Published: 01/07/2004, Volume II3, No. 5912 Page 34 35

Introduction of a balanced scorecard will enable HR professionals to gauge performance in their organisation more accurately, says Mary-Louise Harding

Successful delivery of NHS key targets can be traced to staff capacity, capability and competency. The NHS human resources balanced scorecard, adapted from corporate models, is a tool designed to empower HR and other managers to gain greater control over workforce challenges and implement the national HR performancemanagement framework.

A balanced scorecard comprises an agreed set of measures with which an organisation's performance can be rated in a comprehensive, balanced and timely manner (pages 30-31, 27 May).

The Department of Health completed a consultation in November on which mandatory standards should be within each organisation's HR scorecard, and what topics discretionary local standards should cover.

The mandatory indicators include progress on local delivery plans, productivity and skill-mix targets, Improving Working Lives accreditation, vacancies, Agenda for Change pay band occupancy, staff satisfaction and HR spend.

The headline mandatory outcome measures are: progress towards planned staff target, progress towards planned modernisation targets, numbers of vacancies, and number of appraisals and personal development plans.

An operational pilot implementing and testing the web-based software used to collect, analyse and present the scorecard has also recently been completed at five trusts.

National HR performance management framework lead Simon Bennett says the DoH is selecting four health economies for extended piloting of the scorecard led by the strategic health authority, involving all trusts in the area.

This was expected to begin by the end of June, while roll-out to the rest of the NHS will start 'once We have got those four extended pilots going'.

'We will be snowballing to the rest of NHS, employing organisations on a gradual basis, ' says Mr Bennett. 'It will not be a big bang approach.'

The deadline for full implementation is April 2006.

Mr Bennett's team have also just begun working with the Healthcare Commission on incorporating the new mandatory measures into its inspection regime.

'The Healthcare Commission is putting together criteria it will use to inspect trusts.Where they refer to workforce, we want those criteria to take into account the scorecard minimal standards.'

If this is successful, the DoH is expecting these core measurements of HR accountability to replace the current 50-plus workforce targets set out in the NHS plan and HR in the NHS plan as the 'sole measure of HR' from 2006-07.

According to DoH workforce modernisation director Andrew Foster, people management professionals have largely welcomed the scorecard approach to HR performance management, because of its potential to put HR issues at the top of the board agenda by clearly setting out HR strategy's impact on the bottom line.

'It is intended to demonstrate how HR can help an organisation achieve financial balance - how the workforce contributes to achieving waiting-list targets, ' says Mr Foster.

'We have been taking this to all HR networks over the last six months. People accept It is a challenge because It is a more overt way of measuring their performance, ' he adds.

'But they do accept HR needs to be part of the wider performance management system, so no-one is philosophically opposed.'

The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital trust in Birmingham was one of the five operational pilot sites and was expecting its SHA area to be one of the four selected for the 'extended' pilot.

The trust's HR director, Michelle Taylor, says her trust already has a 'very strong culture of performance management', but the balanced scorecard tool has helped to produce reports that align HR priorities with reforms such as Agenda for Change within a competitive board agenda.

'Things like Agenda for Change are a huge shift for the organisation, but the only way it can be successful is by everybody buying into it. I do updates now to the board which are about getting them signed up to implementation, ' she says.

'Agenda for Change really supports flexibilities around new roles, and this helps us to get that message through to organisations that have phenomenal agendas with patient choice, electronic patient records, payment by results, all the big issues, and making sure the trust board understands and recognises how significant it is.

'In a way it performance manages me against what I need to do.'

She adds that it is important that trusts recognise the performance management and planning basis of the scorecard, rather than simply using it to process data.

'It is what we should be doing anyway', she says. 'It also helps us to highlight basic HR training gaps among managers generally.

'You could argue that as a trust we may have a number of scorecards: one from the SHA, one from the trust, maybe one from a health economy basis.

'And within the organisation, would we have a scorecard for the whole trust or make it localised for departments or directorates? We can drill down as far as we want to.'