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How NHS Digital Retains Staff & Puts Wellbeing First with Heads of Internal Comms, Helen Hartley & Penny Richards

Series 2 - Episode 3

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Series 2, Episode 3 – NHS Digital

Work Happy Podcast: S2 – Episode 3

It’s often been said that two heads are better than one – so consider the collaboration between Penny Richards & Helen Hartley in their joint role as Head of Internal Communications at NHS Digital as an exhibition of the key role that effective communication plays in any organisation.

Naturally for NHS Digital, wellbeing is a priority. In this episode of Work Happy, we discover how Helen and Penny worked with colleagues across their organisation to support colleague wellbeing during the pandemic, how they are developing their approach to measuring engagement, and how they are ensuring their future comms strategy works alongside an industry wide focus on talent retention.

This episode covers

  • NHS Digital’s unique challenges with attracting and retaining talent
  • Measuring engagement and persona analysis
  • Internal comms’ involvement in shaping work and wellbeing within a hybrid model
  • Maintaining boundaries between work and personal time, particularly considering Penny & Helen’s job-share setup
  • What it means to Work Happy at NHS Digital


What is Work Happy

“Work Happy on a very basic level is being able to do your job, to connect to each other, to have the tools & technologies to do your work, but also to maintain your wellbeing and knowing that the organisation cares about you, is looking out for you, understands the stresses & strains, and takes steps to address those.”
[6:00 – Penny Richards]

Keeping in touch

“We’re probably speaking as much, if not more than before. Sometimes at the beginning or end of the day, we might be both working on something different, but we’ll have a Teams call open, because if something comes up we’ll have a quick conversation about it just to get ideas and spark thoughts, and help each other in the creation of whatever we’re doing.”
[10:35 – Penny Richards]

Saving time

“We’ve never been the kind where doors close on the day we hand over and that’s it – we’re always contactable. But it’s definitely given us more opportunity to just jump on and have a quick call about something when we’ve needed to. It can save you hours of time rather than digging around emails and handover documents, just to have a five minute conversation if something pops up.”
[13:35 – Helen Hartley]

Seat at the table

“It was clear right from the beginning of the pandemic that internal communications were going to be absolutely crucial to the response. I’ve never felt for a second that that was overlooked. I think we’ve had a seat at the table right from the off, and hopefully it’s paid dividends. I think the communications we’ve co-produced with others have had a real impact.”
[20:30 – Penny Richards]

Pride and Celebration

“Part of the content around pride and celebration has been members of our team interviewing colleagues who’ve done fantastic things, recording that via a Teams call, and then making it available to the whole organisation. So it’s not just the live aspects of Teams, it’s also using it as a way to record excellent content as well.”
[26:00 – Penny Richards]

Talent Retention

“We might be less at risk of talent retention and attraction issues, but we can’t ever be complacent about that. We are incredibly privileged to have the people working with us who do such amazing work, and we want to make sure that they feel NHS Digital is the right place for them to work. There is a lot of work going on in that space at the moment within the organisation.”
[33:25 – Penny Richards]

Finding the hybrid balance

“We need to switch from where we were all in the office, then all at home, and work out that hybrid medium. I think that’s a challenge from a channels perspective. It’s a challenge from a wellbeing perspective, and so many different elements of comms and people-support are needed in there.”
[41:55 – Helen Hartley]

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