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Unlocking ‘people potential’: HR technology helps us help others

Author: Lorraine Swanson, HR Manager at St John’s Hospice in Lancaster
15 November 2017

Hospices readily acknowledge that to provide high quality care to patients and families – particularly during what can be an incredibly distressing time – so much depends on the engagement, development and retention of staff and volunteers. But what role does technology play? <br /><br />Lorraine Swanson, HR Manager at St John’s Hospice in Lancaster, explains why they overhauled their Human Resources system and the benefits they have experienced as a result.

St John’s Hospice is a charity which provides free palliative care to patients with life shortening conditions. Covering a population of 250,000 people in North Lancashire, South Lakes and parts of North Yorkshire, the team has been here for the community since 1986.

More than 30 years after the organisation was founded, the inpatient unit, outpatient department and community team is made up of 170 hard-working colleagues who strive to deliver the best quality of life to people and their families. A further 27 members of staff take care of our 10-strong network of shops and a warehouse which receives donations from the public.

The Care Quality Commission has rated the hospice as ‘outstanding’, which is a credit to the compassion and commitment of our people. But as we look ahead and plan for our next 30 years, it is clear that the team must work even smarter to uphold these high standards for a growing local population.

The role of HR

Human Resources is an incredibly important function that knits together the progressive efforts of our staff. As a result, the department produces a wealth of data which continues to increase by the day.

However, in late 2015, we realised that our employee information could no longer exist in stand-alone ‘silos’. We had a spreadsheet for absences, another for holidays and paperwork for every other employee metric or record. The data was comprehensive, and our home-grown system included all the information we required, but it had become difficult and time consuming to extract the detail we needed, and analysis was tough. We knew we needed to be more integrated.

A proposal outlining the business case for a new HR system was presented to the hospice’s management team. Thankfully, the challenges spoke for themselves and a budget was granted.

Sourcing HR tech

With limited understanding of the software available in the marketplace, the first task was to gather deeper insight into the functionality the hospice truly required. An industry webinar helped develop the specification, and product demonstrations were then requested from four of the biggest names in the marketplace. The chosen solution was HQP framework vendor Cascade HR.

Thanks to thorough pre-installation, the project itself was surprisingly smooth and swift. Data had to be collated from multiple sources and, where gaps became apparent, there was even more work to do to identify the necessary information. However, it was clear that the metrics had to be as accurate as possible, from day one.

Close dialogue with Cascade also ensured the preparation of a carefully-planned project schedule, which did not underestimate the importance of change management and team ‘buy in’.

The HR technology specifics

The software itself contained Core HR, Self Service and Workflow (process best-practice and efficiency) modules.

The senior management team was the first to use the Self Service functionality, before it was then rolled out to middle managers and finally the rest of the workforce. In simple terms, this tool offers colleagues greater ownership over their own data.

Of course, there was an acclimatisation process. So, when the system went live in June, only three months after the order confirmation, we allowed for a two month familiarisation period. Some colleagues were more IT savvy than others, but with support and training, the change was well received. Managers particularly liked the newfound transparency and empowerment that the technology provided.

Workflow has been used to establish helpful processes, with proactive triggers and reminders, which ensure everything is done by the right person at the right time.

Managers now take responsibility for TOIL (Time Off In Lieu), for example, but they are safe in the knowledge that they have the guidance of a workflow, which has been created by the HR team.

Looking to the future

Nothing has been rushed, so as to not overwhelm anyone. However, knowing benefits have already been experienced when we’ve only just scratched the surface, we’re now constantly looking at ‘what’s next’?

New workflows are continually being created by the HR team, for instance – one ensures doctors’ medical indemnity insurance is up to date, thanks to new annual alerts.

New screens can also be built with ease, without any input from Cascade’s technical team. The system now produces everything the hospice needs to safeguard any employee or volunteer who drives as part of their role. There’s a ‘checklist’ which covers everything from driving licences, to MOTs and insurance for business use, and colleagues are prompted should they need to take any action.

Benefits at a glance

In summary, the advantages have been three-fold. Staff feel more valued, as they know we’ve invested in a powerful system that exists for them. On a basic level, they have secure and easy access to their own records, but, we’re placing great value in their continued professional development too. Cascade’s Training module has recently gone live, which allows them to view, review and book courses relevant to their individual needs.

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