Kettering General Hospital’s ambition is to be the most digital hospital in England by 2023. Over the last 18 months or so, our digital journey has just been phenomenal, and we’ve introduced so many digital functions in order to make sure that our patients are at the forefront of everything and that they are having the best patient journey that they can possibly have. It’s okay for us to do that, but we need to support our staff, too, and make sure that they’re digitally capable and confident about using the various systems and that they know how to support one another.
The Digital Literacy Self-Assessment tool really helps us to say to our staff, yes, we’re on this digital journey for our patients, but we’re also investing in you. By introducing the tool, our staff are going to feel invested in and they’re going to have the skills in order to use digital mediums which will then allow us to make our patient journey the best that it possibly can be.
We went live with the tool on 18th January 2021 however that was just for my team – the Digital Training Team – and 4 or 5 other people within the digital portfolio. We wanted to keep it within the team at first so that we could really ‘KGH’ the guidance – so to speak – and make sure it was suitable for our end-users at Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
51 members of staff have completed the assessment up to this point, but in March 2021 we are hosting a Love Digital Week involving a drop-in session specifically dedicated to the Digital Literacy Self-Assessment Tool which we think will dramatically increase these numbers. Colleagues will be able to join me via an MS Teams link to go through the tool and all its functions in real-time.
I always want more people to try it… I want everyone to love it like we do! As more people join, I want to use our survey monkey tool to really engage with end-users and understand the benefits it’s bringing them after they’ve been using it for at least a month or so. We’d really love for the end-users to be able to come back and say it was really easy to use but we also want to give them the opportunity to suggest any improvements that they would like to see in the future. For now, though, I think it’s going really well and so does my team.
When we noticed that the guidance didn’t offer clear instruction around how to go back in and access the learning content at a later date, we approached DLS (Digital Learning Solutions) with this feedback and the small step was added into the guidance. If things that we suggest do get added, it always makes our staff feel appreciated and as though they are being listened to, so that’s always a good way to get people engaged. I’ve worked with some companies before that get a little bit defensive when you go back with some feedback but here, we’re all working together, and I like that.
Of course, not everyone will be as excited as we are and willing to jump on board immediately; some will need a little bit of pushing. There are groups of staff that we’ll have to take a slightly different approach with because they may be more apprehensive about – or resistant to – using the tool as perhaps because they’re afraid of using computers or laptops, for example. We acknowledge all of those staff who may not use digital on a day-to-day basis as part of their role, like porters, for example, but are still being increasingly exposed to digital as we move things like our menus and payslips online.
For those staff groups, we will need to get into the purpose-built classrooms that we’re lucky to have at Kettering and show them how easy it is – or how easy it will be once they’re comfortable with it – to navigate the tool and give them a space to explore the learning content that it offers.
Sometimes people will come into the classroom and just have a little bit of a rant about not being able to do it and you just listen to them and support them. Once they’ve logged on and seen that, actually, it’s quite straight forward, they then leave the classroom thinking that, actually, they can do this and go back to their work areas to share their experience with colleagues which encourages others to join in. I miss being able to help people in the classroom and witnessing that penny-drop moment when it finally clicks, so I can’t wait to get back to all of that.
At the moment, we’re putting communications out and letting people join at their own accord, but it will formally become part of our training prospectus as we push this going forward.
We’re working with HR and Learning Development teams to ensure that information about the tool is getting out to our new starters upon induction and to get managers talking about the digital development that the tool facilitates and encourage them to start ticking things off in appraisals.
My manager suggested the idea of a learning leader board. We know that, for lots of people, being in a competition really motivates them to do better. At Kettering, we’re thinking of running a HR vs. Digital contest to see who can get the most colleagues to complete the self-assessment, for example.
I’m also making a point of emphasising that colleagues don’t need to book out 2-3 hrs of continued learning for this, but they can go in and do it as little and often as they like. I think that’s a great selling point especially considering just how stretched everyone is under the pressure of the pandemic. It’s about making colleagues aware that they can register and do the assessment and then know that there is free learning there for them to access when they do have time.
I do, personally, want to introduce something more concrete and mandatory in order to facilitate ongoing learning, but if you want something to be mandatory, you need to provide dedicated time to allow colleagues to explore it. It’s all well and good introducing all of this but if someone says they don’t have time to engage with it, it’s going to fail.
I engage with development activities in my personal time but lots of people will want to do their 12-hour shifts, look after their patients, and not use their own time to explore personal development which is also fine – it’s an individual decision. Our doctors have protected time for their training, but we need our nurses, our healthcare assistants and our admins to have protected time also. We’ve started these conversations with the Director of Nursing, and we need to work with them to understand how we can build in protected time and managerial support in a way that acknowledges the individual approach to personal development.
So, protected time is a must. I think communications and engagement is also massive thing to consider when other organisations come to plan the launch of this tool. They’ll need to explore how they’ll communicate and promote the tool through every possible avenue in order to get it out there. We have a Trust newsletter that goes out every Friday and I know for a fact that admin people who, like me, are at a desk all the time checking their emails will look at it. But there are so many people, like our clinical colleagues, for example, who will miss out on that communication. Our group of 170 Digital Champions are an amazing asset in the face of this, and we push messages through them all the time to make sure that the communications get out to where we need them to. Don’t just try one communication route, you need to try and target every single person in the organisation, and you’ll need to use lots of different avenues in order to do that. We will have to ramp up our communications up in order to tap into the 5000-strong workforce we have here at Kettering and get as many of them on board as possible as we roll the tool out further.
The guidance is also key. Guidance must be clear and take users through the tool step-by-step. It may seem straight-forward to you, but of course it’s not going to be as simple for everyone. Organisations will need to use the guidance received from Health Education England and make it their own so that it is familiar and digestible for their colleagues before it’s shared widely.
And also, always know your product! That might seem obvious, but there have been times when I have approached the person leading the launch of a new product, and they have been unable to answer my question. Before your organisation rolls the tool out widely, make sure you know how it all works yourself because you need to be able to answer questions.
It’s alright launching it, but are you going to be there to troubleshoot the questions that are coming in or do you perhaps need a super-user in a certain area to take on this role? At Kettering, the Digital Training Team have taken on this role and colleagues know that they can approach us with anything related to the tool whether that’s a question or just to let us know how they’re getting on with it.
It's too early to provide any individual feedback from some of the end-users, but I would hope that this tool will help staff feel that we’re invested in helping them be the best that they can be and empower them to feel confident and competent to do their job to very best of their ability.
It's all about investing in our staff on their digital journey. We’re aspiring to be the most digital trust by 2023, but we need to invest in our staff in order to achieve that and this tool will be huge in terms of allowing us to do that. I’ve been a part of some of the conversations around what’s next for the tool so, while I’m so glad this tool has allowed us to invest in our staff now, there’s so much more to come that I’m really excited about, and I know the benefits will only get better as we move forward with it.