It’s staff survey time again. In fact, it always feels like it’s staff survey time! HR teams throughout the NHS are always either preparing for the survey, running the survey, waiting for the survey results, preparing action plans, implementing the action plans or preparing for the survey again! It seems non-stop and perhaps it’s time to move to a biennial approach to the national staff survey, with organisations able to do smaller, frequent pulse checks according to local needs.
There has though, been much coverage in the press and from think tanks on this year’s staff survey results. Very few of these have focused on the work involved and the commitments of HR departments to use the survey to generate intelligence and insights into making organisations a better place in which to work. They haven’t focused on the unnecessary bureaucracy involved in ensuring the staff survey meets national requirements, or the year on year improvements in many organisations on many of the staff survey indicators. Improvements that have been made at a time of rising demand, rising pressure and fewer staff. These are all worthy of debate, discussion and, in many cases, congratulations.
Much of the commentary has, rightly, focused on ongoing cultural problems, as Michael West points out “chronic excessive workload in the NHS is causing staff stress and illness and results in healthcare professionals quitting the service and patients not getting the quality of care they expect.” Although we have seen some improvements over the recent years, we have to be honest and acknowledge that in many places, progress has stalled or is sporadic. We must also be honest and say that we can only do so much to improve culture through leadership development, as hugely important as that is. A large part of increased workload, stress, burnout, bullying, ill health, presenteeism and sickness absence is about too much work with not enough staff. It is absolutely right that we put time and effort into making the NHS a great place to work, but we also need the resources (and the supply) of more staff to relieve some of the pressures.
As HR professionals, we have the opportunity to use our collective voice to highlight the need for more staff and the resources required to recruit and develop them as an important, perhaps at this stage, the most important factor in making the NHS a great place to work. With your support, we at the HMPA will continue to do just that.