Assessing and redesigning its human resource management model allowed one trust to make the most of its people, as Ian Young explains

Following the NHS turnaround programme in 2006, the human resources professionals at Hammersmith Hospitals trust undertook a root and branch review of the services they were providing. Building on a model developed at Barts and the London trust, they mapped out an employee pathway, charting every interaction between the HR function and a typical employee joining and moving through the organisation.

They were particularly interested in identifying which activities added value and which simply maintained the existing system. They even identified activities that were detracting value through wasteful interventions, duplication or inappropriate interventions.

When Hammersmith merged with St Mary's trust in October 2007, forming Imperial College Healthcare trust, the experiences of the professionals at St Mary's enriched the quality of this analytical process.

New ways of working

Following the review, the HR function concluded that it had to change the nature of its relationship with the organisation so that managers became less dependent on HR support, more self-assured and more skilled and confident.

From the analysis emerged a new and innovative human resource management model which focuses on the role of managers as the engine of performance and change. In this model, the quality of interaction between the manager and the employee is the cornerstone of high performance. HR supports managers in all aspects of this vital responsibility, through the provision of excellent information, the creation of a continuous learning environment, online reference sources, decision trees and business-focused services.

HR professionals at Imperial have structured these services to ensure:

  • full integration with the organisational structure of the new trust;

  • leading-edge human resources practice;

  • that they are effectively resourced and positioned to enable the trust to achieve excellence in people management and performance.

There are four key elements to the new system:

  • a new senior partnership to replace the former senior human resources teams of the two merged trusts. The role of the partners will be to provide leadership to the trust in all areas of HR and organisational development strategy and management through evidence-based practice, translating research activity into improved employment practices;

  • partners will provide leadership and line accountability in their area of expertise, but each will also draw on the resources of other partners' teams in fulfilling their aims. Each partner will link directly to one of the new clinical programme groups, attending board meetings as appropriate, to provide strategic advice, complementing and not supplanting the central role of the human resources skills consultant;

  • an outsourced advisory service for managers, staffed by experts in employment relations and linked to employment law specialists, with face-to-face guidance where required. This service will be complemented by a new e-HR service giving managers direct access to up-to-date, user-friendly information, including policies and procedures, terms and conditions of employment, workforce data, decision trees and other systems;

  • development support to managers in managing their staff through the provision of seven new in-house skills consultants, aligned to the clinical programme groups and accountable to a director, providing direct and ongoing skills coaching support to managers.

Partners

Imperial College Healthcare trust has appointed Capsticks Solicitors to be its partner in this new venture. Capsticks has created a unique infrastructure of employment advisory and legal support that deals directly with the managers of the organisation. The service is responsive and customer focused. Through logging technology, the trust receives regular activity data on all aspects of employee relations activity. For the first time, it can analyse and learn from information in this area.

This information enables the partnership team and the skills consultants to examine the characteristics of the organisation, recognise trouble spots as they develop and create immediate responses to perceived development needs among managers. The expectation is that these interventions will lead to improved performance and increased self-sufficiency.