Tag Archives: human resources

GovCamp Cymru: Can we change behaviour for better public services?

At GovCamp Cymru Dyfrig Williams pitched a session on how behaviour change theory can help to embed ideas generated at unconferences into organisations. Below he outlines what he learnt from the session.

This year’s GovCamp Cymru was a great event. I pitched a session on changing the behaviour of people within organisation to enable public service improvement. Whilst I’d done some work beforehand on key issues that I felt needed to be resolved and how we might do that, the session was very much a pooling of ideas and experiences, so I’ve got to say a big thank you to everyone who came and to everyone who provided input before, during and after the main discussion. The Storify that we put together gives a good overview of what was said during the day.

So in terms of my session, here are the key things that I learnt:

Leadership is important

That might seem like an incredibly obvious statement, and in some senses it is. We spoke about how staff model the behaviour that leaders display within their organisations. But what was heartening was that there was discussion around what constituted a leader – it’s not necessarily about being at the top of your organisational hierarchy. It might be about thought leadership, or staff might take it upon themselves to lead change within their organisation or instil that leadership role in other people. It’s all too easy to cede responsibility to others because we don’t have a leadership role bestowed upon us, so it was great to hear attendees talk about what they could do to seize the initiative. But we also discussed how some organisations are hostile to mavericks, so it’s important to think about how you are perceived within your own organisation.

The behaviours that good leaders might display started with really simple things like saying “Thank you” to make staff feel valued. Spice Cardiff talked about opening up agendas of meetings, and we also spoke about the importance of risk taking. The public sector can often be risk averse, but we dug a little deeper to think about why that might be. The point that “The people who design change have less to lose than the people who implement it” really struck a chord with me, and if we are asking people to take a leap of faith on working differently, then we need to ensure that people feel supported and that they won’t be hung out to dry if things go wrong. We spoke about approaches that may help us to mitigate risk, in particular the value of prototyping to demonstrate new ways of working when you’re told that a new method can’t work.

Legislation is a sword and a shield

I love this quote, which came from a discussion on the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. We spoke about how the act could be used as a shield to safeguard staff who are trying to make change happen by providing a clear rationale for change, or a sword to fight with in order to take the initiative to kickstart meaningful change within our organisations. People seemed to agree that all levers of change should be aligned, but that there wasn’t a “one-size fits all approach”. Legislation certainly plays a role in behavioural change, but so does culture, leadership, politics and the public that we work with and for. We need a range of tools and tactics so that we use the most appropriate tool for any given situation.

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A photo by Nigel Bishop from GovCamp Cymru

We learn by talking, thinking and doing

Despite it being a session about organisational change, there was nobody that worked in Human Resources at the session. Regardless, the consensus seemed to be that organisational learning was too important to be left with one centralised team and that we should all take responsibility for it as individuals, especially as there are so many online resources available.

In the session people agreed that one of the ways in which unconferences can add value is by growing networks and learning from others. But we have to consider how inclusive we’re being – are we bringing people from our organisations along with us on the change journey? As I mentioned in the discussion, Carl Haggerty has written a great post where he reflects on how he learns and how he helps others. Another way of embedding change within an organisation is to get someone who’s already done it to come in to talk about it and demonstrate the difference. The connections that we make at unconferences can help us to spread good practice and new ways of working.

There was also a discussion around having ‘champion’ roles within the organisation, where the pressure to spread the change is taken away from an individual and shared much wider. An example was given around the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, where the responsibility is shared around staff members to embed the cultural change within their teams in order to meet the requirements of the act.

Will GovCamp Cymru help to change behaviour?

The points raised at my session certainly made me think again about how change takes place within organisations. I’m currently working on a Data and Tech project that will look at how the Wales Audit Office challenges our existing use of data and technology, the assumptions we normally take for granted, and how we can offer radical solutions when we use new technology to transform our audit and business processes. If we’re looking to change the way we work, we’re going to need to bring our colleagues with us on the journey. The feedback from this session has been really helpful, and I’d love to hear from anyone else who puts the learning from the session into practice within their organisations in order to deliver better public services.

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.

Culture

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).

Benchmarking

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.

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.

Google Atmosphere: think creatively and innovate boldly

Atmosphere

Dyfrig Williams took part in Google’s Atmosphere, a webinar that examined cultures of innovation. In this blogpost he reflects on the key learning points.

This Welsh Public Services 2025 paper clearly outlines that we’re in a challenging time for public services, as there are fewer resources to deliver services in a time of rising demand. If we can’t continue to deliver the services in the same way, how can we start changing the way we work? It was with this in mind that I watched Google’s Atmosphere, which shared lessons from organisations in the private sector.

Where do innovative ideas come from?

In this session Tim Brown from IDEO looked at how we need to think about our options in a completely different way if we’re looking for radically different solutions. He examined how we consider our issues, in the sense that if we frame questions in a really specific way, we have little scope to come up with solutions that look genuinely different. The example given was around asking the question “How do we make this chair more comfortable?” If we instead ask “How might we sit in different ways?” there is much more scope to think and work differently.

This chimes with Google’s 10x thinking, where issues are radically approached by trying to improve something by 10 times rather than by 10%. The only way to make those kind of improvements is to think in a different way.

Cultivating team innovation: A look inside the work rules of Google

Listening to Laszlo Bock from Google was heartening, as it echoed aspects of our Staff Ideas webinar from a few weeks ago. Laszlo emphasised the importance of staff engagement. It’s easy for managers to stick with what they know, because they’ve become managers by making good decisions. But as Laszlo pointed out, the sum of employee intelligence is huge, and we must make the most of it.

It’s fascinating that decisions at Google aren’t based on gut instincts, but that they rely on data. Their Project Oxygen was designed to identify the traits of successful Google managers. The team working on the project spent a year examining data from appraisals, employee surveys, awards and other sources, which resulted in more than 10,000 observations of manager behaviours.

Accomplishing business innovation: How Airbnb transformed an industry

We’ve been doing some work on risk management lately (including running a webinar on the topic), so Jonathan Mildenhall of Airbnb’s points on risk were very timely. Jonathan encouraged us to take risks and to celebrate both failure and success. Their monthly ritual of celebrating fabulous failures encourages this culture, as it focuses on ideas that didn’t progress as planned. Jonathan said that “The more a company celebrates failure, the more confident a company gets in taking risks. The more confident a company gets in taking risks, the more successful those risks are.”

In case you’re wondering how this learning might be applied in the public sector, Chris Bolton has written a series of blogposts that look at how we might approach failure, including this great summary post on loving and learning from failure.

Well managed risk taking in the public sector

The Auditor General for Wales has repeatedly advocated well managed risk taking, and you can see him doing so in the above video. As he says, if those risks are well managed, instead of casting blame on any failure, we’ll be looking to share the lessons that have been learnt.

Good Practice in Workforce Change – a guide from Audit Scotland

Audit Scotland's Public Sector Workforce good practice guide

Audit Scotland’s Public Sector Workforce good practice guide

The Auditor General for Wales published the Good Scrutiny? Good Question! improvement study yesterday. We thought this would be a great opportunity to share a good practice guide we like from Audit Scotland on workforce planning – aimed in particular at those involved in scrutinising workforce change programmes.

Scrutiny plays an important role in helping public services improve during challenging financial times. This includes scrutinising and challenging workforce plans and workforce change programmes. In particular, effective scrutiny can support good decisions while allocating resources and provide strategic direction on workforce planning. Unfortunately, as Audit Scotland’s guide explains, “this applies in particular to decisions to reduce workforces; without careful planning workforce reductions can lead to a loss of essential skills; reductions in service quality; and increased pressure on, and lack of motivation among, remaining staff.” So, getting it right is important and good scrutiny plays an important role in this.

Of course, the make up of public sector organisations within and between Wales and Scotland can differ significantly. Organisations could take core good practice considerations from this guide and then adapt these to suit their own needs and risks.

Audit Scotland’s document provides guidance on what good looks like in all stage of workforce planning:

  • developing the workforce plan;
  • selecting different approaches to manage workforce numbers and costs;
  • implementing workforce change (including assigning responsibility and reviewing); and
  • scrutiny of workforce plans and change programmes.

These include some useful key steps to follow, principles of good governance in early departure schemes and case studies from Midlothian Council and NHS Lanarkshire.

Particularly of interest to us, considering the publication of the Good Scrutiny? Good Question! study, is the emphasis the guide places on good practice in scrutiny of workforce planning. Part 2 of the document comprises a useful list of questions based on good practice to help “promote review and reflection and, where necessary, provide a basis for improvement”. This complements nicely the Wales Scrutiny Officers Network ‘Outcomes and characteristics for effective local government overview and scrutiny’, in appendix 2 of the Good Scrutiny? Good Question! report.

Here are some examples of the questions:

  • Does the workforce plan support business change programmes? Does the workforce plan link to the organisation’s corporate objectives?
  • Has the affordability of each approach been tested? Is it clear how the approach will help the organisation to make the changes it needs to make?
  • It is clear who has overall responsibility for ensuring that each workforce change programme is delivered on time and according to plan?
  • Are there suitable systems in place to provide board and elected members with assurance on equality and diversity; service, performance and productivity impacts; and staff wellbeing?

So, we thought this was worth sharing as good practice guide to help those engaged in both workforce planning and scrutiny.

There are quite a few other places to look if you’d like more information about workforce planning or scrutiny: