The local TU representative (staff side representative) carries the enormous responsibility of being an advocate of the local members of his department or professional group. In an ideal scenario, your staff side rep should be able to reliably inform the Trust on what the local members think of proposals and service developments. It is not uncommon to “test the temperature” around a new idea by running it past (informally) the local staff side rep first.
In organisations (and I mainly refer to NHS Trusts) where there is a sense of trust between management and staff side, this relationship can be dynamic, collaborative and very constructive. Where there is little trust, the organisation can find itself with a dysfunctional and disruptive workforce. I have been struck this week by how important staff side relationships are.
Let’s take Job Evaluation: The NHS has a national, bespoke system called Agenda for Change. Implemented in 2005, thousands of managers, HR staff and staff side reps were trained in this system. It’s not a perfect system, but it has helped to reduce the potential of pay inequity and attempts to bring transparency to a creative art form.
Although there is national guidance, I find that with each Trust I work with there is local interpretation: this ranges from how each factor is scored to how the process is carried out. For example:
- The Trusts where there is poor staff side relationship, the process is long and drawn-out.
- In other Trusts, management have worked with staff side to streamline the process.
In one Trust, the time it takes to evaluate a set of 10 posts is 8 times longer than another one! This has an obvious impact on productivity and carries a significant cost to the organisation.
The key to driving efficiences lies with the local staff side. There needs to be an element of trust between all parties with any radical changes to an established system.
The Trust that has significantly stream-lined its process has high staff engagement. The staff trust the process and their local representatives to ensure that the right outcome is reached.
On the other hand, the Trust who has a long, labourious process has poor staff engagement. The local staff side are fighting to protect the status quo as they fear that the staff may be disadvantaged if any efficiences are built into the system.
Job evaluaton may seem a dry topic to reflect upon in relation to staff engagement, but the underlying outcome is money. And money matters to staff. If staff are engaged they will allow their local staff side reps to work collaboratively with managers. This can only result in a win-win for everybody.
I’ve written about Staff Engagement before, and my views haven’t changed. It’s important to recognise that staff engagement permeates through-out all elements of the organisation, and it all starts with the Trade Unions.