Inside Canterbury District Health Board’s employee service transformation

How Canterbury District Health Board transformed its employee service experience

A keen focus on streamlining and improving the employee service experience has been critical to HR transformation and the successful delivery of a patient-centred health system for New Zealand’s Canterbury District Health Board, according to its head of HR.

The process of transforming the Canterbury Health System began in 2008, said Michael Frampton, chief people officer for the Canterbury District Health Board.

“Since then, we’ve been bringing to life a health system with people at the centre that aims not to waste their time, and today, the Canterbury Health System is probably recognised as being among the three or four most integrated health systems anywhere in the world,” he said.

“What’s really clear is that if we continue to put the patients at the centre of our health system, we have to put our own people at the heart of everything that we do,” explained Frampton, who recently spoke at ServiceNow’s Now Forum in Sydney.

“In the last twelve months, our HR team has been focused on taking all that we’ve learned about a patient-centred health system and, based on the feedback and priorities of 5,000 employees, applying it to putting our own people at the centre of everything we do.”

The Canterbury District Health Board plans, funds and delivers nearly NZ$2 billion in healthcare to more than one in ten New Zealanders and one in four New Zealanders needing complex medical, surgical, mental health, paediatric or maternity services.

With some 10,000 doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and supporting teams, the organisation is also one of the country’s largest employers.

In an employee survey, the top two requests were to “simplify bureaucratic processes that waste my time” and “give me technology that helps me do my job well, not stand in my way.”

“What was really clear was that we were going to need to refocus our work and our efforts in quite a different way”

HR processes were subsequently identified as one of the biggest disablers for getting things done, according to Frampton, who said feedback indicated people wanted six key things: “value and appreciate me”; “equip those who lead me”; “design the future with me”; “technology (enable me)”; “make it easy for me”; and “communicate with me”.

“With this feedback in mind, we designed the organisation’s first ever people-strategy, and it’s unashamedly an ambitious strategy that is not an action item list for HR – but moreso a series of commitments that we’ve made to the 10,000 people that work with us,” he said.

Looking at the employee service experience
This strategy has required a new and very different approach on the part of the Canterbury District Health Board’s HR function, which required rethinking what it was configured to deliver.

“So, what was really clear was that we were going to need to refocus our work and our efforts in quite a different way,” said Frampton, who explained that the focus was to make the lives of employees easier by simplifying query resolution, improving workflows, reducing transactional work, enhancing operational HR management and simplifying their bureaucratic HR processes.

“A lot of what we were doing was transactional in its focus, so to deliver the new work that people strategy demanded we needed to find a very different way of working as a team.

“In many ways, what this was about was finding a way to deliver the basics brilliantly and on the moments that really matter to people – but in a way that freed up capacity that enabled us to do a different kind of work that our people were challenging us to deliver,” said Frampton.

“From the outset, we were clear about what success needed to look like; I think it’s really important when we talk about success and when we explore this idea of value that we’re clear about answering the question: ‘for whom?’

“Often we do things because it makes it easier for us, and quite frankly this wasn’t about making it easier for us; in fact, some of what we’ve currently implemented has made it more difficult for some of my team.”

“It’s really important when we talk about success and when we explore this idea of value that we’re clear about answering the question: ‘for whom?'”

From a numbers perspective, some 40,000 tasks are rostered across the organisation per week, 1900 new hires are onboarded each year, 30,000-odd recruitment applications processed each year and up to 8000 employment records are changed each year.

Furthermore, the Canterbury District Health Board manages some 54 collective and mirrored employee agreements, has partnerships with 14 unions (representing 93 per cent of its workforce) and its HR team gets one change proposal every 10 days.

12 months prior, Frampton visited Sydney and saw what other organisations such as Qantas were doing to address these issues and was impressed with their use of ServiceNow’s Now Platform.

The Canterbury District Health Board subsequently adopted the platform to streamline and improve the employee service experience, and Frampton said a minimum viable product implementation was achieved within the short timeframe of 12 weeks.

Implementation and employee service benefits
Dubbed “Max” internally, the platform has already delivered a significant number of benefits which have transformed the employee service experience, according to Frampton, who explained that more than 20 services have already been added to the platform and one new service is being introduced each week.

In the first 43 weeks of use, almost 80 per cent of staff were using Max, which resolved 92,241 HR cases and delivered 1652 profile updates and 12,597 leave requests.

There has been an average saving of 10 minutes per form (totalling 49 hours saved per week) with 449 expense claims approved since service launch (with the fastest approval/ready for payment time coming in at 31 mins).

“We’ve developed a whole new set of rhythms and cadences about how the team is working”

Approval time for new hires is also 97 per cent faster (compared to up to a week or more approval time pre-Max) and there were 175 new hires in under 8 weeks – with hiring managers saving up to 2 hours in the process and onboarding taking two hours per individual (saving 46 hours per week).

“For new recruits, workflows are triggered for OHS and new computer facilities, because we know if and when someone is starting, so we shouldn’t be surprised and there should be a desk waiting for them along with a computer and phone,” he said.

Transforming the HR function
The 110+ HR team within the business has historically been focused on transactional work, but with the adoption of the Now Platform, 4000 fewer emails are received by HR each month, 10 email addresses for HR services have been reduced to one and 55 per cent of HR cases are resolved in 24 hours (or less).

“What’s most important about this is that we’ve developed a whole new set of rhythms and cadences about how the team is working,” said Frampton, who added that the platform has also assisted the HR team with reporting.

“It’s giving us empirically powerful data that helps in providing insights and informing the way we report,” he said.

“18 months ago, we had a bunch of HR reports with nothing more than a few health and safety graphs that went to a Board once a month, but now we are now delivering sophisticated people and workforce analytics reports – and there is more to come in this space.”

“It has been about being agile and taking fast, potentially small but nonetheless incremental steps forward to work with the people who actually do work”

Lessons in improving the employee service experience
Similarly, Frampton said building trust has been an important success element for HR, in terms of setting and meeting expectations of executives and what HR can deliver in improving the employee service experience.

“If you think this isn’t the kind of work that HR should be doing, then HR might not be the place for you,” he said.

“While that might be a pretty provocative thing to say, the reality is that we are only going to give people great experiences when we understand that we have to get alongside the business and help people who do the work to design and bring to life the future of work.”

Frampton also said it is important to deliver value early and make decisions around this quickly – and this needs to be underpinned by a strong commitment to really listen to what people are saying in the business.

“That’s part of a commitment to delivering a very different kind of value of HR, and this is about a level of comfort in taking a risk.

“It has been about being agile and taking fast, potentially small but nonetheless incremental steps forward to work with the people who actually do work – because nobody knows the work better than those we trust to deliver it.”

From a bigger picture perspective, Frampton observed that when the employee service experience improves and there is an optimal approach to work in the organisation, end outcomes around care are also better.

“For us, there is a direct line of sight between the experience we give our people and the care they deliver to the nearly 600,000 New Zealanders that rely on us every year,” he said.

For more information on ServiceNow’s Now Platform click here, or to download Michael Frampton’s presentation click here (requires registering for a ServiceNow Account).