The Royal Society of Medicine is an independent, apolitical organisation, founded over 200 years ago. We are one of the largest providers of continuing medical education in the UK. We provide accredited courses for continuing professional development, which is so vital in allowing doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons and other healthcare professionals their continuing freedom to practice.
What was the need?
The Academic department is responsible for the Society’s academic programme. Thirty staff (including 20 professional Events Co-ordinators, sponsorship, Assistant Events Co-ordinators and Administrators) provide support for the 400+ meetings attended by c.30,000 delegates per year. We are responsible for the planning and running of all of these meetings, which includes marketing, registering delegates on-line and by post and liaising with speakers etc.
The department underwent a significant re-structure early in 2011, which resulted in some structural change with changes to posts, roles and pay scales but more fundamentally it was designed to be the first step in defining and changing the culture of the department as well as seeking to reduce turnover of staff. Ali was engaged in summer 2011 to deliver the Insights training to the whole department and following this, the whole department undertook the Self-Directing Professional programme and the Managers/senior Event Co-ordinators continued with the Leadership programme over the next 18 months or so.
What other solutions were considered?
Prior to 2011, the department had never undergone whole department training unless related to a specific job need, for example new IT system. Initial discussions were held with other training providers to look at designing a programme but these were not pursued.
What was the reason for choosing us?
The Insights session was very well run and received by the department and really brought together a range of individuals in the department. This generated a lot of interest and excitement throughout the department and we were keen to build on this to help develop the culture we wanted to promote in the department. Discussions with Ali about the SDP programme seemed to offer exactly what we needed and examples of organizations with similar issues who had responded well to this programme struck a chord with me.
What has changed/improved since you did this?
It is difficult for us to quantify the impact in any measurable way. For most individuals, the programme has really helped develop them both personally and professionally and a number of individuals who have subsequently been promoted within the department, have been able to demonstrate their learning in practice. Some individuals who found it less easy to respond have left the RSM. For others, it was the first chapter in their personal development journey and I don’t doubt that they will have gained personally from the programme and working with their colleagues in this way. The department is predominantly made up of young female graduates and I think people necessarily responded to the programme in different ways depending on their workplace experience and their personal maturity at the time. Giving people the opportunity for follow up 1:1s with Ali was an important component in this programme for us.
It has certainly enabled the management team to have the confidence (and skills) to more clearly set out the vision for the department and the expectations of staff and the department – in terms of performance but also of expressions of leadership style and culture. We have built on a number of aspects and have recently run some “back to basics” sessions with staff who have been empowered to define how things could/should work/standards of performance etc. We have incorporated aspects of the programme in to our annual appraisal system in order to ensure that the learning and development is kept live. There is more to do but it has been essential underpinning for the management team.
It is fair to say that in the past 2/2.5 years, our turnover appears to have stablised. We now have a department predominantly made up of new (recruited since 2011) staff and staff seem far more positive about working at the RSM and respond better to the challenges they face.
What would your advice be to an organisation in a similar position?
Be brave! It takes time and courage to recognise that things perhaps need to change/be developed and this is all the more difficult if you have been working in the area for some time. I would also say don’t underestimate the time that it takes – the preparation time, time for training and follow-up. It requires a high level of reflection (individual and organizational) and this can be quite difficult at times. There needs to be buy-in from the senior/management team as well as some key opinion formers in the team/department. Organisations also have to remember that investment in staff development rather than solely on the job training is a worthwhile and necessary investment!