Because of the current climate and increasing pressure on local authorities, the Business Intelligence team at Calderdale Council needed to consider how they could build an effective workforce that could deliver a good, reliable and creative service to their customers.
In order to do this, the performance team and business intelligence teams were restructured. Claire Broadbent now leads the new “Performance and Business Intelligence team” and talks about some of the key challenges she faced:
Better sharing of expertise
In the old structure, business intelligence officers worked on specific areas of analysis. This meant that individual team members had in-depth knowledge of the different directorates but these skills were not shared.
So Claire sought inspiration from other proven workforce models and the team adopted a systemic approach within the team called 'pod working' which brings together different council directorates around a particular theme. This allowed staff to specialise but would allow them to work flexibly to provide the best service.
Now, each pod is led by a business intelligence officer with specialist knowledge, but includes other business intelligence officers and key stakeholders from invested council teams.
Paul Swallow, Lead Business Intelligence Officer, leads the adult health and social care pod which includes representatives from communications and finance teams as well as front-line social workers.
Developing the team
Claire and her lead officers recognised that in order to recruit and retain a high quality and motivated workforce, they needed to provide on-going development opportunities.
Along with personal development plans, appraisals, reviews and meetings, team members are encouraged to take up a variety of learning and development opportunities like learning courses, recognised qualifications, peer support, shadowing, mentoring and knowledge sharing in team meetings.
The team are also able to attend ‘drop in’ surgeries with the IT team, training with in-house IT developers and watch data ownership and intelligence videos from the Workforce Development team.
Now, through working in a pod approach and providing numerous learning and development opportunities, officers can continue to have specialisms but can advance their skills and knowledge creating a motivated, multi-skilled, flexible team. Claire thinks one of the keys to the success was the team’s positive attitude in embracing these new opportunities.
Encouraging new talent into the team
The Council recognised that the level of skill and capability needed to carry out the role of a business intelligence officer meant positions were graded at a senior level and with no entry-level roles, recruiting proved very challenging.
One solution to their recruitment challenge was to ‘grow their own’ business intelligence officers. Calderdale had a council-wide initiative to recruit Apprentices. The team saw this as a great opportunity to share their knowledge and abilities with people interested in entering the field and to develop a capable and robust workforce from entry-level upwards. They recruited two apprentices on the Level 3 IT Application Specialist Advanced Apprenticeship.
The other was to restructure the Business Intelligence Officer job description creating 3 career grade levels; Supporting the team and being guided by colleagues; delivering complex projects with greater skills and autonomy and the final level involved leading projects, delegating and identifying areas of improvement.
A new process
The apprentice recruitment process focused on applicants’ attitude and aptitude, their technical skills and their response to change. As the recruitment drive was council-wide, the team had to ‘sell’ themselves to their potential apprentices; demonstrating personal and professional development opportunities and opportunities for career progression. They developed and implemented a flexible programme that enabled the apprentices to apply their learning directly to the workplace and to their specific roles. Paul also provided additional mentoring to support the apprentices.
The Apprenticeships were so successful in bringing new skills and ideas to the team and developing two budding new officers, that the team have now recruited another apprentice who will complete the Level 2 IT Application Specialist Intermediate Apprenticeship. Claire hopes that, with the team’s support, the new apprentice will flourish and continue her development within the team.
Engaging with others
The team wanted to encourage different directorates and teams to use data and information to find solutions to challenges, reduce costs and increase quality. They recognised the value of good working relationships between their team and others, and the role they could play in helping others to improve outcomes through data and analysis.
To demonstrate how using data and information could aid successful decision making and shape services, the team set about promoting their work and demonstrating how it can be applied. The team promote the use of data with different directorates through pod working practice which is improving the skills and confidence of different teams to access and use data in a 'self-serve' manner. They're also developing videos and webinars with the support of workforce development colleagues to promote data ownership and analysis.
Demonstrating how using data and information can support decision making and ultimately, improves quality.
It can also improve social outcomes and save money. Because they’ve shown how this can be done, this has encouraged other teams to place more value on data which, in turn, has led to an increase in data quality being inputted. As teams appreciate that the better the raw data, the more they can get out of it.
Due to an increased awareness of data, the team had to cope with an increased demand for information. Although the team welcomed this, they were unable to respond to these demands as fast as they’d like to given the timescales and pressures of other work.
By providing open data sources to council workers and the public, individuals had instant access to the data they needed which reduced the number of requests made and encouraged everyone – whether involved in analysis or not – to access and use data.
Calderdale MBC has a target to have 100 open data sources available on a new website platform by March 2016.
Now, the team are well on their way to meeting their target of having 100 open data sources available. Due to these projects being in their early stages, the full impact has not been seen, however feedback to date has been very positive.
By taking the time to fully understand the various challenges facing them. Claire and the team were able to find pragmatic yet creative solutions. Addressing both individual and operational issues has led to a more diverse, motivated and skilled team.
As well as up-skilling their own team, the new ways of working, along with open data and engagement activities, has meant that staff across the council are also being up-skilled in their understanding of data and how to use it to improve services and outcomes for citizens.