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Agenda Item No. 5











The Cabinet, at its meeting held on 19th March, 2018, had considered the above report and subsequently referred the same to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration. 


The Head of Human Resources presented the report, which provided an update on the results of the recent 2017 Employee Survey and related activities as part of the Council’s Staff Charter. 


The Council’s first Staff Charter had been launched on 19th September, 2016 with the aim to provide clarity about the expectations of the Council’s employees in a reshaped world (in terms of flexibility, performance and contribution) and also to be clear about those things that employees could (and should) expect from their managers in terms of trust, support, clarity of expectation and respect.


The first employee survey was carried out in the Autumn of 2016 in order to set a benchmark for levels of staff engagement and as a basis against which future progress could be measured.  The 2017 Employee Survey had been the second such survey and the first real opportunity to measure progress against the 20 employee expectations in the first full year since the launch of the Staff Charter in 2016.


The Employee Survey ran for a six week period between 16th October and 24th November, 2017 and was sent to some 2461 employees across the Council’s four Directorates.  As part of the survey employees were again asked to score each of the 20 expectations within the Charter using the following scale: 1 (Strongly Agree), 2 (Agree), 3 (Neither Agree nor Disagree), 4 (Disagree) and 5 (Strongly Disagree).


A detailed analysis of the results from the Employee Survey was set out in a document attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  The Head of Human Resources commented that there had been 1,415 responses to the survey this year, equating to an overall return rate of 57%.  This was an encouraging rate of return and represented an improvement on the return rate in 2016 of 48%.


The Head of Human Resources then detailed a few key outcomes from the Employee Survey to the Committee, noting that the average positive response rate to the 20 expectations within the Staff Charter was 72% which was an encouragingly high score and an improvement on previous year’s positive rating of 71%.  The Committee noted that there was a range of positive responses across all Departments and service areas and that in 2017 there had been more positive response ratings for 15 out of the 20 Staff Charter expectations than there had been in 2016.  The Head of Human Resources considered this response rate to be encouraging due to the volume of change and challenge across the Council during 2016/17 and the ongoing responses to budgetary and service demands.  The Committee were then apprised of the three highest survey responses to the Staff Charter expectations, the three expectation results which had shown the overall biggest improvement from the preceding 12 month period, and the three lowest level of positive Staff Charter expectations responses. 


The Head of Human Resources informed the Committee that staff engagement work over the last year had built from the outcomes of the initial Employee Survey results of 2016 and to a large extent had contributed to the improvements in engagement levels and positive outcomes in 2017.  9 out of the 15 Staff Charter related actions had been progressed over the last year and the officer presented an overview of each to the Committee, including:


  • the new appraisal programme, #ItsAboutMe
  • the Council’s new Management Delivery Framework
  • the Leadership Café
  • staff communication, particularly through the bi-monthly NewsNet bulletin
  • the new CMT/Staff Engagement Group
  • a bi-monthly employee recognition scheme
  • the first annual Employee Awards evening
  • an overhauled Employee Induction Programme
  • the new Employee Assistance Programme.


A more detailed progress update in relation to delivering the 15 Staff Charter commitments was set out in Appendix 2 attached to the report.


Finally, the Head of Human Resources set out the Staff Charter priorities for 2018:


  • The delivery of the Annual Employee Awards event in 2018 and its establishment as a sustainable feature of a wider approach to employee recognition.
  • The refinement of the employee communications strategy with a particular focus on digital communications and engagement with non-office based staff.
  • The implementation of the new Learning and Development strategy to improve the accessibility, reach and effectiveness of learning opportunities for all employees and with a greater emphasis on informal (as well as formal) learning opportunities.
  • The continuation of the management development 'community of learning' events to ensure the focus on the Staff Charter and to support and promote the related elements of the new Management Competency Framework.
  • The development of an organisational approach to creativity and innovation and in order to encourage the generation of ideas from all employees.
  • The continued review and streamlining of HR policies to reflect the principles of the Staff Charter and reinforce the necessary discretion and responsibility of managers.


A Member commended the Head of Human Resources on the work undertaken to receive such a good set of survey results.  He noted that there were changes up and down, however the consistency of the overall results was key and he anticipated that the increase in participation rates had led to some variations.  The Member did however comment that a 1 – 5 scale could only provide limited feedback from employees and he wished there was more consideration given to how the results from the Staff Survey were analysed as more could be done than just establishing the mean average of the responses.  Finally, the Member queried if the 2,461 figure for the number of staff that the Staff Survey was sent to, consisted solely of full time employees, with a further query on page 3 of Appendix 2, Staff Charter Commitment 9, “Standards for team meetings / contact will be developed for use across all areas”, being a Red status with the Member seeking an explanation on this point.  In response, the Head of Human Resources confirmed that the 2,461 figure for staff was a head count of employees and was not based on full time equivalent figures, adding that the staff were directly employed by the Council and as such this did not include figures for staff who were employed by schools.  The officer however stated that school employed staff would be looked at in future surveys.  With regard to the Staff Charter commitment to standardise team meetings for use across all areas, the officer stated that this issue had not been progressed so far but that he would look at this as a commitment to urgently address. 


All responses to the Staff Survey had been anonymous with care taken not to add any questions that could compromise staff anonymity, this had included both on-line and paper based responses.  A Member was concerned that the lowest level of response was in relation to the assertion “I am helped to understand my contribution to the wider Council” with a response rate of 50.5% and he was concerned that nearly half of staff felt that this was not the case.  The officer advised that this response level related only to those who ‘strongly agreed’ or agreed with the statement, therefore the overall positive response rate would be higher.  That said, the officer felt that there was more the Council could do to help staff understand their contribution to the wider organisation, for example, a new Induction course for staff was being established that would involve managers from across Directorates to ensure staff were familiar with more than just their own Departments and policies.  The Committee also sought more information on another area that a Member felt required improvement, noting that the lowest level of positive responses from service areas was in the Additional Learning Needs division of Learning and Skills with a response rate of 59%. The Member queried what insight could be learnt from this figure.  The Head of Human Resources commented that he only had a breakdown of responses from the main Directorates which was then disseminated to individual departments for specific analysis and indicated he would send via e-mail more detailed analyses on this service area for the Member.


A Member raised concerns regarding the timescales for presenting the results of the Staff Survey to Committees, stating that the work had been undertaken at the end of the previous year, with the member querying how much time staff had committed to this piece of work.  The Head of Human Resources stated that the survey closed on 24th November, 2017 and that there had been a delay after this date due to the receipt of hard copy responses.  The officer confirmed that analysis of the results took place quickly and was first presented to Cabinet on 19th March, 2018 however, he accepted that the delay to present the report had still been too long.  The officer assured the Committee that lessons learnt from the outcome analysis had already taken place with positive changes already being implemented to staff working. 


In relation to the Member’s second query regarding financial resources attributed to the work, the Head of Human Resources confirmed that the time of individual managers had not been specifically costed in terms of the work on staff engagement but the results were clearly evident in terms of the employee survey outcomes.  The officer felt it had been a valuable exercise which was part of a tranche of work that had led to more positive staff engagement, improved relations with trade unions, and lower rates of compulsory redundancies.


The Committee then discussed potential trends in the responses to the Staff Survey, including how to improve the effectiveness of staff communication with office and non-office based employees and variances in the positive response rates amongst the length of service and pay grade. Consideration could also be given to more analysis of the data to establish statistically significant trends, although concerns were raised that this might unduly increase workloads and costs and further affect reporting timescales.  The Chairman sought further information regarding the work being undertaken to improve the lowest three results from the staff survey and in response the Head of Human Resources commented that additional work was being done to improve the effectiveness of staff communication, including the first annual Employees Awards evening to help provide recognition to the hard work undertaken by staff. An Innovation and Ideas Group Project was also being developed by a Director with the aim to encourage the generation of ideas from all employees, with this work commencing in the next three months. 


The Committee discussed the frequency of undertaking a Staff Survey, and queried whether it could be carried out every two years instead of annually to help alleviate cost and time pressures.  In response, the Head of Human Resources stated that it was considered best practice to carry out surveys on a more frequent, rather than infrequent, basis.  Finally, a Member concluded by stating that he felt the results from the survey were extremely encouraging as was general work on staff engagement. He indicated that there was a danger in pursuing lines of enquiry that may not in themselves be fruitful. As such, he stated that the Committee should be focusing on the overall positive improvements and support the ongoing work following which it was subsequently




(1)       T H A T the results from the 2017 Employee Survey as set out in Appendix 1 attached to the report, and the updated Action Plan attached as Appendix 2 to the report, alongside related activity as part of the Council’s Staff Charter be noted.


(2)       T H A T Cabinet be informed of the concerns of the Corporate Performance and Resources Scrutiny Committee with regard to the time and cost of the work undertaken as outlined above.


Reasons for decisions


(1)       To note the current levels of employee engagement.


(2)       To apprise Cabinet was aware of the concerns of the Scrutiny Committee.”