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As the NHS proudly celebrates its 70th Birthday, it was announced this week that the NHS will launch an app that “puts patients in control of their own healthcare”. When it’s released at the end of this year, patients will be able to use it to order their own repeat prescriptions, consult symptom checkers and make appointments, all via their smartphones. Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, claims the app will help people become “expert patients” who experience better health outcomes.

 In his book, The Fifth Discipline, learning guru, Peter Senge, says that if something matters to someone, they’re more likely to act on it. And arguably, handing patients greater control over their own healthcare makes them more invested in it. So, why can’t the NHS - or indeed other organisations - empower their employees in the same way as their “customers”? Especially as in great organisations, leaders see their staff as their 1stline of customer.

For too many organisations, the default approach for getting employees to work towards common Values, Behaviours and Goals is to push the idea of an inspirational leader - a Pied Piper-style figure that everyone follows because they have such an enticing vision. Take Values, for example - it’s assumed that everyone knows what ‘brilliance’ is because it’s painted in 3ft letters on the office wall.

 When employees fail to embody those values or understand the bigger picture, we ‘manage’ their performance through traditional forms of performance measurement. We save the difficult conversation about their work for the employee reviews,which focuses on the past rather than the future, and ruins morale. This approach can be catastrophic for productivity and retention, and damages a positive performance management cycle, which ends up costing your organisation in the long run.

 Surely a better approach is to emulate the thinking around patients and put employees in control and to provide them with the data and tools – meaningful to them and their role – that they need to meet those Values, Behaviours and Goals? Often, employees fail to live up to managers’ expectations because they didn’t realise what was expected of them, they didn’t have a full understanding of the performance measurement benchmarks set for them, or where their day-to-day tasks fit into the bigger picture.

Technology can help to overcome this lack of visibility. Systems such as WorkPAL shift the dial from performance measurementor management, and static employee reviews,to performance empowerment. Employees have control and visibility of their behaviours and local objectives and know why achieving those contributes to the success of the organisation.

 And because a digital approach means they can do this anywhere, managers and senior leaders are constantly receiving data on how different parts of the organisation are performing, and can identify areas that need attention quickly so they can act. They have a real-time, helicopter view of who is engaged with meeting their goals and where there’s a need to prompt a conversation. They can also quickly celebrate good practice and deliver timely reward and recognition.


But how does this create a high-performance culture? Let’s go back to Senge. Employees finally understand that they are in control of their behaviours and objectives and how they meet them, so they’re more engaged with getting things right – they can positively engage in the performance management cycle. They know where they fit into the organisation, so there’s greater buy-in for its future success. And because these goal setting examples are both visible and interactive, they become part of the cultural DNA.


“Expert patients” is a fitting way to describe how the NHS wants to hand over power and control to its customer base. The challenge for leaders now is, how do we create “expert employees” who work together towards the senior leaders’ shared vision?




Topics: Management and HR

Ray Pendleton