Making charity employees feel part of a winning team
Flint House is a police rehabilitation charity, treating over 3,000 police officers each year. Its team consists of highly skilled physiotherapists, mental health practitioners and registered nurses, together enabling serving police officers to get back to full duties. We also offer retired police officers help with physical rehabilitation.
Flint House has a long history stretching back to 1890, however our more recent story began in 1985 when the historical building, Flint House, at Goring on Thames, was purchased and developed to cater for the special requirements of injured and sick officers.
Over the years, the charity has grown and developed, and the new executive team has a clear vision for the future of the charity in which delivering a world class service is at its heart. But this can’t be achieved without the full support and buy-in of the charity’s employees. And in fact, achieving a thriving charity which consistently delivers first rate service is only really possible when there’s a great employee experience.
The Flint House team recognises that the employee experience is king, in which a positive daily experience is crucial for attracting and retaining talent, and keeping everyone engaged and motivated. From removing administrative frustrations through to ensuring every individual feels a sense of belonging and value, the focus must be on delivering an excellent employee experience, which can only be realised when HR and charity leaders work in partnership with IT.
Key strategic function
It’s time for IT leaders to step up and move away from being more of an “order taking” role to having a key strategic function that helps deliver a memorable everyday employee experience. Flint House is overhauling its IT with this in mind - the IT function and executive team working together to connect our employees to a stronger purpose, bring our people together and further strengthen our family-orientated culture.
Let me explain here why IT leaders must help deliver a great employee experience and how we at Flint House are achieving this.
Understanding the employee experience
It’s important to start by understanding the “employee experience” and why it’s so vital for success. The employee experience is everything an employee hears, feels and encounters on a daily basis, from how comfortable their workspace is and how well they get on with their colleagues through to how appreciated they feel.
After all, if a charity’s culture is negative and destructive, there’s no hope of it providing a great service to its customers and enjoying ongoing success. Happy and positive employees lead to a thriving culture in which excellent service is the norm, which can be absolutely crucial, particularly where the charity is undertaking health or care related activities.
So what can charity leaders do to ensure their people enjoy a great daily experience? They must look at all aspects of the employee experience and remove frustrations, streamline existing ways of working, find ways to bring people together and ensure every person feels respected, included and valued. And IT has a key role to play.
IT and the employee experience
Processes that are heavily paper based naturally result in inefficiencies, errors and duplication of effort, and employees are left frustrated with delays and time-consuming administration. By using IT to streamline processes the employee experience is instantly improved and efficiencies are gained.
At Flint House, funding challenges meant that the IT systems started to creak at the seams and paper based processes were all too common. Employees would hold onto multiple versions of the same document and effort was being duplicated across the charity.
This problem has been solved by implementing an intranet from intranet consultancy Sorce (named the “Flintranet”) which has inbuilt workflow to enable the automated flow of information and documents. There’s now a central repository, an electronic audit trail and one version of the truth, considerably cutting down on paper chasing and improving everyday processes and procedures.
Bringing teams together
IT also has an important role to play in facilitating collaboration and supporting connections between employees. Ensuring people feel connected both technologically and emotionally, improves teamwork and creates a supportive, friendly culture. At Flint House we are proud of our family-orientated culture but recognise that more can be done to nurture it, and this includes bringing teams together.
For instance, until recently it wasn’t unusual for teams to work in a siloed fashion, once again duplicating effort and hampering collaboration. Using technology, (in our case an intranet) to break down the siloes and create greater collaboration and connections between colleagues and departments, has proven invaluable. And by ensuring the tech is mobile-enabled, nobody is excluded. For instance, our housekeeping staff access our new intranet via their mobile phones.
Of course, the technology is the enabler but how it’s used is key for facilitating connections. We’re keeping people up to date with news via the Flintranet while giving employees a platform for airing their opinions and feeding back. Providing a means for people to share stories and interact with others is a “must” for fostering a sense of belonging.
Connecting to purpose and values
The strongest cultures are those with inspiring purposes that employees can relate to and feel connected to. It’s important for this purpose to be understood, lived and breathed every day, however this is harder to achieve without supporting technologies such as intranets, collaborative online tools and social media platforms. IT helps connect employees to the charity’s purpose and values, ensuring that everyone feels part of a common and vital goal.
As part of this, there need to be tools to allow employees to celebrate the charity’s successes together, including sharing success stories and applauding the charity’s achievements. Everyone must feel that they’re part of a winning team.
Yes, word of mouth and team meetings are important channels to share achievements. However, IT can help success stories to be shared when people can’t be physically together, from delivering good news stories via the intranet through to enabling employees to share and comment on milestone achievements via social media and video calls.
People feeling appreciated
Similarly, IT has an important part to play in delivering staff appreciation and recognition. A thriving culture is only possible when people regularly feel appreciated for their efforts and achievements. As well as giving appreciation face-to-face, this can be done online. For instance, we plan to use our intranet to spotlight the achievements of the charity, our teams and individuals so that everyone feels valued and part of one big, caring team.
Finally, charities can only boast a great employee experience when everyone feels included and are able to be their authentic selves rather than putting on an act. Being inclusive of everyone, regardless of their background, gender, ethnicity, disabilities and sexual orientation, will always be more effectively supported with IT.
For instance, the right IT systems help to give people a voice and provide them with the means to be part of everyday discussions. After all, if you don’t have the tools to be part of the conversation, you’ll never feel fully included.
The IT department can no longer be simply an order taking role, providing point solutions to problems, but must recognise its crucial role in elevating the employee experience to help deliver strategic success.
Agile intranet platform
Flint House’s vision is to deliver world class service but, as with most charities, there’s a tight budget. By turning to an agile intranet platform to help improve the employee experience, the whole Flint House culture for both staff and patients is being positively impacted, bringing the vision much closer to reality.
It's an exciting but challenging time for IT, with IT professionals within the charity sector having to do more with even less. However, if done right, IT leaders can be at the forefront of cultural change, helping to build positive and thriving organisational cultures.