engagement.
It emerged that initial assumptions that employee engagement levels might be adequately reflected, by aggregated scores on motivation or desire to stay in the organisation, were incorrect. Measuring engagement by people’s alignment with organisational objectives, or their willingness to ‘go the extra mile’, failed to do justice to the range of factors that influenced their behaviour. What was needed was to look beyond the results for the workforce as a whole and focus on the attitudes and motivation of individual employees.
Researchers were able to segment the workforce into five coherent, relevant and mutually exclusive groups united in their attitudes:
- committed enthusiasts (high engagement/high passion)
- frustrated enthusiasts
- dependable contributors
- quiet advocates
- disconnected (low engagement/low passion).
All of the segments have clear demographic characteristics such as grade, location, directorate or length of service. HMRC believe they are the only government department that has so far adopted this segmentation approach to explore employee engagement. Many departments use a linear segmentation model but in the current challenging climate it is not realistic to expect to drive people up the segments from highly disengaged to highly engaged. The five colleague engagement segments developed by HMRC are distinct, unique and mutually exclusive and encourage managers/leaders to take a bespoke approach to employee engagement.
The results mean that the HR department can help line managers to take a more tailored approach and focus their efforts where they will be most effective.
Staff at the Ministry of Justice have been actively leading the way by suggesting how business can be done better through their participation on ‘Idea Street’, the Department’s online innovation website. Launched to all MoJ employees in September 2011, the site currently has over 1800 users who use their first hand knowledge and experience to devise solutions to everyday work problems so that that real value and better outcomes can be delivered in the Department and across the justice system.
Through their participation on ‘Idea Street’, MoJ employees have shown how money can be saved by reducing the time taken to travel to meetings and suggesting court and tribunal interpreter cost reductions. All these ideas have now been implemented and this success rests firmly on staff engaging directly with each other, sharing the detail of what may or may not work and pinpointing where opportunities may lie.
The ‘Idea Street’ concept is based around employees posting helpful ideas on the community site. With the support of other users voting for ideas which they think are workable and generating discussion around them, the ideas deemed most popular will move through 3 different stages – buzz, teaming and investment time. Once an idea makes it to ‘investment time’, an ‘expert’ will be identified by the Idea Street Administration Team to assess and evaluate the feasibility of the idea for implementation.
Participation on the site has also helped break down barriers across the Department with all parts of the Ministry – with the frontline and corporate offices coming together to share thoughts and views to strengthen the suggestions that are being posted on Idea Street so that they stand a better chance of being implemented.
To date, ideas ranging from having ‘paperless files’, instituting a directory of support services’ , ‘reducing the number of laptops’, ‘ courts sitting at weekends, ‘amending court and legal aid rules for divorce proceedings’ have been generating interesting discussion on the site.
With over 22 ideas now awaiting expert feedback and over 220 live ideas inviting votes and discussion on ‘Idea Street’, the potential for driving positive change in the Ministry through staff participation and leadership is considerable.
Back to the floor initiative launched by the Department for Work and Pensions
Once a year all DWP senior colleagues are asked to go back to the floor to spend a week working with a variety of staff who directly serve customers. Over 200 senior colleagues did so in 2009-10. This frontline experience gives senior colleagues ideas on what works well for delivering great customer service, and allows them to gain people’s direct input for service improvements. The previous DWP Permanent Secretary, went back to the floor in each of the last 4 years of the scheme, and shared his experiences through a published personal diary. He said of the scheme “every time an SCS colleague goes Back to the Floor we learn something we can do better”. The initiative is well received by DWP staff with recent evaluation showing that they greatly value seeing senior colleagues experiencing their world at first hand.