Lead Employer Team North West reduces number of employee relations cases

ER Tracker has enabled Lead Employer Team North West to analyse trends and reduce the number of employee relations cases.    

  • Enables analysis of trends in case types, reducing number of ER cases
  • Cloud-solution enables secure access of case documents from anywhere
  • Sharing of documentation in a secure web based environment
  • Avoids work duplication and eases reporting process
  • Helps adherence to policy timelines and keep to schedules

Background

The Lead Employer Team for the North West (in partnership with Health Education England) provides the recruitment, payroll, pre-employment, including Occupational Health, and other HR services to support the 3,500 junior doctors – including Acute, GP and Psychiatry trainees, across the North West. The team is based at North Manchester General Hospital, Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. 

These medical trainees are based at over 20 acute sites and 250 GP practices in the North West region. The Peninne Acute Trust is one of the largest NHS Trusts in the UK, covering the areas of North Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale and Bury.  

An important part of the Lead Employer Team’s HR role is employee relations (ER) and case management of short and long term sickness, disciplinary and grievances performance issues and so on.  

Previously, the Lead Employer Team, comprising of 20 staff, had a difficult task of managing its ER cases, as it had to deal with numerous Excel spreadsheets for each case type and the information could only be shared via encrypted emails. This prevented the team from easily sharing case documents with each other and restricted reporting efficiently, as only one person could work on a document at the same time.  

Leanne Duckett, HR advisor, Lead Employer Team North Western, explained, “It became increasingly difficult, when you had so many people inputting information into the numerous spreadsheets, to keep track of the most recent document and avoid any duplication in your work.   It was also a challenge to collate the relevant information into a monthly report ahead of a meeting – it was a very time-intensive task.  

We didn’t work with standardised Excel spreadsheets and there was no data uniformity, all the case information was typed freehand, so it was very time consuming to pull together all the information we needed into one report. Analysing cases for common causes or issues was virtually impossible.”

Streamlining employee relations with the cloud

Leanne continues, “Dealing with so many trainees with numerous HR-related issues, we decided it would be beneficial to streamline and improve our employee relations processes, moving away from a paper-based approach.”

The team needed to find a solution that would allow them to collate all the information together into one central system, enable its members to work on individual cases concurrently and share reports more efficiently.

“There were a few options we considered. As we use the NHS’ Electronic Staff Record (ESR), we could have used the inbuilt employee relations module, but it doesn’t have a large enough storage allowance for documents. Its functionality wasn’t ideal with the number of trainees we have and the number of documents we produce,” said Leanne.

In September 2016, the Lead Employer team implemented Software Europe’s cloud-based ER Tracker software.

Easy access to documents

ER Tracker is a cloud-based case management system that assists the HR team in managing its employee relations cases on an on-going basis. The HR team can now manage and access all the various types of ER cases in one place. Importantly, the cloud-based ER system can be accessed off-site.

Previously, all documents were stored on internal drives at the NHS Trust’s headquarters, so it was challenging for any of the team members to retrieve relevant documents when off-site. Leanne explained, “Being cloud-based makes it so much easier for the team, particularly when working remotely at any of the numerous NHS Trust sites across the region we support. Software Europe provided our IT team with all the necessary security documentation to prove the cloud based ER Tracker was secure for our IT environment.”

Keeping track of cases

Leanne adds, “ER Tracker really keeps you on track with your case management and helps you work through your employee relations’ policy timeline step by step. The built in notifications help the team keep to schedule with their cases.  ER Tracker also allows us to store documents for each case, which is invaluable to us, enabling us to easily export and retrieve the documents when we need them.

We currently have six different case types, ranging from short term sickness to bullying & harassment.  Our policies are likely to change because of updates and legislation changes, so we always have the flexibility to change or add new information into our existing case types.”

Identifying trends

Leanne continues, “Reporting is now so much quicker and we can either report on an individual or a specific case type, depending on what is required at the time.  We can simply pick the case type and produce a report easily, whereas previously we had to print out each document manually.”

As the junior doctors rotate every six months to different sites, we need to make sure that the information held on the system is up to date.  We can analyse specific trends in, for example, long term sickness, to identify whether it is related to working within a particular specialty and therefore red flagging any issues that need addressing.  

Leanne explained, “We are also experiencing a quicker turnaround for our trainees returning to work from sickness, with an improvement in a more supportive and sustainable phased return to work process. This comes from the ER Tracker keeping us much more on track with our policy timelines and guidance.”

Previous to using ER Tracker, we wouldn’t have been able to analyse these sorts of trends, as it wouldn’t have been obvious on a general report.”

With the new system in place, the Lead Employer Team North West is now able to identify trends and issues in cases; identifying the difficult roles and enabling the team to address any issues quicker than previously. It has helped to improve the HR processes and provide better communication with certain areas within the organisation.

Rolling out the system, future of ER

From initial contact with Software Europe to fully implementing the system and getting it up and running, took a matter of months. The Lead Employer team spent time reviewing and updating its HR policies before the solution was deployed, and IT security and information governance teams worked closely with Software Europe to ensure the cloud solution met all the necessary requirements. 

“There was a lot of back and forth with the IT security team as ER Tracker is an external system, but Software Europe provided help with all the required certifications and security documents that the security team needed – they came back quickly and were able to satisfy all the issues in a short time,” commented Leanne.

The Lead Employer Team plans to review its use of ER Tracker in 2018 and may be adding and extending the number of case types covered by ER Tracker.

Leanne concludes, “We’ve only seen benefits working with the ER Tracker system. We are hoping to extend the list of case types further in the future.”

 

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