Wigan Council

Reservist Model & Workforce Transformation

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

In March 2020 , upon declaring an emergency situation due to Covid-19, our civil contingency plans swiftly kicked in and we needed to establish a framework very quickly for delivering, through our workforce, a swift response to the pandemic ensuring that we were able to provide a humanitarian response to our local communities as well as to ensure that critical services could still be delivered to the most vulnerable residents.

Our key aims and objectives were to:
– Identify priority roles/functions – to ensure provision of critical services, and to support our most vulnerable residents
– To identify workforce that could be redeployed to areas of need – this included being able to stand up/stand down services as required to release capacity or to support new Covid specific services as required
– To have a thorough understanding of data – ensuring that senior managers were in an informed position when making decisions regarding our workforce response
– To ensure staff welfare – making sure that we were keeping our workforce safe, looking after their wellbeing, and taking actions to mitigate risk to those working on the front line
– To provide advice to staff/managers in relation to those who were in vulnerable groups
– To ensure we met our duty of care to our workforce in respect of ensuring their health and safety at work
– To enable us to achieve this, we had to navigate our way through a constantly changing landscape, engaging with our staff throughout, capturing and analysing new data sets, information, and intelligence to inform decision making, and transforming the way we work and how our workforce is deployed.

What are the key achievements?

– We launched a planned and co-ordinated approach, which comprised the capture of key workforce data e.g., availability for deployment, skills and experience, preferences for deployment, which enabled us to match our available resource with the need.
– We were able to provide humanitarian support and delivery of critical services to our most vulnerable residents, achieved through the deployment of over 900 plus of our own staff and staff from our partner organisations.
– We aligned dedicated HR & OD Business Partners to each of our directorates supporting the matching process.
– We provided a dashboard of key workforce data which informed our senior managers of factors affecting decision making, from numbers of staff self-isolating or diagnosed with Covid within our services, emerging trends/or issues, to the deployment needs and our progress ensuring we could meet the need. Thus helping to drive forward our priority to become a data driven organisation.
– We established squads of workforce ‘Reservists’ who were trained and ready to be mobilised depending upon need within each of the critical services.
– We set up mechanisms for reverse deployment, and for the stepping down of deployment in a controlled and measured way.
– We produced a comprehensive internal communications campaign which was key to our employee engagement plan during this time.
– We launched a ‘We Need You/Do Your Bit’ campaign, to encourage staff to step forward to support our efforts, or to ‘Be a Part of History’ to support the mass vaccination programme.
– We developed a ‘Spread the Word’ campaign to encourage our workforce to share messages regarding recruitment opportunities across the organisation.
– We undertook a staff survey to get feedback from all our staff and to learn from our experiences.
– We provided toolkits and guidance for managers to enable them to have asset-based conversations with staff who had not responded to our ‘We Need You’ and ‘Do your Bit’ campaigns.
– We set up a mechanism to ensure regular engagement with Trade Unions, and also gave opportunities for them to get involved in deployment.
– We worked collaboratively with the wider system e.g., the Clinical Commissioning Group, hospital and wider health and social care partners, on our approach to the deployment of staff.
– We worked with other internal Cells around communications, education and digital to ensure our direct and wider workforce, customers and partners were fully informed.
– We supported partner organisations in placing staff on furlough leave – and provided funding to enable staff to be removed from furlough/be placed on flexible furlough to undertaken secondments to the Council to assist us in our emergency response.

Our recovery is now very much being shaped by the feedback that we received from our staff during our engagement with them during the pandemic, our direct links of our chief executive and leader with our workforce throughout, our staff survey, employee voice channels and case studies along with lessons learned, so that we can build on these even further for the future to ensure we continue to build on this highly motivated and committed workforce and deliver the best outcomes for our
workforce, residents and communities.

Some of our achievements can be seen in the statistics below:
Our #BeKind Approach – The following key statistics help evidence some of the ways in which our staff reservist deployment during the pandemic supported our local communities:

– 12,253 residents supported during the Covid-19 pandemic.
– We deployed over 900 staff to support our pandemic response.
– Over 300 individuals have been accommodated and supported through our provision at the Mercure Hotel for those that were homeless or rough sleeping.
– 36,807 food parcels packed and delivered with support from our staff reservists and third sector parties. Staff Survey Results – Deployment
– 78% of staff deployed said it was a positive/very positive experience
– 16% of staff deployed said the experience made them think about a different career.
“It has made me look at things differently, look at people differently and see the value in everyone…”
“I’ve changed as a person; people have commented on It. I’m a lot more patient and have more empathy…..I feel I was made for this”
“It’s made me realise you can create a new team from scratch …..there was real attitude of let’s do something – because we can”

How innovative is your initiative?

What we have achieved through the pandemic so far is phenomenal, we are immensely proud of this, although we do recognise that many other local authorities have had to embark on similar challenges. In particular however, there were some key innovations that we believe really set our approach apart, including:

– the ways in which we were quickly able to capture new data sets linked to workforce availability, skills and experience and preferences for deployment alongside data and intelligence linked to service demand and need against which we could then match resource. This is data that was not held prior to the pandemic and provided a common understanding of the staffing situation of the council. This information was visualised using tools that were ‘whizzy’ at the back end, but easy to digest by those leading our Covid response. We worked collaboratively to interpret and understand the story that the data was telling us, adapted data capture accordingly and agreed areas of focus for ongoing monitoring.
– How, through effective staff engagement, we were able to encourage and support staff to step forward to support our deployment response, undertaking activities that they would never be required to do in their day-to-day roles.
– How, we managed to continue to deliver all of our critical services, whilst our workforce itself was hit by high levels of Covid infection and self-isolation, whilst continuing to receive positive feedback from the resident survey regarding the service they received.
– How we worked with partner organisations to understand their needs, working across organisational boundaries to mutually support the wider system.
– How we have used the data and feedback to shape our vision for the future.

What makes Wigan unique, is that we aren’t stopping there. We have now developed a vision for a ‘Future Reservist Model, which we believe will revolutionise our civil contingencies and emergency response and will enable us to build the resilience and flexibility within our workforce needed to ensure that we are able to respond to any surges in demand and/or a whole range of emergencies or incidents that face us with complete confidence that we have a workforce equipped to be mobilised
to respond in order to meet the future needs of our communities. This vision and model have been approved by our senior management team and we are due to engage with our workforce in Spring/Summer 2022 with a view to implementing the model and making it become a reality. This will fundamentally change and shape our local government workforce of the future and provide an offer like no other to support our civil contingencies emergency response, but more importantly utilise the skills of our workforce beyond their job role, provide a new employment and development package and make Wigan unique in its offer in local government.

What are the key learning points?

The infrastructure that we set up to transform our workforce as part of our Covid-19 response has produced both expected and unexpected benefits. The unexpected benefits being the impact this experience had on those staff who were deployed, who gained greater job satisfaction, developed new skills and experience, some of which who still wish to pursue new career opportunities as a result. This has given us a new vision of how we can support the development of our staff for the future, providing new opportunities to get to know our neighbourhoods and the place(s) within which we operate, to work differently with partner organisations across the system and to reach their full potential.

In addition, we have seen how this approach can revolutionise our approach to civil contingencies and emergency response for the future, enabling us to build a more resilient and flexible workforce with trained reservists ready to be mobilised to meet any future need. Whilst we do not anticipate facing a challenge of the scale of Covid-19, we can clearly see how this approach will enable us to respond to other incidents at a more local level where we see pressure on any of our statutory or critical services. Key to the success of our approach has most certainly been the quality of our data and intelligence. We are now looking at ways to develop our workforce data dashboards for the future, recognising that Covid is essentially now part of our business as usual, and that we have to continue to monitor the continuing impact on our workforce for the foreseeable future.

It is also shaping our thinking on the use of data to inform wider workforce and organisational development transformations. From a wider perspective, projects such as this have demonstrated the value and impact that the use of intelligence can make to informing decision making; enabling efficient use of resources; targeting our approach to service delivery and supporting the achievement of organisational priorities. The Covid pandemic has been a watershed moment for the use of data and intelligence; projects like these are inspiring a culture of inquisitiveness and enquiry; supporting our ambition to become a truly data-led organisation. It has shaped our thinking behind our new Data Strategy, which has a key focus on supporting our wider workforce to be confident in the use and interpretation of data.

COVID-19 Response & Recovery Recognition Award

Over the course of the pandemic, we have to date deployed over 900 plus of our own staff and staff from our partner organisations via our Reservist Model, which has enabled us to maintain those critical services, alongside supporting the most vulnerable in our community. For example, in just the first 10 months of the pandemic we:
– Distributed 15,202 business grants totaling over £71m (1 April – 2 December 2020)
– £3.7m of funding awarded to 23,618 economically vulnerable households
– 7,285 children received School Uniform Grant totalling £182,125 (4,280 households)
– Distributed over 1,000 devices to vulnerable children, hospitals, and care homes to help residents get on-line.
– Our Social Care teams continued to provide assessment, care, and support for the most vulnerable (Adults Social Care Supported over 5,200 residents during the first lockdown)
–  Adult Social Care provided over 14,000 items of equipment at 2,500 adaptations to maintain people’s independence and ensure they can remain safe and well at home.
– Frontline waste services were maintained throughout the pandemic. This equated to 200,000 bins a week despite an increase in 34% of household waste and our waste collection team being depleted by more than 40% during some weeks.
– 35,868 Food parcels packed and delivered with support of third sector partners
When we asked our residents what their view of Wigan Council’s response to the pandemic was in terms of our deployment of staff, 88% of residents gave a positive response, and for those who contacted us through our contact centre for support to self-isolate, to access welfare etc, 94% said they were happy with the support provided. In terms of changes to our established ways of working, we saw staff working more flexibly than ever undertaking different roles and working across directorates and services and across organisational boundaries in order to support the wider system.

The Reservist Model initiative gave our workforce the opportunity to develop new skills, knowledge, and experience, to access training, development, and support to give them the confidence to try something new and/or different, or to use the assets we already had within our workforce that staff hadn’t needed to utilise within their existing roles. We saw staff embracing the Be Wigan Behaviours, demonstrating their desire to ‘give something back’ to the communities we serve and really wanting to be a part of our ‘We Need You/Do Your Bit’ campaigns, which encouraged staff to step forward to support our efforts, or to ‘Be a Part of History’ to support the mass vaccination programme. We also saw staff helping us to recruit staff into the organisation through our ‘Spread the Word’ campaign which encouraged our workforce to share messages regarding recruitment opportunities across the organisation. The data and intelligence gathered from both the staff and residents covid surveys and through our many case studies has evidenced not only the success of our Reservist Model but has also provided us with a vision for a future Reservist Model that will enable us to build back better.

This vision will enable us as an organisation to build a more flexible and resilient workforce that can respond to unanticipated demands that we face, whether as a result of any other form of emergency and/or incident, or surges in demands for specific critical or statutory services. In addition, we have identified how this model can support the development of our workforce, enabling staff to learn more about the services that we provide and the neighbourhoods that we serve, develop new skills, and to realise their own potential and/or reach their career aspirations. We are aiming to implement the model in Spring/Summer 2022.

Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the instrumental role that data and intelligence can play in guiding the delivery of public services. We realise now more than ever the value of our data and intelligence as a strategic asset that we need to harness – informing decision making; improving business processes, helping us to manage our demands, supporting innovation and identifying opportunities to enhance outcomes for local people. We are taking this learning forward with and have ambitions to inspire new thinking and underpin decision making by unlocking the power of intelligence and analysis; generating excitement across our organisation about the value of data; and, maximising our insights to improve outcomes for local residents achieved through a culture shift, enabling us to become a data and intelligence led organisation.