EXCLUSIVE: Kettering General Hospital prioritises communication for engagement

Employee Benefits Live 2021: The only way to find out exactly what staff want, need and expect in terms of keeping them engaged is to simply ask them, advised Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s chief people officer.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion on enabling meaningful employee engagement on the first day of Employee Benefits Live 2021 at London’s ExCel, Mark Smith of the NHS Foundation Trust spoke about the need for employers to ask what they can do to improve employees’ working lives and the importance of frequent communication with staff both in virtual and physical workplaces.

“NHS staff don’t have much time, so we try to get important messages across to them quickly in a similar fashion to an elevator pitch, where you only have a set amount of time to make a point,” he said.

Smith explained that communication is changing as now a balance needs to be found between what can be done virtually and what can be done in person.

“Once the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic hit, we had to adapt to different forms of communication very quickly and started to look at how to keep staff engaged through technology. We wanted to keep that connection with employees, as the fact that we care is important,” he said.

Nicki Clark, chief executive officer at Umi, agreed on the importance of regularly communicating with workers and discussed how engagement needs to be personal to each employee.

“At Umi we have a Positive Posse, which involves much more relaxed communication that is also agile and fluid. We have younger staff now and they’ve told us that health cover and financial planning are key to them through the use of our café workshops, where we ask and engage all staff in conversations about what they want,” she said.

Clark and the team have introduced a staff survey called Umi Pulse, involving buttons with happy and unhappy faces, in order to ask how staff are feeling and why, which enables them to react and fix things if necessary quickly.

Smith added that the Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust also has a similar survey available for employees as well as staff networks.

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“This helps to engage all staff regardless of their work location and allows us to look at how to communicate to everyone. The staff networks required time, budget and power to set up, all of which employees said were critical in order to not be overwhelmed with their workload or go beyond their budget,” he said.

Regarding a takeaway message for delegates, both Clark and Smith said there were a range of expectations to manage from staff and that it is important to find a balance in order to maintain engagement.