I recently heard a management guru talk about team work and productivity. The basic message that he was delivering was that ‘One plus one had to be greater than two to be a truly productive team’. Wise words indeed but what happens if organisations have been stripped back to the bare minimum when it comes to people? Is it possible for just one to be greater than two? And what are organisations doing to look after the ‘ones’, because after all, if the one goes, then zero can never be greater than two.
One organisation that has been challenged in this way is the biggest employer in Europe and accounts for 4% of the UK’s working population – step forward the NHS. In many ways the NHS is a victim of its own success; it is exceedingly competent in delivering medicine and has contributed to the increase in longevity of life, however, its challenge is not just to deliver great medicine but to be exceptional in delivering proactive health. Imagine walking into a room where a bath is overflowing, for many the reaction would be to reach for some towels and mop up the mess, the challenge for the NHS is to mop up the mess and turn the taps off (and the tap is potentially a very stiff one).
The people are good, very good, but the change and challenges that they have experienced over the past five years has been considerable. With increasing delivery and regulatory demands placed on it and, regardless of political bent, the challenge of keeping the nation healthy is one that has been hitting them from left, right and centre (forgive the pun).
From working with the caring professions it is quite clear to me that they are pretty selfless. Caring does not seem to start with themselves and the service providers of today are possibly lining themselves up to be the service users of tomorrow. With sickness absence rates and staff turnover considerably higher than the norm, there is a real challenge to keep staff engaged, mentally and physically healthy, purposeful, professional and energised.
Getting staff to stop and think about themselves is essential. It is essential for their health and just as importantly a healthy, engaged and purposeful worker is likely to be of benefit to someone else who is equally important – the patient!