NHS Blood and Transplant now uses a single software-as-a-service based platform called HR Direct.
NHSBT’s role is to supply blood components, diagnostic services and stem cell services safely and reliably to hospitals in England and North Wales, as well as tissues and solid organs to hospitals across all the UK.
In 2012/13 NHSBT donors contributed 1.9 million units of blood, 4,208 organs, 5,800 tissue donations, 2,000 banked cord blood units, and 188 adult stem cell donations.
NHSBT has around 6,000 staff based at a variety of sites throughout the UK and in a wide variety of healthcare roles. As the organisation is not based in one particular area, staff and teams are scattered throughout the country – as is its HR function.
Shane White, HR business partner for NHSBT, said this had created cost and efficiency challenges. “How do you have the systems in place to know what’s going on across the country?” he said.
White said that around 80% of HR queries in NHSBT are transactional in nature – to do with sickness, maternity leave, entitlements, discipline, recruitment and pay – and could be answered from a central point of contact.
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Before consolidating its HR processes in the single HR Direct platform, NHSBT didn’t have any dedicated software, and was trying to operate its HR department using Excel spreadsheets and other basic tools.
“They couldn’t all get on it at the same time and information was out of date as soon as it was on there,” explained White, “And it was very hard for me to know who was managing each case and where they were at.”
Katherine Robinson, NHSBT deputy director of human resources, said that NHSBT had not exploited the advantages of technology solutions up until that point.
She said: “Although we operate in an environment where we need to be conscious of cost control, we became convinced from our research that the best-performing HR organisations succeed because of two key factors. The first is to have dedicated resource within the HR function to focus on the experience of the end-user – i.e. ‘to make it easier to do things around here’. The second is to make use of technology to underpin our service and how it is delivered.”
A review of HR's IT needs happened to be taking place at the same time as the IT department was reviewing its service desk platform.
White said: “If you strip away the content, the functionality needed to support IT and HR is very similar. Essentially you are handling an incoming query or request for help, providing advice or resolution, following up and then documenting what’s been done.”
Following a HR reorganisation in 2013, NHSBT chose Partners in IT (PiIT) to use its ServiceNow software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform to provide HR with IT support.
The new HR Direct system went live in November last year, following a trial period and six weeks of on-site work. The platform went live at 9am; by 9.10, NHSBT said that most of the HR department were using it.
“For a management function that didn’t use tools like that, we were worried how staff would take to it. But most of the queries were about how to get the most out of the system,” said White.
He added that the platform had “changed the nature of the conversations we have with staff”. The HR department now closes 87% of queries on the same day they are raised.
“The feedback has been tremendous,” said White. “The system is very user friendly, which has encouraged people to use it more than we predicted.”
Although the NHSBT HR team had allowed four weeks to upload existing cases to the system, the operation only took two weeks.
The system has consolidated the HR function across the country. White said: “Previously, if your local HR person wasn’t on site that day, you would have to wait. Now you can phone the HR Direct team.”
NHSBT still has regional teams but has reduced some headcount for efficiency purposes.
The next step for its HR function is to launch an online portal using ServiceNow, which will allow staff to access HR advice with tailored information accessible via the intranet 24 hours a day. It then plans to move towards self-service, allowing managers to download and submit paperwork automatically for job evaluations, rather than submitting by email or post.