Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Passport to Management - Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust

Management and trade unions at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust identified an issue of concern - overly long and burdensome (and sometimes acrimonious) disciplinary and grievance cases. Working in partnership, the trust’s management and trade unions identified a solution - the ‘Passport to Management’ two day management development programme. The organisation is now delivering this programme, in partnership, successfully reducing the time it takes to resolve disciplinary and grievance cases and improving outcomes.

The challenge – problems with discplinary and grievance cases

Trade unions and management at the trust held a shared view that they wanted to improve outcomes in employee relations cases. Many cases, both disciplinary and grievance, were taking too long to reach a conclusion, with no clear outcome in sight and a high number of appeals. Managers were increasingly reliant on HR to resolve employee relations cases, increasing the need for HR attendance at even informal meetings. Trade union frustrations about managers spilled out into meetings and managers were complaining about trade union reps. HR was struggling to cope with the level of support required and cases were taking longer and longer to resolve with increasing disagreements between trade unions and managers. 

The project

The project started in January 2014 as a staff side and management partnership project. It involved engagement with a wide range of stakeholders including the workforce relations team, managers, directorate leadership teams and the wider HR team. This engagement identified a number of issues including:

  • a HR team which instructed rather than advised managers
  • managers who lacked confidence to make decisions and deal with cases
  • trade unions who were frustrated with managers’ lack of awareness and ability to use discretion

Through a series of workshops managers said that they were worried about making the wrong decision and they sometimes felt under attack from trade union representatives in meetings, so always wanted HR there. There were finite resources in HR and it was clear managers needed to take the lead role in managing cases as part of their responsibility to create productive and motivated teams. But they needed the skills and confidence to do this.

The solution - a jointly led leadership & development programme

In subsequent discussions between HR, learning & development and trade unions, they formed the idea of a jointly led leadership development programme. Encompassing the principles of leadership development and partnership working, they designed a bespoke and targeted programme of development for managers to skill them with tools and techniques to manage workforce relations cases much more effectively. In this way the passport to management programme was conceived.

Development began in June 2014, with a pilot in September 2014 and eventual roll out in November 2014. Passport to management is entirely a jointly developed and delivered leadership development programme. Working together each partner brought a wish list of things they wanted to change and spoke freely about what each party wanted to gain from the programme. They used this wish list and the results of the engagement work to build a programme which truly matched their needs.

The two day programme comprises the following features:

  • Leadership development on the first day incorporating leadership behaviours that encourage engagement and high performance, team leading, emotional intelligence and having constructive conversations.
  • On the second day, they cover roles and responsibilities of HR, managers, and trade union representatives, managing sickness, performance management, investigations and report writing.

Both days are highly interactive and delivered jointly. A forum theatre technique is used where a scenario is acted out and the audience (ie the managers being trained), get to control the actors actions and words with an imaginary buzzer. This provides an opportunity for delegates to utilise learning on day one to problem solve typical management issues such as performance and sickness management. It also suited those who were uncomfortable with getting involved in role play. The delegates love it and with HR playing the staff member and trade union rep playing the manager there is true role reversal and understanding of different perspectives.

Quote freedom to try things

What has been achieved

The programme is so popular that the trust has had to increase capacity to get numbers through. So far they have trained 47 staff since launching in November 2014 with over 200 staff  booked onto courses running monthly for the rest of the year. They are currently booked up to January 2016.

Quote manage staff differently

The trust is already seeing the results in improved outcomes of cases, reduced time to resolve cases and reduced dissatisfaction from trade unions. Managers have reported feeling more empowered, more confident to make decisions and more confident to use their discretion where appropriate. The programme is undoubtedly a huge success and its popularity is reported anecdotally within the organisation. Often people are heard to say in meetings or corridor conversations ‘oh yes, passport to management…I have heard that it’s really good’. 

The team at Guy's bring Passport to Management to life 

Take a look at Passport to Management in action, watch our video and see how you can share learning and take best practice from the team at Guy’s and St Thomas'. The video shows the team at Guy’s talking about their award winning initiative and the benefits it has brought to the trust, and goes live to day two of the programme with management attendees taking part in a forum theatre scenario to resolve a typical management issue.

For more information contact:

Alison Hall, Interim Associate Director of Workforce:  

Dino Williams, Staff Side Chair:

Adnan Bajwa: