Engagement and communication
All you need to know in 30 seconds
- It is important to engage with your team during times of change.
- It is up to you to alleviate the worries of your team and support them.
- Familiarise yourself with the Workforce Change Policy and ensure that you engage with all relevant stakeholders (eg. staff side colleagues, HR and service users) about any planned local changes.
- Communicate well, keep your employees in the know for better outcomes.
- Listen to your team’s concerns and reassure them they will be heard.
- Motivate your team by focusing on service delivery.
- Build up resilience within your team and keep their wellbeing on the agenda.
All you need to know in detail
Engaging employees during a period of major change is a huge challenge for NHS departments. Research shows that rapid change may lead individuals to feel overwhelmed or left behind. This is especially true in the NHS where many employees have worked there for many years. Concerns are also heightened when some changes are outside of the control of individual departments or may even result in the department they work being restructured. There are some actions that can be taken to mitigate the impact of change and seek to engage staff:
Employees’ response to change will depend partly on how the changes are communicated. Following the Board’s Workforce Change Policy will allow you to agree with employee representatives a plan for how to manage the communication of change in an appropriate way. In some cases departments are facing an external change, over which they will have very little control e.g. political changes. In others, the department itself has decided to take action such as service reconfiguration and in some cases there will be a mix of externally imposed and internally directed change e.g. mergers of community services. You as a manager, along with HR, can play a vital role through induction briefings with employees to alleviate their worries and support them.
Maintain employee engagement
The pace and scale of change in the NHS is increasing and may seem overwhelming to employees. Many will have seen proposals for change before and may be suffering from change fatigue and be sceptical of new proposals, but departments that involve and engage with employees early on generally find it can help deliver better outcomes. Listen to concerns, take on board feedback and communicate updates in a timely manner to keep your team on track. Reassure employees that their concerns are being heard. It may be difficult in maintaining relationships where employees have opposed potential changes but you should seek to keep an open and frank dialogue around implementation of any changes where possible. You therefore need to engage your team around change and try to convey any case for change in a way which seeks to take employees along with them.
This means being consistent in your messages and communication, building department buy-in by acting with integrity and being open about any risks. Evidence from public service departments is that maintaining a focus on service delivery during change is key to motivating employees. Despite the range of changes in the NHS, your priority as a team will continue to be the provision of high quality healthcare services and better patient care.
Resilience is one way of dealing with change, building up the ability of your team to cope with the processes of change itself through personal resilience. The concept of resilience was originally developed to look at how departments dealt with emergencies. There is now a considerable amount of current research and debate over how to increase resilience for individuals and in periods of rapid change. It is also important to address health and well-being issues during a period of change as these have been shown to affect engagement and employee motivation.