As Black History Month comes to a close for another year, I have again been reminded of the importance of listening to each other. By taking time, we can learn so much about our colleagues, where they have come from, the struggles they have had and still face, what motivates them and what they find challenging.
If we listen, we can all better adapt how we interact with each other and ensure that we all play our part in making work a life-enhancing experience for ourselves and for our colleagues.
As a trilingual child, I often translated for neighbours and friends as they tried to explain to others how they felt and what they needed when speaking to public servants. This experience, in part, led me to a long and enjoyable career in the civil service. I am totally driven - in a quiet, introverted (but trying to be more extraverted) way - to make people’s lives better. But it all starts with listening, understanding and correctly interpreting people’s experiences.
For me, as a proud second-generation migrant from India, this ‘listening’ approach is at the heart of how I am leading the Service Delivery strand of our recently refreshed Shared Services Strategy to truly transform shared services within the government.
In Government Shared Services we have sought to roll out many new and additional ways of listening to and observing our colleagues while they use the shared services products. And yes, at times, interpreting and translating their experiences. That way we can continue to be even more inclusive and responsive to our colleagues’ needs as we create modern and cost-effective shared services.
For example, working with our private sector partners and civil service colleagues, we are currently introducing a new End User Satisfaction Survey for the 225,000 civil servants on the SSCL shared services platform - a partnership which has just been extended to 2023.
The approach is simple and similar to what one might experience after having done some ordering, shopping or accessing a service online. Our colleagues will get a short email after they have used the service - completed (or not!) - asking them for feedback on their experience.
Not only will this give us a rich dataset to guide the evolution of shared services, it also gives colleagues a direct voice in the improvement programme. And, for the first time, the UK government will have robust shared services benchmark data, using industry-standard survey methodology used throughout the private sector.
So we will be able to directly compare the impact of end-user experience improvements across government, and also track continuous improvement across the shared services industry.
Moreover, we will be completely transparent and publish our satisfaction scores to drive up performance and accountability - and you will be able to see our progress too.
As ever, it all comes back to having a desire to listen, adapt and evolve - not based on your own experience but seeking to understand and translate the experience of others into positive improvements.
Every day my focus is the same. For me, it is all about helping public servants on the front line. If I can give them back some time in their day or significantly reduce their frustration with back-office systems and processes, I know they can spend that time changing someone’s world for the better. How do I know this? Because I have worked on the front line of public services too - and, in a way, I still feel as though I do.