Starting the day with a good chat over a steaming cup of tea set me up for a busy day at the office. After an all but silent commute into London, it was straight into a meeting with a London Borough interested in learning more about our newly-introduced web-based appraisal system. You can’t beat sharing and learning, learning and sharing and what better way than a conversation over another cuppa? With five minutes to spare, another dash to a meeting with a supplier, this time with a latte and sandwich for a working lunch. On the way back, I bumped in to an old colleague and we arranged to meet after work for a proper catch up.
So, what am I spouting about? The amount of caffeine I get through in my busy working life? No, it’s about all those conversations we have without even thinking about them. It’s non-stop conversations, even these pleasant ones, not to mention those tough ones. What about that meeting with a member of your team to discuss their performance, or – in our case – a meeting with a tenant who owes management fees, or a supplier breaking their contract, or a Union rep to discuss a grievance? You get the idea. All conversations, all the time.
Some of the more important conversations don’t always end up with the outcomes we’d like; not surprising as we so often dash into them and become committed to our trajectory, can see ourselves on a collision course and, ‘Bam!’… Wish I could start again.
At NHS Property Services Ltd, we wanted to avoid problems so we started anew. Conversation training for all?…you may well ask. Research during my previous time heading talent management for the NHS in London showed that having managers who were confident and competent in holding conversations led to much improved talent management outcomes. Not surprising really, but how much time do we give to help managers really manage? The old supervisory skills training is boring, and although we all like to invest in the latest exciting leadership development, look at the NHS’s Francis reviews and the currently leaked Michael Rose report for the strongest pointers to the things that matter most getting missed.
As a new business, set up in April 2013, we wanted to align staff quickly, motivate them and give them the confidence and tools to be effective. With an enlightened Board, an empowering mission to be an ‘Employer of Choice’ and an enthusiastic team, we created a one-day event that gave all levels of staff the tools to have more effective conversations. More than 97% agreed (42% strongly) that the content was relevant with similar numbers expecting to be able to put their learning into practice.
That’s the before. So what? What about embedding? Three to six months after their training the formal data from more than 500 attendees is even more powerful. For example, nearly 70% of staff have more confidence in expressing views, are better in identifying outcomes and the vast majority are applying what they learned in their daily roles. When you consider this data against various published research* on the benefits (including productivity) of improved communications we’re absolutely delighted that we are creating a firm foundation for the future business.
Results that are certainly worth having a conversation about.
*Boyett, J., & Boyett, J. (1998). The guru guide: The best ideas of top management thinkers. NewYork: Wiley.
Hesketh Emden is the Head of Training, Development & Leadership at NHS Property Services Ltd, a Limited company wholly owned by the Secretary of State, since it was created in April 2013 as part of the reforms under the Health & Social Care Act (2012). Prior to that, he headed Talent Management at NHS London and the NHS Leadership Academy, heading training with Commercial Union and CGU Insurance. He has extensive private and public sector organisational development and talent management consultancy experience. Connect with him at: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/heskethemden