Special Report: Supporting staff

Our employees are our most valuable asset, and we need to invest in them.

As organisations across the country struggle with the impacts of the recession and the government’s austerity measures, there is one crucial thing they must not lose sight of:  the need to invest in staff.

Cutting back on ‘extras’ such as support services and training is often seen as the easy option, but the staff involved in these functions is the heart and the core of any service or business and now, more than ever, we must invest in them.

I run a Family Intervention Service in Tower Hamlets and the knowledge that my staff hold is invaluable to the work that we do. Indeed, earlier this year we paid for staff to go on a training course to learn how to give financial advice to clients. Even though the initial cost was high, in the long-term we saved money because now we no longer have to outsource that service. Bringing knowledge into the organisation doesn’t have to be hugely expensive; supporting one member of staff’s learning means they can feed back to the rest of the team what they have learnt.

We decided to train up groups of employees in certain ‘specialisms’, so whilst not everyone in the team is an expert in, for example, therapeutic support services, now there is always someone in-house who staff can go to when they need help with something. Finding out what employees are good at, and what they are interested in, can often bring new dynamism into the team.

The employees who are interested in cooking or art, for example, run special workshops with service-users to help engage them and to boost their self-esteem.  Public and third sector organisations often see thinking and acting ‘like a business’ as being in conflict with their goals or ethics, but good businesses invest in their assets.

‘Valuing your Talent’, a major research and engagement programme, has recently been launched by the international organisation for HR professionals, the Chartered International Personnel Development (CPID), to help employers understand the value of their staff.

The ‘Valuing your Talent: resourceful talents?’ report by McKinsey of 3,000 companies over five years, found that 40% of a company’s performance is based on the sector; the other 60%, it suggests, is down to the company’s effect.  If the majority of an organisation’s success rate is down to what happens inside, rather than outside, then we must start looking inwardly to see how we can stimulate growth within an organisation.

Case studies of how organisations from Sainsbury’s to local councils to the Metro have achieved success by investing in their staff can be found on the Investor of People’s website. It reports that the Metro now spends £250,000 on staff talent each year. The cost of training is high, but there are still other things managers can do to keep staff engaged, because when staff members don’t feel valued they tend to lose interest and lose motivation.

Taking time out just to talk to employees and hear where they are struggling and what they feel they have done well can make the difference between getting a person to go that extra mile or losing them to another organisation.

Our employees are the most important assets that we have; without them, projects and services cannot run. Providing them with up-to-date training and support will keep them at the top of their game and help them to think of new ways to work better and more efficiently.

London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Nikki Bradley

Programme Manager

London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Email Nikki Bradley