In 2021, the Government published its draft data strategy, ‘Data Saves Lives: Reshaping health and social care with data’, which highlighted the power and impact that data had during the height of Covid-19 in shaping both the NHS’s and the public’s response to the global pandemic.
Beginning with a Ministerial Forward from the former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, the strategy opens with a powerful statement:
“When facing the greatest public health emergency that this country has tackled for generations, one of the most impactful tools at our disposal was the power of data.”
The strategy is then split into seven ‘chapters’, covering a range of focus areas including the improvement of data available to health and care professionals, supporting decision makers with key data, and empowering researchers with essential data.
However, it seems that a vital chapter is missing. One which is key to the running of the NHS, and even more essential in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. The use of data to support the NHS workforce, and the recovery of its people.
Chapter 8: Utilising data to improve workforce management, and support NHS staff
I propose adding a new chapter to the strategy – to encourage the implementation of effective people analytics to collect, analyse and use workforce data to improve HR and management, identify issues, and actively improve the working lives of NHS staff across an organisation.
Our vision is to make workforce data more accessible, easier to collate and understand, and more likely to lead to actions and positive change. In a time where our NHS staff have been left depleted and deflated by Covid-19, we want to see effective people analytics employed to help identify areas of concern within teams, engaging managers to make more informed workforce decisions, and supporting retention and recruitment efforts. Where this is deployed effectively, as we are seeing at trusts currently, people analytics decreases spend from temporary staffing and agencies, and leads to beneficial advantages for not only staff, but also patients.
An effective data programme – such as mii People Analytics – will work with key functions at an organisation to triangulate the various organisation datasets in use to easily obtain meaningful information relating to critical workforce issues. Whilst this step in itself is a huge leap in overcoming the ‘noise’ of data, an advanced people analytics programme will further support and advance workforce management efforts, enabling HR and workforce management to make meaningful decisions which benefit staff, and see problems or pain points before they occur.
An example of this has been seen during the first wave of Covid-19. The data obtained using mii People Analytics was able to pinpoint clusters of infection amongst staff, as well as identify those teams most at risk of staff burnout as a result of the pandemic, allowing for managers to take necessary actions to lessen the threat and increase overall workforce wellbeing.
With workforce data proving so essential in such a variety of ways, and across whole NHS organisations, it seems strange that the use of data for improving workforce management would be omitted from the data strategy. The overall benefits not only for bettering everyday workforce management, but also in extraordinary times such as those created by Covid-19, are substantial enough to create the anticipation of a next normal – where the improved and effective use of data and people analytics programmes are not just words in a strategy, but a readily available tool transforming HR and workforce teams.
Head of Workforce Advisory Services, Liaison Workforce