Strategic Human Resources Management

calling the professionals
When the National Commission for Standards of Care (NCSC) was created in 2002, it called in a number of human resource specialists to help. The NCSC is part of the Government’s modernization agenda to promote and protect the well-being of users of regulated services such as nursing homes, private hospitals and boarding schools. It also covers services that were previously unregulated, including laser clinics and private and voluntary hospitals. In the past these institutions were regulated by different local and health authorities.

The NCSC essentially brought together some 1,800 employees from 230 employers into one umbrella organization. One of these human resources specialists was Charlotte Grover, 37, a human resources professional with experience at blue-chip companies such as Unilever, Toyota, and Xerox. In 2001, Grover created his own human resources consultancy, wanting greater job flexibility and to be able to draw on the experience gained from working in a variety of human resources roles during his 15 years in the profession. The NCSC was her first assignment.

Working to establish the NCSC certainly presented a substantial challenge, but Grover has never been intimidated by a blank sheet of paper. She was initially to be hired for a six-week interim assignment, but this soon became a year-long exercise, with Grover reporting directly to East Midlands Regional Manager, Tony Frayer, and with a professional reporting line through Clare Curran, the Director of Human Resources based at the head office in Newcastle. For the first six months Grover was responsible for the development of all HR services within the Trent region, helping to set up all new services covering Northampton, Nottingham, Leicester and Derby. Once a permanent HR manager was appointed to this role, Grover was asked to take on the exciting challenge of helping to develop a new rewards structure, competency framework and performance management framework.

Because the NCSC was new, everything was in startup mode. There were some draft methodologies covering, for example, how to inspect a residential house, but it was all incomplete: even the Newcastle headquarters had skeleton staff, and HR. H H. was the last function that was set. HR support H H. was crucial as many staff had moved on from their former local employers and health authorities, so at the regional level HR support was crucial. H H. provided by Grover had to be ‘perfect’. He was responsible for supporting seven area managers in the East Midlands, each with around 40 professional and administrative staff, so he had to set up HR systems based on national policy. “The critical part was working out the workforce plan early on, as that gave us a framework and structure,” she says. “When we started we didn’t even know the names of everyone who worked in the region and many of them did not have a contract.”

He embarked on a huge recruitment drive early on: One of the first challenges was hiring 20 health professionals as inspectors, and they don’t grow on trees. He also spent many hours managing the uncertainty of staff, many of whom came from highly structured backgrounds. The rest of her time was spent handling ad hoc HR issues like maternity, grievances, discipline, absence, and capacity, with no policies or procedures to guide her. “I took advantage of my knowledge and experience and handled each new situation by adopting best practices,” she says. “Not only did we have to comply with the law, we also had to keep the unions involved and satisfied that we were doing the right thing in the absence of policies and procedures.”

With the permanent regional human resources manager in place, Grover took on his next challenge: assisting in the development of a new pay structure for NCSC that was tied to job performance and a competency framework. He researched other public and private sector organisations, organized focus groups with staff and unions to understand their expectations and experiences, met regularly with Clare Curran and her team to discuss progress and possible options, and drafted papers and recommendations.

At the end of the three month process, the organization decided not to implement the recommendations on the basis that the NCSC will be replaced by two new organizations in April 2004 and it was felt that a structural review was required to implement the proposed new reward structure. it would simply increase the feeling of uncertainty and confusion. “It was a pragmatic solution,” says Grover, “but we needed to do some research to come to that decision.” The work importantly highlighted the need for a new evaluation and development system, and she and Curran spent the next few weeks developing the ‘Individual Contribution Review Scheme’, or ICR, which sets short-term goals and assesses contribution. of people at work. and identifies their training and development needs.

In turn, this work led to the realization that the staff weren’t really sure what their jobs were, so Grover spent the next three months, through April of this year, redrafting all the job descriptions as well. The ICR and job descriptions were submitted to management for review in May of this year, and as Grover comments: “Once they are agreed upon and people know what their jobs are and how they will be measured, how they will be manage will improve tremendously.”

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