Katy Coope, the Director for Organisational Strategy and Engagement at the TU, has worked within the public sector for several years and has seen the benefits an engaged workforce has on those who access and deliver health and care. She talks us through transforming organisational culture at the TU.

One of the areas we specialise in at the Transformation Unit (TU) is organisational development, and as well as developing our own staff, we’re committed to growing a thriving and sustainable workforce of transformation professionals in the NHS for the NHS.

Although the TU is a relatively new organisation, we recognised that to be successful we need to attract great people and ensure their experience is the best it can be whilst they’re with us. This is important because multiple studies[1] have shown that the patient experience is at its best when staff are engaged and happy.

It’s clear when working in a health or care setting or Local Authority setting, that if the workforce is engaged and happy this has a knock-on effect on both the service they deliver, and how they deliver it, whether that be care or waste disposal. If an employee is engaged then they’re more likely to go that extra mile and take pride in the work they’re doing.

We wanted to ensure that all staff working in the TU were engaged and working to the very best of their ability as we knew the positive benefits this would have, on both our staff and our clients, and ultimately patients.  Our journey to improve the experience of our workforce has been built on engaging and communicating with everyone in the team to understand what’s important to them, rather than us assuming we knew what was needed. Amongst other initiatives, we’ve worked with everyone to completely overhaul the TU values, and co-design a new set of value and behaviours. We’ve also revamped how career progression is managed, how staff are inducted into the organisation and developed a comprehensive health and wellbeing strategy. Perhaps the most important part of everything that we’ve done is that all planning and subsequent initiatives have been co-designed with staff from all teams and at all levels of seniority.

We feel the culture that’s been created through this work is quite special and unique. When people join the organisation one of the first things they often observe is the lack of hierarchy. This isn’t to say we don’t have a leadership and management structure, we just don’t let it get in the way of communication and creativity.

One of the ways this is demonstrated is through our open plan office where everyone sits together, including the Chief Executive. A habit which has evolved is that we all eat lunch together away from the office environment.  This provides another opportunity for the whole organisation to engage with each other and share ideas and interests that otherwise might not be known.

Following all this, we were keen to understand what positive effects our work to transform the culture at the TU had ensued. We recognise that the work we’ve done so far is not the end, and we wanted to develop a baseline to understand what further work was needed to enable us to measure successes in the future. We explored the different workplace surveys that were available to make sure the one we chose would provide us with the data we needed. Following a review the Transformation Unit Board agreed that the Best Companies Survey, with its outstanding reputation and recognised methodology, would be the right one for us.

The Sunday Times Best Companies survey is the UK’s benchmark for rating and celebrating the very best employers to work for. Our staff completed the Best Companies survey in October 2018 and we achieved an excellent response rate of 88%.

The survey is a confidential questionnaire that focuses on eight areas, including how good our organisation’s leadership is, what our team thinks of our organisation, opportunities for personal growth, pay and benefits, relationships and general well-being. As the questionnaire was completely secure and anonymous, it gave our team the opportunity to express how they really felt.

We were delighted to find out on February 20th that we had been awarded a 3-star accreditation, the highest standard of workplace engagement which reflects ‘extraordinary’ levels of workplace engagement, and were placed 10th in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to work for 2019 list.

Audrey Abbott, Graduate Trainee Project Manager, said: “As a graduate it is really exciting to work for one of the UK’s Best Not-For-Profit Organisations. The focus on learning and development means there are endless opportunities at the TU.

“One of my favourite aspects of working here is the importance and value placed on culture. All of our work (internal and external) centres around our 4 values (people focused, integrity, driven and empower), and these are seen every day in how we work together and with our clients.”

[1] https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/lums/people/michael-west