Joining our first virtual employee listening event last month (December), you’d be forgiven for initially thinking you’d stepped into a virtual recording of University Challenge.
Greeted by images of our leadership team stacked up on screen like contestants on the formidable show all eager – and a little nervous - to start the first round of the inaugural Q&A session.
Our live studio audience for the day? 40 employees, including many working on the frontline.
Thankfully, Jeremy Paxman wasn't available to ask questions. Instead, the much more approachable Jen Brown and John Swan from Organisational Development were our hosts.
Over two hours Jen and John provided each member of our leadership team with the time needed to answer five questions submitted before the event went live, and they ensured employees had their say.
Here’s the team sheet from the day and a summary of what was discussed.
- Kenneth Lawrie, Chief Executive
- Stuart Ritchie, Director of Corporate & Housing Services
- Douglas Duff, Acting Director of Development Services
- Robert Naylor, Director of Children’s Services
- Patricia Cassidy, Chief Officer Health & Social Care Partnership
- Karen Algie, Head of People, Technology & Transformation
Q. Employees would like clearer communication as to which departments/buildings are open and predicted timescales for buildings opening (or in fact not re-opening).
COVID-19 meant we had to lockdown a good number of buildings that have subsequently gone through a rigorous process of statutory checks to ensure they are safe to open. Until government guidelines allow, all those who can work from home should continue to do so and should not be working in offices.
In those buildings that are open, safety measures have been put in place to ensure employee safety, this includes the need for physical distancing, the use of our track and trace building app etc.
As part of the Council of the Future Strategic Property Review, we’ve also reviewed all 289 of our buildings and many of these are in poor condition. We are currently speaking to communities about buildings in their localities to help us understand their needs moving forward.
Work has also started on transforming one of two newly identified office spaces, the former Thomas Cook building in Larbert which is expected to be operational by mid-2021.
Q. What is the current state of play with the CANS – to what extent do you feel the CANS have been utilised during the COVID-19 crisis?
CANs have always been very important because they are on the ground and can reach areas of our organisation in a way that the typical management structure can’t. During lockdown, CANs were involved in a significant number of projects – one of the most vital being our employee volunteer scheme where they helped:
- deliver government food parcels to those on the shielding list
- monitored the shielding email inbox to ensure people received vital food supplies
- delivered and collected Personal Protective Equipment
- drove Homecarers who could not drive, helping them visit more people in the Denny area
CANs also played a vital role in highlighting our employee pulse survey to colleagues working across services. The outcomes of the survey played a vital role in helping shape our new way forward.
Currently we have 49 employees who are active CANS but could be doing with more volunteers in Children’s Service and Adult Social Care.
With new council priorities in place comes new opportunities for CANs and engagement with them will take place in the New Year to look at ways to increase their levels of involvement.
Q. Most models of crisis leadership emphasise the vital role that good communication plays, do our leaders agree and can they give examples of employing this strategy?
Communication has been and remains vital, not only to keep employees and communities informed but to support them during this crisis.
Teams across the Council quickly adopted different ways of communicating including:
- What’sApp groups
- Use of Social Media increased
- Messaging on Teams
- Teams video calls
- Regular telephone calls to keep in touch
- Using web pages to post current and up-to-date information, including regularly updated employee wellbeing information.
- CE messages emailed to employees – the most recent, highlighting the need to prioritise health and wellbeing, and video messages recorded
- Employees encouraged to have their say through the Employee Pulse Survey and focus groups
- The Falkirk 5 continued during lockdown
- For local employees, they were encouraged to have their say as part of the community consultation to identify the Council’s new priorities.
But we know there is more to do. We need to continue to find ways to ensure all our employees are heard and recognised for the efforts being made.
Informal communication is also key. We’ve lost the opportunity to talk face-to-face and in office corridors. Those conversations really helped build relationships and trust. Efforts have to be made to ensure we simply talk to each other.
Communication will also be key to the action plan that is being development to help us improve how this is done. This will flow through to our next employee survey focusing on wellbeing that will launch in January.
Q. Senior Managers say wellbeing is a big issue what have you practically done to demonstrate that commitment?
Wellbeing is at the forefront of all our minds. During the crisis, we’ve made sure up-to-date information is available 24/7 on our website. This includes signposting people to free support such as our Mental Health First Aiders and Employee Assistance Scheme.
Support employee with their wellbeing is extremely important to everyone on the leadership team and our next employee pulse survey will be focus specifically on this area to ensure we continue to provide as wide a range of support as possible. The survey will launch in January.
Q. Many employees have gone beyond the call of duty during the crisis, how are you going to show your appreciation?
We have urged all managers to show appreciation to their teams and individual members as much as they can. The easiest and most effective way to do this is to say thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. Our employees worked extremely hard to ensure services have continued to operate during the pandemic, and we are all very appreciative of their efforts. It really has been a great team effort - from those working directly with communities on the frontline to those providing back office services. Each employee has played a vital part in our response and all our employees deserve a heartfelt “thank you”.