This content is part of the Vision for the Public Sector Zone
This particular case study is an additional support to The Evidence Paper.
Serco International is a service company which improves the quality and efficiency of essential services for both public and private clients. It provides services such as catering, cleaning, security and grounds maintenance to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust (NNUH). NNUH is a 1010 bed hospital which treats over 700,000 patients each year. Serco’s contract with NNUH is one of the largest of its kind. It has been established since 2001 and employs 610 full and part time staff.
As a result of an NHS efficiency savings programme, NNUH was required to identify ways to save money across the organisation, including £1.1million of savings from its Serco service contract. Serco’s management team were required to change ways of working to save on costs for their client, and employee engagement needed to improve for this to be successful. There was also an opportunity to achieve better performance and profitability by improving overall employee engagement.
Serco’s employee ‘View Point’ survey had identified some basic focus areas for employee engagement initiatives; however the adoption of this study had room for improvement. Serco worked to improve the awareness and adoption of the View Point survey, to better understand the current engagement issues and integrate the survey within the management team for a more sustainable engagement focus. The organisation also implemented a ‘View Point Action Team’, which ran several focus groups with employees to gather more detail on survey responses and major issues. The outcomes from the focus groups were used to form a ‘View Point Action Plan’, which was owned by the managers from each department. The action plan was made an operational responsibility. Alongside improvements to the engagement survey process, Serco made changes to some of its other processes such as sickness absence management.
The View Point survey and focus groups led to increased strategic communication as a response to employee feedback. Serco began hiring individuals with more engaging leadership attributes and provided specific leadership training to improve team engagement. New ‘lean’ ways of working, apprentices with fresh ideas and a larger leadership team have also been seen to have a positive impact. These changes have led to a 10% increase in employee engagement.
The quality, cost and satisfaction of Serco services have improved as a result of the changes made by the organisation. Good employee engagement has enabled Serco to make the changes to the ways of working required to achieve the cost savings needed by NNUH. Redesigning the waste management process, and engaging the NNUH clinical workforce in the scheme, saved over £150,000 in the first year.
By improving the sickness absence management process, and by increasing employee engagement, Sickness absence has reduced from 8% to 2.57%. Service quality has also improved, with employees having increased ambitions of what they can deliver and feeding new ideas back to their managers more regularly.
Overall, Serco’s initiatives have illustrated that understanding employee engagement must be embedded operationally within an organisation and not become a box ticking exercise. Good employee engagement can produce tangible monetary savings, sustainable reductions in sickness levels and create effective working relationships with trade unions.