Case studies

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

23 Aug 2017 By Marianne Calnan

Why an NHS Trust invested in upskilling middle managers as OD practitioners

The problem

As is the case for most public sector organisations, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust always has to keep an eye on its purse strings. But it also urgently needed to boost its staff engagement scores (formerly 3.51 out of 5) and employee and patient satisfaction levels, as well as upskill staff and improve its organisation development (OD) initiatives.

The solution

In 2015, director of HR and OD Sue Esser launched an OD programme – which included revamping the organisation’s values and behaviours framework, investing in leadership development, improving teamwork, and creating OD capability and sustainability – in response to an employee engagement survey.

Once the values – people first, future-focused, embracing change, working together and everyone counts – were fashioned, developing managers’ leadership skills was crucial, says Esser. “It was central to helping align staff values with ours. We know from research that when employees connect with their team and their values, that’s when they perform at their best.”

Last September, the Trust launched an internal OD practitioners’ programme, opening up access to those at middle-manager level in an effort to make talent investment more sustainable. Applicants had to have line manager approval to apply to ensure a balance between their day-to-day role and what the programme required of them, which included spending two days per month delivering OD interventions such as one-on-one coaching, building team away days and facilitating action learning sets and reflective sessions.

“Although the programme was implemented in a short space of time, it has already had a positive impact,” says Esser.

The outcome

Between March and May this year, the new OD practitioners delivered 20 intervention events and worked with around 300 people. “The skills candidates have learned have not only helped them, but also the organisation,” says Esser.

While delivering these interventions in-house has saved the Trust around £10,000, more importantly there are now around 560 days of internal OD capacity available to use. Esser estimates the cost of this internal provision to be £170,000 (based on participants’ average salary); hiring external consultants would have set the Trust back nearly half a million pounds.

The changes have also brought about a significant cultural shift, says Esser. Employee engagement scores are up to 3.77, matching the current NHS average. Staff satisfaction has increased, too, with a 4 per cent rise in the proportion of employees who say they would be happy for someone close to them to be treated by the Trust.

“There was a lot of scepticism, but now there’s a real appetite for OD requests,” says Esser. “We have so many it’s difficult to keep up; the word is really spreading.”

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