West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) provides healthcare services to a population of approximately half a million people living in west Herefordshire and the surrounding areas.
It manages services across three sites: Watford General Hospital, St Albans City Hospital, and Hemel Hempstead hospitals.
Like many other NHS organisations, the employee relations team previously managed employee relations cases using Excel spreadsheets.
Caroline Lankshear, head of employee relations and HR business partner for corporate services at the trust, said: “As a head of service you want to have a good handle on the casework undertaken by your team, but the Excel spreadsheets we used often left me frustrated.
“Not only did they give little visibility; they also failed to capture all the information we needed.
“For complicated cases, with lots of file notes, it became unmanageable because the boxes just kept getting bigger and bigger. Ultimately, I felt the spreadsheets weren’t working and we needed a system that could help us manage our casework effectively and quickly.”
The static spreadsheets also made it difficult for WHHT’s team of 11 employee relations officers to collaborate while tracking cases and outcomes. And it became clear that there had to be a better process.
Selenity ER Tracker has now been in use for well over 24 months.
The employee relations team now records its disciplinary, grievance, bullying and harassment, short-term sickness, long-term sickness, performance management, appeals, employment tribunals, and freedom to speak up cases using the software.
Lankshear said: “Selenity ER Tracker helps us to manage our time so much better and the dashboard sends daily reminders which help the team to prioritise their workloads and ensure we meet our deadlines.”
As the software mirrors all the steps in the trust’s HR policy, the team took the opportunity to review each stage and implement changes.
And, since going live with Selenity ER Tracker WHHT has seen a reduction in the time it takes to manage certain case types.
Selenity ER Tracker helps us to manage our time so much better and the dashboard sends daily reminders which help the team to prioritise their workloads and ensure we meet our deadlines
For instance, long-term sickness cases are now completed within as little as six months instead of 12 – a decrease of 50%.
This has not only streamlined the process, but also helped the trust compassionately transition colleagues back to full, or sometimes permanently-amended, roles.
The coronavirus pandemic
More recently the employee relations team has turned to Selenity ER Tracker to help it manage sickness and absence during the coronavirus outbreak.
By creating a new stage within the long-term sickness case type, the employee relations team is able to capture and record colleagues who are symptomatic, going through household contact isolation, or had been contacted by the NHS test and trace system.
Larkshear said: “We've used Selenity ER Tracker for managing all of our COVID cases and I don't think we would have got through the last six-months without it.
“At one point we had 20% of our workforce off sick and through our use of Selenity ER Tracker, we've been able to effectively manage those individuals' return to work.
The reporting functionality has enabled us to report daily to NHS Improvement keeping them updated on the number of employees sick at any one time."
To support organisations during this time, Selenity also introduced a COVID case type to help manage the impact of the pandemic.
WHHT has used the new case type to record and manage employees who are vulnerable. This includes colleagues who are pregnant, BAME, shielding, sick with COVID-related anxiety, or stranded abroad.
In order to manage these vulnerable colleagues, the employee relations team set up a HR Absence Hub to support staff and recruited nurses from the organisation who needed to be redeployed.
A deeper insight
Keen to avoid long investigations and improve employee wellbeing, the employee relations team introduced changes to the disciplinary process.
Over the past 24 months data collected through Selenity ER Tracker has shown a 20% decline in formal processes in parallel with an increase in informal resolutions.
Larkshear said: “This is information I would never have been able to track and analyse four years ago because the Excel system was so cumbersome and time consuming.
“The level of detail we’re able to gather now is far greater and it’s available at the click of a button. We analyse our data year on year and in doing so we gain deeper insights, most recently we’ve identified seasonal trends in employee sickness which allow us to plan ahead as an organisation.”
Proactive case management and reporting
Reporting is a crucial part of the employee relations function, especially as comprehensive data relating to disciplinary procedures must be collated and regularly reported at board level.
Previously, WHHT found that gathering this information was a very time-consuming process, that involved manually extracting the data and analysing it from Excel.
I can do an entire board report in half a day where it would have taken me the best part of a week before. The data takes seconds to produce in Selenity ER Tracker
Larkshear said: “Creating board reports used to take me hours because I just couldn’t get a proper grip on all the case work we were dealing with as a department.
“As much as I tried, it just wasn’t possible. Whereas now, it’s the complete opposite. I can do an entire board report in half a day where it would have taken me the best part of a week before. The data takes seconds to produce in Selenity ER Tracker.”
With the reporting process now simplified, the team is able to quickly generate insightful reports and easily identify their most-common case types. Selenity ER Tracker has considerably reduced the time taken to produce board reports, cutting the process by 90%.
With efficient workflows and secure document capture, the employee relations team has successfully increased its caseload visibility.
And the potential to spot trends and patterns with Selenity ER Tracker’s reporting functionality has enabled the trust to drive impactful change across the organisation.
Not only has it allowed the trust to resolve cases quicker, but they have also been able to reduce absence rates.
The flexibility offered by the software has enabled the employee relations team to respond to the challenges brought on by the coronavirus outbreak and support colleagues during a very-uncertain time.