The NHS workforce is scattered across its estate and their own homes and is likely to be so for the foreseeable future. It is in the eye of the biggest physical health crisis in modern times and as a result there is a very big, rapidly developing and mostly obscured mental health situation – for its workforce and of course their loved ones.

In the light of this reality, existing measures of performance, engagement and well-being are at best pointless, and in some cases dangerous.

Let’s look at the most ubiquitous measure of whether appraisals are delivering the performance and productivity improvements in the NHS today – Appraisal Compliance.

In very simple terms, this rate is generated using a manual entry field in a corporate system (either by the manager themselves entering a date against an employee or a workforce team doing likewise). In this way the NHS measures whether someone has had an appraisal and it expects very high compliance – as does its regulator the CQC.

Trusts with high levels of compliance (95%+) are in the clear – nothing to see here, please move along.

But can anyone see an issue with this?

Does it measure quality, or get to the heart of whether the conversation was constructive, meaningful or have a much needed focus on Health & Wellbeing? Is it even reliable in what it claims to measure?

As we emerge into the post Covid world, is this measure helpful? Was it ever relevant?

My own view is that on its own, it is a fundamentally problematic metric that attempts to put a simplistic, easy to understand number in place, that by its very existence encourages boards, regulators and management teams to swiftly move on from carefully examining the line manager / employee relationship. After all, we are at 95% compliance –  nothing to see here, please move along.

But if I could fatten a goose by constantly weighing it, why on earth would I go to the bother of feeding it, nurturing it and caring for it? What behaviour does this single metric encourage?

And, surely if it is something that the owner of a goose could swiftly identify, so it should be that an organisation of thousands of intelligent, caring, committed and highly educated humans doing their absolute best in the most difficult of circumstances deserve more than being “weighed”  en-masse, once a year.

There is of course another way. A braver, more nuanced but ultimately more rewarding way.

What if we empowered and engaged  people to have meaningful conversations with their manager, about work, their problems, worries and concerns – their well-being, goals, aspirations, and ambitions?

What if we made it easy for them to do this capitalising on our digital age – wherever they were, and linked all of this to a Trusts goals, values and ambitions?

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