Building a resilient team

TrainingDame Carol Black, the national director for Health and Work, says: “Improving the health of the UK’s workforce will have a critical impact not only on individuals, but on businesses and the UK economy as a whole. There are simple steps that all organisations can take to ensure the wellbeing of employees. Focusing on specific health issues is obviously important; however employers should not underestimate the role that better management and engagement of employees can have on the wellbeing and, ultimately, the productivity, of their workforce.”

Black’s report, entitled ‘Working For a Healthier Tomorrow’ called for the government to develop a model of measuring the benefits to employers of investment in health and wellbeing. “Employers should use this to report on health and well-being in the boardroom and company accounts,” said Black.

Risk of burn out

Since Black’s report the economy has crashed and the NHS is looking at huge redundancies and effective financial management. The NHS is going through considerable upheaval at the moment: “We are concerned at the NHS’s ability to cope,” said The Royal College of Nursing’s Peter Carter in April. Dr Carter said the situation meant nurses were at risk of ‘burn out’ which would harm patient care and undermine attempts to reform the health service as nurses were the ‘oil in the engine’ of the NHS.

“The NHS is going through considerable upheaval at the moment,” Carter said. “Coupled with increasing demands on the health service, including a rise in people with long-term conditions, we are concerned at the NHS’s ability to cope. Trusts need to make sure they have the right numbers and balance of staff to deal with this.”

However, a Department of Health spokesman said: “We have 2,677 more nurses now than we did in 2009, and have committed to employing an extra 4,200 health visitors to support children and families in the crucial early weeks and years.

“The government is getting rid of bureaucracy and clinically unjustified targets so that nurses are freed up to do what they do best – taking care of patients. We are also protecting the NHS –ploughing in an extra £11.5 billion of funding. Any efficiency savings must not impact adversely on patient care.”

The question that needs to be asked is how much of this £11.5bn will be invested in staff wellbeing?

The impact of minimal investment

On 2 February, the government published its most recent mental health strategy. This sets out six objectives for mental health, which feed into the overall outcomes that are being set for the NHS, public health and social care in the new outcomes approach that the coalition government is introducing. Two of these objectives address 1) the benefits and reward of investment, and 2) building resilient teams in the ever-changing workplace

On the face of it this is fantastic news, with an estimated £400m of funding over the next four years to meet the six objectives. However, there has also been criticism as to how this will be achieved and monitored.

The current picture seems very different, especially to those who are working in the NHS. The reality is that staff are at breaking point, with low morale, high absence levels, poor work/life balance, higher expectations from patients and their relatives or carers, and expectations for workload levels to remain the same, but with fewer staff.

A focus for the new funding needs to be the mental wellbeing of staff in NHS organisations; in particular the building of resilient workplace teams.

To understand the rewards of investment we firstly need to look at the psychosocial risks to employees’ wellbeing. This is about prevention and keeping staff healthy and at work.

Management standards
In 2005 The health and Safety Executive (HSE) published The Management Standards which
define the characteristics, or culture, of an organisation within which the risks from work-related stress are being effectively managed and controlled.

The Management Standards cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence. In other words, the six areas cover the primary sources of stress at work. These are:
• Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.
• Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
• Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.
• Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.
• Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.
• Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.

The Management Standards represent a set of conditions that, if present, reflect a high level of personal wellbeing and organisational performance.

Complex changes

Change is a fact of life. It’s a natural organisational response to competition and to shifts in the socio-economic environment, as well as a route to gaining advantage and building business performance proactively. However, organisational changes are complex and the NHS has never experienced such fast and quick changes that also have a huge Impact on patient care, each stakeholder group has its own part to play and the employees are critical to the process, as without employees there would be no organisation. For change to be successful, managers need to ensure that employees both understand and support the change. It is therefore not surprising that for many managers, communicating change is perhaps the most demanding aspect of their work.

The wellbeing of staff need not be compromised even if organisations need to make significant changes to their workplace environment and teams. A healthy and positive work culture that is essential for wellbeing and performance at work can be achieved for both the manager and their staff with the patient benefiting from excellent care.

Promoting psychological wellbeing and performance at work relies on the creation of effective cultural foundations that encourage behaviours that lead to trust, commitment and engagement between individuals, and their manager.

It is no soft option since it deals with hidden areas of fear and gets to the root cause of any unproductive behaviour. However, it is very rewarding when relationships improve with their team thus creating a positive work culture. The following personal characteristics of managers need to be developed and applied in interactions with staff:
• the demonstration of genuine attentiveness to others
• trustworthiness
• Emotional Intelligence
• a sense of humour
• the demonstration of passion for the work of the organisation and the work of staff
• the demonstration of meeting individual needs as they arise, nurturing staff to realize their potential
• the demonstration of skills to resolve conflicts.

Over a period of time the team will start to build on these characteristics and the resilience of the team will be seen when the next change has to be implemented with a solutions based approach rather than a negative response. It will eventually become learnt behaviour by the whole team or effectively managed by the manager should individuals wish to not comply.

Benefits of training

People are the key to success in today’s workplace, managers need to be allowed to lead their teams, however, they need to be supported in developing skills to enable successful change processes to happen in an extremely demanding economic climate.

As the business world is continuously changing, organisations will need to provide their employees with training throughout their careers. If they choose not to provide continuous training they will find it difficult to stay ahead of the competition.

Regular training and learning opportunities are an investment that help employees to prosper and develop their careers while giving the organisation a highly skilled workforce and a competitive advantage in the market.

The other benefit of training is that it will keep your employees motivated. New skills and knowledge can help to reduce boredom. It also demonstrates to the employee that they are valuable enough for the employer to invest in them and their development.

Training can be used to create positive attitudes through clarifying the behaviours and attitudes that are expected from the employee. Training can be cost effective, as it is cheaper to train existing employees compared to recruiting new employee with the skills you need.

Also important, training can save the organisation money if the training helps the employee to become more efficient.

Organisations that invest in training their staff can expect certain benefits.These include
helping new employees to learn their jobs quickly and effectively and to perform to the required level in a shorter time, and at the same time helping existing employees to improve their work performance.

Second, you will see a reduction in the number of mistakes made, thereby reducing the amount of management time required to sort these out, and a saving in the cost of re-doing them.

Third, s reduction in staff turnover is likely because employees who have received training are less likely to become frustrated at the lack of training opportunities and will have a higher degree of job satisfaction, and from their point of view, job security. Furthermore, if the company has a reputation as one where good training is available, this can attract high quality applicants.

Training in health and safety can also reduce accidents and the consequent loss of productive activity.

Fianlly, you can expect to see a more flexible workforce because training can increase staff versatility by widening the number of jobs they are able to undertake.

Improved staff attitude and morale

People enjoy learning when the material is relevant to their interests and many will be eager to apply their new skills and knowledge in practical situations. Staff who possess diverse skills are generally more satisfied and positive in their jobs. This decreases the occurrence of work-related stress and improves the overall work environment.

By investing in their training, staff often feel that their employer has confidence in them to do the job, and that the organisation values them and is giving something back over and above wages.

As a result, employees will become self-starters and develop further competencies such as leadership and teambuilding and be more willing to undertake further training.