Category Archives: People

WFG Act Early Adopters: Six months on…

Hazel Clatworthy and Matthew Gatehouse, Monmouthshire County Council, presented at a shared learning seminar on the Future Generations Act back in March, when the legislation hadn’t actually come into force.  Their experience was based on their work as “early adopters” of the Act. Six months on a lot has changed…

Getting our own house in order

Back in March I shared feedback from Wales Audit Office’s light touch assessment of our preparedness for the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.  This was really helpful and mainly focussed on in-house processes and policies, which we’ve been developing further.

Over the last six months a lot more work has taken place on training and awareness raising about the Act and what it means for officers, Members and partners.  The Act is prominent in Induction training for all new starters, we’ve held our second and third member seminars on the subject, plus specific training for scrutiny and there was standing room only in the council chamber when we did a lunchtime talk for staff on the subject – with more watching via YouTube. We’ve revised our Sustainable Development policy, curated a comprehensive range of resources on our intranet site for officers and Members to refer to and given the Act far more prominence on the council’s website to help our residents and businesses understand how central this is to our work.


After our session in March a lot of people contacted us to get a copy of the Future Generations Evaluation we’d introduced six months earlier.  I’d like to be able to say that lots of decisions have radically changed as a result of using this evaluation, and that decision making is now inherently more sustainable.  And I’d like to be able to say that officers are automatically using these at the earliest stages of decision making, rather than the night before the deadline.  But in all honesty I can’t say that…yet!  However, I can say that I’ve had conversations with officers from parts of the Council I would never have dealt with before, as they ask for my help or advice on how to complete the evaluation.  And I can say that Members have been challenging officers if they feel that the evaluation hasn’t been done properly or has missed something – one Scrutiny committee refused to hold a meeting when the reports they were presented with had somehow slipped through the system without an evaluation!  Small steps but all in the right direction!

We are making progress on our other policies and strategies like procurement where we are developing a Community Benefits policy.  We’ve also embedded the seven wellbeing goals and five sustainable development principles in our service planning process.

So we are gradually building on our early adopter work and implementing the WAO recommendations, and I think it is beginning to make a difference – awareness of the Act is certainly much higher than it was, and hopefully this awareness, together with the policies and processes in place to back it up will mean that Monmouthshire genuinely becomes a more sustainable place.

Looking outwards

I’ve been visiting lots of partnerships which sit underneath our newly formed Public Service Board and talking to them about what the Act means for us, for them and how we can work together.  Levels of awareness varies, but all have welcomed the chance to understand the Act better and think about how they can contribute to the Wellbeing Assessment and Plan.


In August we started a big public engagement exercise called Our Monmouthshire to help inform our Well-being Assessment.  We have plenty of data, but to try and avoid falling into the “lies, damned lies and statistics” trap, we are going to events, shows, markets, coffee mornings, schools, support groups and more to find out what people like about living in Monmouthshire and what they think would make it even better.  We have commissioned Our Monmouthshire banners, big maps, postcards and fact and future trends cards to stimulate discussion and debate, and Council officers and other PSB partners are going out and about to get feedback to shape the Well-being Assessment.


We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to feed in their views, so as well as face to face, people can also contribute online and via social media.  Residents can feed in their views and ideas via a short online questionnaire, or via Made Open, Monmouthshire’s online digital engagement platform.


The Wellbeing Assessment is a huge piece of work, and the more far reaching our engagement work, the more information we have to process, but it should result in a rigorous and well informed Assessment which will well equip the PSB to decide on priorities for the Wellbeing Plan in 2018.

So, in summary so far, I think I’d agree with the guidance on the Act, which says that sustainable development isn’t an end point, but the process of improving well-being or a way of doing things.  Embracing the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act as a way of working, rather than just complying with the letter of the law, is a journey.  And I believe that it is a journey that we are well on the way with.

What does modern Learning and Development look like?

How relevant is learning and development (L&D) within today’s workplace and does it have a positive influence? Russell Higgins of the Wales Audit Office recently completed a study to assess the impact of L&D within the workplace with particular focus on evaluation. For the study Russell used the Wales Audit Office as a case study organisation.

My research covered a variety of objectives which included how effectively and efficiently L&D needs were identified and delivered in the workplace, how to measure and quantify the relevance of L&D and how organisations can benefit from its effective measurement.

Identification of learning

The thing that struck me in the very beginning was that with financial budgets becoming tighter and tighter, it is essential that both public and private sector organisations deliver cost effective L&D solutions. In order to do this L&D professionals need to make sure that the learning is accurately identified and focuses on organisation’s priorities which in turn will bring a positive return on investment and expectation. The L&D solution should also aim to raise individual skills and motivate them to do things differently.

L&D needs can be identified in various ways – from an organisational point of view (a top-down process where the organisation is thinking about goals and vision) and via the appraisal process, where the line manager is key in identifying the right learning and development solution. The line manager therefore has a key role in the identification of L&D.

The role of line managers

Line managers have the opportunity to identify the L&D needs of the people they manage and can use this information to provide guidance and coaching.  Research findings suggest that this opportunity is frequently missed as managers do not always have the skills, confidence and / or motivation to identify and address the L&D needs. Indeed some research conducted by Penny Hackett stated that some line managers see all performance problems as training problems and expect trainers to provide solutions. If line managers are not knowledgeable about clear identification of L&D then it is likely that the learning identified will not be aligned to the organisational business strategy. Following my research I believe it is important that line managers have regular contact with members of staff throughout the year to discuss and review individual L&D requirements. Line managers should be skilled and knowledgeable enough to ensure that when L&D is identified it is delivered in the most appropriate manner and not only via the traditional classroom based manner.

The 70:20:10 model

A visiual representation of the 70:20:10 model, as described in Russell's postMy research found that learning and development was splitting onto 2 i.e. traditionalists and modern workplace learning. Traditionalists tend to focus on traditional classroom training or e-learning, whereas the modern workplace learning practitioner is more likely to work with line managers to develop the most appropriate way of learning, using the 70:20:10 model – 70% of the learning takes place in the workplace (on the job learning), 20% from other forms (like mentoring and coaching) and 10% through the traditional classroom method. This is a massive change for the way that staff learn and develop, and a big change for the L&D function so that they think about things in a different way. Modern workplace learning also puts the emphasis on getting people to take accountability for their own learning, rather than it being done to them.

A visual representation of the Kirkpatrick Model as a pyramid, as described in Russell's postThis therefore presents a challenge in terms of evaluating the impact of learning within your organisation. When thinking about the Kirkpatrick model of evaluation (there are loads of different models available, but this is the most common one used by L&D functions) which focuses on four key areas – reaction, learning, behaviour and results. My research found that very few organisations are actually looking at all four aspects, especially level four which is results – did the learning have any return on investment?

I also found that organisations tend to use a generic evaluation form, however quite often these should be tailored so that they fit the specific learning and development objective. In order to be useful to the organisation, the evaluation needs to go beyond the first two levels of the Kirkpatrick model (reaction and learning) and in order to do this, the line manager role is essential – have they seen a change in behaviour, has there been a return on investment on the activity?

I believe that L&D functions of the future need to be fully in touch with all departments to ensure that they are providing L&D interventions that are fully aligned to business requirements and organisational strategic objectives. There is also a joint dependency between the line manager and L&D function. They need to work together to ensure that all aspects of the Kirkpatrick evaluation model is followed.

RHP: Great customer service, great employer

A photo of RHP's 5 year strategy mural

RHP’s 5 year strategy mural

It’s impossible to have effective public services without staff that are committed and motivated to deliver them. So how do we go about doing that? Dyfrig Williams visited London housing provider RHP Group to learn more about their approach.

I’ve always been interested in how organisations make the most of their staff. When I worked at Participation Cymru, we noticed that organisations that harness their staff’s knowledge and capabilities tend to be the ones who are good at involving the public when planning their work.

So I was really interested in the work RHP are doing, and when the opportunity came to visit the organisation after meeting their Chief Executive David Done, I was as keen as mustard.


One of the first things that struck me is the effort that RHP put into building and maintaining the culture of the business. RHP recruit people based on behaviours, and subsequently measure performance against these skills and behaviours rather than qualifications. The assessment centres at interviews focus on that, and once employees have been appointed, all new starters go through a “wow 3 weeks” of induction that ensures that all new starters have the same experience and are aware of the organisations’ values.

Their approach to culture and empowerment isn’t something that just applies to new employees. Existing employees had said that they wanted the opportunity to stay and progress within the organisation, so RHP developed a Climbing Frame approach to staff development that allows existing staff to move up the organisation through promotion, or move sideways through a secondment.

Learning and Development

A photo of RHP's meeting room, which is nicely decorated to provide a relaxed environment

RHP’s meeting room – a bit different to your average one

RHP’s learning and development approach is based on gaps in their business, for example their approach to risk management and decision making. I’ve often felt that the traditional training course approach to personal development is a tick-box exercise (I think only about three of the courses that I’ve attended have genuinely changed the way that I work in about eleven years of working in public services), so it was interesting to see how RHP is favouring a bite-size approach to events that last between ninety minutes and half a day.

This approach includes the Great Place to Think sessions, where external speakers are invited to speak on topics that are relevant to the organisation. Wayne Hemmingway has spoken on creativity and Gerald Ratner spoke about resilience and bouncing back from failure.

The Great Place to Debate sessions also give staff the opportunity to debate contentious issues. RHP is moving into offering five year tenancies, and points from the “All new social tenancies should be offered on five year terms – yes v no” debate informed its approach.

The Live Lounge also harnesses staff’s own learning, as employees lead discussions on their areas of interest, including topics as diverse as social media or politics. Live Lounges are 3-2-1 discussions (held at 3 o’clock, 2 way discussions for 1 hour). One employee who is a personal trainer spoke about health, and another employee movingly spoke about their mental health experiences.

The Good Practice Exchange has been working with public service partners on Behaviour Change Festivals across Wales, including in Bangor, where the Centre for Behaviour Change used gamification to influence attendee behaviour (it’s worth checking out Participation Cymru’s blogpost on this for more details). So I was really interested in how RHP are using the approach to look at how employees react to high pressure situations. They developed games with an external company, where points are rewarded on decisions they made during the game and whether they made the right decisions and the consequences of those decisions. The scenarios were based on what people experience at RHP, so employees could see and empathise with the challenges that their fellow employees faced. And as someone who has a dubious taste in murder mysteries, I absolutely loved how they have used those scenarios to test how staff make decisions under pressure!

I also learnt how RHP have developed RHPedia, an online knowledgebase in the mould of Wikipedia that equips people with the knowledge they need to deal with any enquiries and to deal with specific issues. What I loved about this approach to knowledge sharing is that anyone can add their expertise to the site. The next stage will be to offer this site to customers

And if all that wasn’t enough, RHP also have an internal volunteering scheme. Whilst that isn’t unusual in itself, 107 people volunteer out of the 250 people who work for the organisation (which includes people who donate to support the projects that employees volunteer on).


If you’ve made it this far through the blogpost, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that RHP is an Investors in People gold organisation. RHP have used the Times 100 to benchmark it’s success in the field, where it came fifth in the UK, and it now uses the Great Place to Work Award. This year, RHP were placed at number one for this award. They also use the Customer Service Index to see what others are doing and what makes them good, whilst also asking customers what a very good service would look like.

And the feedback shows that all this work is worthwhile.96% of employees are satisfied with working for RHP and 83% of customers said they are satisfied with the service they receive. And Geraldine Clarke, RHP’s L&D Advisor told me that “If you want to be great at customer service, you’ve got to be a great employer. You can’t be one without the other.” If you’re similarly looking at how you can make the most of the people within your organisation, we’d love to hear from you.

LocalGovCamp: Being the change you want to see

How are councils across the UK making the most of digital for their work? Dyfrig Williams attended LocalGovCamp to find out.

Over the weekend I went to my first LocalGovCamp in Birmingham, an unconference for local government across the UK, where attendees set the agenda by pitching ideas for discussions.

What is local government for?

The notes from Kelly Doonan's session

The notes from Kelly Doonan’s session

The most thought provoking discussion for me was in Kelly Doonan’s opening session, which asked “What is local government for?” A seemingly straightforward question, but with no easy answers. My takeaway from the session was that local government should be an enabler to help people make their local area a better place to live. What particularly fascinated me was that this chimes with Kelly’s team’s approach to their work. I’ve previously had a great Unmentoring conversation with Kelly about how an enabling mindset means that they’re helping people at Devon County Council to deliver better services. I’m going to steal Ghandhi’s wisdom and pass it off as my own here – this seems to be a great example of “being the change that you wish to see”. We can’t provide enabling services for citizens without applying the same approach to our work with our colleagues.


Glen Ocsko’s session on Gameification allowed me to reflect on the work that we’re doing with Good Practice Wales and Bangor University on Behaviour Change, where we held a Festival in Bangor to share public service approaches. At the festival Professor John Parkinson looked at Gameful Design, and Professor James Intrilligator looked at Drinking, Games and Behaviour Change, which included a fascinating discussion on the Chimp Shop App that encourages people to drink less. It was great to compare and contrast this with approaches from the session. Nick Hill shared The Fun Theory’s work, who have lots of great examples of gameification that could be applied to encourage positive behaviour change.

Blockchain and government

Ingrid Koehler led the Blockchain and government session, which gave me a good chance to ponder what the emerging technology might mean for the Wales Audit Office’s Financial Audit work. It was amazing to think about how transactions could be tracked across government. We spoke about what a small, safe to fail pilot might look like (it’s well worth reading Chris Bolton’s post on Trojan Mice for more on this approach), where money raised from charges could be tracked so that you can see exactly what it was spent on. A potential new era for government financial transparency? But it could also be something more – Benjamin Taylor shared a fascinating link on building a democracy contract on the Blockchain, and what do the open processes mean for public trust? Ingrid shared this interesting report on what it might mean for government.

Why we hate the voluntary sector

Just to be clear, I don’t! But I attended this spikily titled discussion by Pauline Roche as I worked in the sector for eight years, and Huw Vaughan Thomas, the Auditor General for Wales, always talks about how public services won’t be delivered by any one sector in the future. It was fascinating to hear how a fear of lack of control leads to local authority services being kept in house, but also really interesting to hear how groups like Snow Angels could add expertise and value in crisis situations.

The best bit… the networking!

But the most useful part of the day was the opportunity to network and share ideas. It was great to meet new people who are doing great things, as well as finally meet people who I’ve spoken to online in my role (hello Albert Freeman!).

When I caught up with Kelly Doonan after the event for a chat, we spoke a bit about the potential for the Wales Audit Office to do our good practice work differently. Kelly told me about how immersing yourself in examples of alternative approaches can help you to understand how the nuts and bolts of particular approaches can be applied in complex environments.

Devon County Council visited a a user research company, Revealing Reality, to look at how they recruited candidates for a diary study. Participants received a hard copy A4 diary and a pack of stickers to represent different channels and devices. They were shown how to complete the diary, which involved putting in some personal details and then recording their media consumption for a week by writing in the diary and adding stickers. They were able to look at the diaries and ask questions about the techniques and the data.

Kelly also visited the DVLA in Swansea for a user research GDS Cross-Government Meet up, where speakers literally show you exactly how they are working – explaining in detail what software, tools and methods they are using and with pictures to show you what it looks like. You can attend a session and then go away and adapt the approach to meet your needs.

So all in all, LocalGovCamp was a great day. If you’re looking for something similar in Wales, GovCamp Cymru has been confirmed for the 24th of September. If you fancy meeting new people and developing new approaches, put the date in your diary and get involved! I’ll see you there!

Randomised Coffee Trials: Encouraging networking

Could Randomised Coffee Trials help people within your organisation to network and share information? In this blogpost, Bethan Davies reviews the Good Practice Exchange’s use of the method.

Some of you may already be aware that the Good Practice Team have been piloting Randomised Coffee Trials for the past year, as a way of encouraging delegates to continue conversations after our events. Dyfrig Williams blogged about the use of Randomised Coffee Trials last year.

Back in January, we thought it would be good to get a feel for how the process is going, and whether it’s something we should continue with or whether we need to find a new approach. We decided to survey our seminar delegates to seek views of those that had taken part, and those that hadn’t, and find out what they thought.

We received 65 responses to our survey, with some really interesting responses and overall, most were positive. Some of the reasons people like the Randomised Coffee Trials were:

  • It’s good to know that colleagues in the public sector face the same frustrations and challenges!
  • It’s a good opportunity to discuss current work, share good practice and learn from each other
  • It provided the opportunity to have helpful discussions with people that would otherwise never cross paths in their day to day work
  • It’s a great way to learn about what other organisations and people do and helps identify potential opportunities that could aid own organisations work

For those that didn’t take part in the trials, the reasons varied from people not having the time to take part on top of their day to day jobs, they were not interested in the process, or that they just didn’t understand the process, which is a lesson for us.

The feedback made me think about how we ensure all delegates have the same opportunities to engage and continue conversations after our events. Having a busy day to day job may mean some people don’t want to make that extra commitment to meeting up with someone new. An interesting bit of feedback that we had from one delegate was that we should set up a Randomised Coffee Trial during or after our seminar – a bit like speed dating! That would enable everyone to take part, hopefully provide further clarification for those that don’t understand the process, and enable those who want to continue to do so. Something for us to keep in mind!

Another suggestion was about having an online space where people can share their stories and find new partners/ organisations that have similar issues to discuss. A recent example of an organisation doing something similar is Monmouthshire Made Open.

A screenshot of Monmouthshire Made OpenMonmouthshire Made Open allows people to raise challenges; crowd-source solutions; pitch ideas and ask for funding, volunteers or materials on a single platform. Unlike other social media it allows people to turn problems into actions in a single place, people make and build connections and form groups, people can ‘like’ ideas and help shape solutions which can help build consensus and a movement for change.

Monmouthshire Made Open is still in its early stages of development, but is definitely worth looking at. Monmouthshire Council hope this platform becomes a key tool in involving people in the development of the wellbeing assessment for the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and help them identify innovative and shared solutions.

We’re going to continue with Randomised Coffee Trials for the foreseeable future, but if you have any suggestions for us please get in touch!

As we all face complex and challenging times, no single individual or organisation has the answers, so it’s so important that we encourage communication between organisations and encourage learning.

National Theatre Wales: Living the dream…. and their values

Public service employees in all sectors want to improve their communities. But what can we learn from how the National Theatre Wales is adding value to the arts community? Dyfrig Williams visited Devinda De Silva to find out.

Since starting my working life in the voluntary sector, it’s been clear to me that there’s no shortage of people with public service values providing services. When I facilitated cross-sector networks at Participation Cymru it was abundantly clear that these values aren’t confined to the voluntary sector, and that was reinforced when I attended GovCampCymru, an unconference where people pitch discussion sessions on how technology, new thinking and public services can improve society.

It was through chatting with Kevin Davies of the National Assembly for Wales, who I met at GovCampCymru and who has shared good scrutiny practice with us, that I heard about how the National Theatre Wales (who developed the Big Democracy Project) are embedding their values in their governance and their staff’s job descriptions.

Just visting the National Theatre’s Office is enough to persuade you that the organisation’s approach to community is a little different. Instead of a large theatre, they have a small office in Castle Arcade – right in the heart of the city.

Governance and outreach

Governance isn’t a particularly sexy subject, but the Theatre are managing to make it quite exciting through their work with their TEAM panel. The panel is 10 people from various communities who voluntarily give their time to the Theatre and who have a say in how the organisation is run at every level.

The model is now 6 years old. In the first year they did 13 shows in 13 different locations, where they did intense outreach work. Subsequently people in these areas got involved through the shows. And by looking at theatre in the widest sense, the Theatre managed to involve people who would not have traditionally gone to see a show. For instance theatre wasn’t a big interest in Cardiff’s Somali community, but by sponsoring a small football team, they have a way in to run small workshops with people and to get their feedback on productions.

A few years down the line and the panel is actively shaping the organisation’s strategic direction. Two TEAM panel members attend every board meeting and one permanently sits on the Board, which means that every strategic decision the organisation makes involves people from the community. The panel also feeds into the organisation’s Strategic Plan.

As a small organisation, the TEAM members give a big boost to the capacity of the organisation. Although they only directly employ 18 people, the 10 panel members are trusted to attend events on the organisations behalf and represent them. This has also helped panel members to progress their own careers, and some have got jobs with other arts organisations, got on to a college course or started their own companies. It’s a self-supporting network, where panel members support each other in their projects.

Staff recruitment

The TEAM Panel is also involved in the recruitment of staff, as a panel members sits on the panel of each interview. This helps to make sure that the staff that they employ really buy into the community focused culture of the organisation and its values. The National Theatre Wales’ approach echoes some of what Richard Branson has said about recruiting for values instead of skills.

I’ve already mentioned how the Theatre’s outreach work is built in to their governance, but their outreach and engagement is also a core part of every staff member’s role. Their staff, including the Artistic Director and office staff in Communications and Finance are all expected to work with the community, for example by running surgeries with community groups and freelancers in their areas of expertise. They offer support throughout the year, and their partners are also encouraged to work this way by incorporating a more community-focused approach to their practice when they work with the National Theatre Wales.

Open working, open feedback

And if all that wasn’t enough to show the open nature of National Theatre Wales, they also open up the last dress rehearsal to a specially invited audience from the local community before shows like Candylion go public. They encourage people to give their feedback on social media, as it gives them ideas on how to improve the show and also helps to generate a buzz around it.

Public service organisations are beginning to work in the open, with the Bromford Lab using it as an opportunity to hear about people’s ideas, reduce duplication and to share learning from failure. Leeds Data Mill’s Dashboard also shares what’s happening in Leeds in real time. We’d love to hear from public services in Wales about how you’re working openly, and like the National Theatre Wales, living your values.

The benefits of working with the Good Practice Exchange

Sophie Knott talks about her experience of working with the Good Practice Exchange on a forthcoming webinar.

Here at the Wales Audit Office we’re encouraged to work together across different areas of the organisation to share knowledge and provide a better service to clients and the public. However, sometimes time and resource pressures mean we can overlook aspects such as utilising the Good Practice Exchange team during our routine audit work.

As well as sharing good practice guidance and case studies online through their website and blog, the Good Practice Exchange team run shared learning seminars and webinars. I’ve always known about these events but didn’t realise that the team run on average more than one a month, and on such a broad range of key themes for the Welsh public sector. The Good Practice Exchange recognise that sharing information is not a one size fits all approach, so webinars and seminars can be useful as a different approach for people to take information on board.

My experience

Sophie Knott

Sophie Knott of the Wales Audit Office

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Good Practice Exchange on a forthcoming webinar on developing the public service workforce. The webinar came about on the back of our national study on Managing early departures across Welsh public bodies, published in February 2015. While the initial thought was to link directly to the report’s key themes, I undertook more research into what other conferences and seminars were talking about, any other news articles or blogs, and the webinar content evolved from there.

I’ve subsequently been involved in identifying potential speakers for the webinar, and the key questions that we will pose; and discussions about the webinar with the Auditor General, which led to him wanting to be one of the speakers! I’ve also developed material to brief speakers and created the diary marker for delegates to be emailed and placed on our website.

Future tasks include some Twitter training so I can schedule tweets for the day; pulling together slides for the webinar presentation; not to mention actually attending the webinar to coordinate asking speakers the additional questions sent in by delegates on the day, and live tweeting from the event. This engagement on the day is really important and allows delegates to share their thoughts directly to the panel and other delegates, but the webinar is also recorded to allow people to listen at a time convenient to them.

Benefits for all

It’s been really interesting to get involved in something a bit different and learn some new skills along the way. It’s giving me the opportunity to speak to people I wouldn’t normally, like a local authority Chief Exec. It’s also potentially extended the impact and readership of one of our national reports, having included details of it in the webinar diary marker. I would recommend that all staff consider the opportunities for a webinar or seminar within your own work, even if you are only at the planning stage. I’m sure the GPX team would love to hear from you!

The webinar ‘Developing a workforce to meet the challenges of public service reform’ is taking place on Thursday 14 January from 10.30 to 11.45. You can sign up here or Wales Audit Office staff can listen on the day in Room 14, Cardiff office or Room 1, Ewloe office.

Bara Brith Camp: Why trust is important to public services

Dyfrig Williams attended Bara Brith Camp to share learning from our Trust seminar. Here’s an overview from the discussion.

At our Staff Trust seminar, Professor Searle used the definition of trust as being “a willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the positive expectations that the other will act beneficially or at least not inflict harm, irrespective of any monitoring or control mechanism.” I found the facets of trust particularly useful:

  • Ability – have they shown that they are competent at doing their job
  • Benevolence – do they have benign motives and a concern for others beyond their own needs?
  • Integrity – are they principled? Are they fair and honest?
  • Predictability – do you know what they are likely to do?

Bara Brith Camp

Why are the Wales Audit Office interested in trust?

Trust is really important in our day to day lives, and just as important in public service delivery. According to a CIPD report, 37% of job satisfaction comes from trust, and a trusting organisation is likely to have staff that put in more effort, with improved co-operation, recruitment and better performance.

So you can see why the Wales Audit Office would be so interested in the topic. The Auditor General for Wales has also repeatedly spoken about the need for well managed risk taking to improve public services, and as I wrote in my last post about Unmentoring with Kelly Doonan of Devon County Council, that can’t happen without trust.

When distrust becomes active mistrust, purposely negative behaviour like theft and fraud take place. And if all that wasn’t enough, public services are going to need to trust each other to deliver services that meet the goals of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. Organisations will need to work together to deliver effective services, and the Wales Audit Office will be developing our audit accordingly.

Professor Searle discussed how we often trust people who are like ourselves, which can be a barrier to collaboration as the voluntary sector, local government and the NHS are all very different places. There are countless studies on how diverse thinking leads to better decision making, and we need to avoid groupthink, where people are reluctant to go against the grain.

Trust in large organisations

Larger organisations often have lower levels of trust and have to work harder to build and retain trust. They tend to have more levels which might dilute the impact of the positive actions of those at the top, and the broader policies of the organisation.

Managers also need to determine the level of downward monitoring that is really necessary as that affects how trusted employees feel by their employers. It’s worth having a look at how Phillipa Jones encouraged Bromford Housing staff to break rules if it benefits customers and is in line with organisational values.

Making the most of resources

One of the steps that Professor Searle advocated was to create a trust fund that you can use when times are tough. A lack of trust can be expensive when time is diverted into non-productive activities like additional monitoring duties for managers, and counterproductive work behaviours by staff.

Having a workforce that is willing to give the organisation and its leaders the benefit of the doubt is an asset in a recession. Organisations can then make the most of their collective resources in order to go beyond survival and to develop their services and retain customers.

What are we doing?

Like the Unmentoring I’ve been doing with LocalGovDigital, we conduct Randomised Coffee Trials with people from seminars. Theses give people from different organisations the chance to share experiences, support each other and to build trust. This isn’t a big step – actually a 30 minute phone call is only a minor part of the working week, but it might have a big effect. Chris Bolton has blogged about Trojan Mice, which are small, safe to fail pilots. We don’t always have to make large scale interventions – there are small things we can all try in our day to day work that can make a big difference. And if you trying out new ways of developing staff trust in your organisation, we’d love to hear from you.

Unmentoring 3: Digital thinking and staff trust

In the latest of a series of posts on LocalGovDigital’s Unmentoring, Dyfrig Williams reflects on a discussion with Kelly Doonan of Devon County Council.

When the Auditor General for Wales opens our shared learning seminars, he advocates well managed risk taking, as public services will not be able to continue in their current form.

In a recent blogpost, Phil Rumens examined the five stages of digital transformation. This really shows the added value of thinking about services in terms of digital provision. With that concept in mind, my latest Unmentoring discussion with Kelly Doonan of Devon County Council was timed perfectly.

Devon’s attitude to digital

Kelly’s written a great blogpost that outlines why publishing information online should be approached differently to traditional print media. She also gave a great example of how they’d put this thinking into action when they were asked to create a paper directory of local services for veterans.

The Communications Team didn’t support it because it would date almost immediately. It’s also difficult to measure its effectiveness, there was no budget to reprint or maintain it and there was no planned way of getting the directories to the veterans.

A screenshot of the proposed Devon County Council Veterans Site

A screenshot of the proposed Devon County Council Veterans Site

What I love is that rather than hinder the project, the team looked at how they could enable a better online product that could be accessed by veterans in Devon or those that haven’t been discharged yet, but are planning to come to Devon.

Kelly met with professionals who work with veterans to discuss it, and the Armed Forces Wellbeing Partnership revised and improved the plan from their feedback. They then held a discovery session with veterans to find out what they wanted to know, how they would search for it and how they would want a website to look. Kelly then created a sitemap, started writing content and the designer created the wireframe.

The first iteration of the site will go live on 8 December. All of a sudden a one-off print run has developed into a product that meets user needs and has a longer term effect – fantastic stuff!

What did I share?

Kelly mentioned the added value that the embedded comms team in Devon Council could provide to communications work. I mentioned Professor Ros Searle’s presentation at our shared learning event on staff trust. One of Ros’ points was on how internal communication can preserve and build trust within public services.

According to a CIPD report on trust, senior managers are overly optimistic in terms of how much frontline workers trust them, as 34% of staff don’t trust their senior managers. The problem is particularly acute in larger organisations, and especially hierarchical organisations where there is a perceived distance between managers and their staff. Internal communication is really important to ensure that lack of trust doesn’t degenerate into counterproductive behaviour such as theft and fraud. In fact with 37% of job satisfaction coming from trust, a high trusting organisation is likely to have staff that put in more effort, with improved co-operation, recruitment and better performance.

Trust is also linked to innovation. To go back to the Auditor General’s point, will staff be prepared to take well managed risks if they don’t feel they will be backed and trusted by their managers? For the kind of innovation we need in a time of declining resources, trust is key.

Bara Brith Camp

I’ll be sharing the key messages from the Staff Trust event at Bara Brith Camp, which is a free event that’s been organised by The Satori Lab to provide a space to progress conversations from GovCamp Cymru. If you missed the unconference, we’ve produced a Storify and the below video to summarise the day.

So I’ll hopefully see you there – I’m looking forward to finding out from attendees how we can help to improve trust levels in Welsh public services, and to boost levels of productivity and innovation in the process.

Standing up for your health….literally

We spend a lot of time sitting at our desks at work. Could standing at our desks help us to be healthier at work? Sophie Knott of the Wales Audit Office gave it a go for a week.

How long do you spend sitting down per day? I sit down A LOT. On the average weekday, I reckon it works out at around 12 hours. Add that to the eight hours I spend lying down asleep, and it makes me feel pretty depressed!

What do I know? I’m not a doctor

Well, it turns out it’s been worrying a few members of the health profession too. A recent study of 50,000 people in Norway found a link between higher levels of sitting and premature death. Even Public Health England are getting involved, co-commissioning a study that recommended that office workers should spend a minimum of two hours on their feet at work, to try and reduce chronic diseases and ultimately live longer.

Blue Peter – eat your heart out

I decided to give standing up at work a go. I don’t have any real health concerns at the moment, but I’d quite like it to stay that way. Two hours a day seemed more than doable. Of course, I’m not the first person to want to stand up in the workplace and there are a plethora of desk options if you have a spare £300+. I wanted to spend £0. I gathered various cardboard boxes, box files and paper and placed them under my monitor, keyboard and mouse until I had everything at a comfortable height.

The transformation was surprisingly easy:

Sophie Knott's adapted deskThe standing up on the other hand was not so easy. After the first 30 minutes, my back hurt and my legs wanted to sit down. I persevered for an hour then gave myself a well-deserved rest. I did another hour later in the day, enduring a bit more physical resistance and a lot of amusement from colleagues.

The next day, I did two more hours, and the next day, two more. Five days in, I’d clocked up ten hours of standing, my back and legs were fine, my workmates hardly batted an eyelid, and I even had a few considering trying it out themselves.

Six weeks later…

I have to admit that three weeks of annual leave and a couple of days of jet lag put paid to the standing for a while. Also, this was very much an unofficial trial, and a few concerned colleagues have queried whether I’m standing correctly and have everything at the right height.

I agree that I don’t want to unwittingly make things worse for myself, and there is no real way of knowing if I am doing myself any significant good. But science tells us that being sedentary is bad, and I’m enjoying my experience to date. Ok, creating your own sit/stand desk might not be as easy for everyone as grabbing a few boxes, and I am now looking into some official equipment so I can do it properly. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the reaction from some of the senior colleagues in my workplace, and I know it wouldn’t be the same everywhere. But I’d like to think that more of us can take our health into our own hands, and vote with our feet.