Monthly Archives: July 2014

Would a ‘banking oath’ help reduce reckless behaviour in banks?

This week Lloyds Banking Group was fined £218m for “serious misconduct” over Libor interest rate rigging, by the UK-based Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and a US-based trading commission.

Lloyds is the third bank to be fined over Libor-rigging, after both Barclays and RBS have already settled claims, but Lloyds have also been accused of abusing a government-backed Special Liquidity Scheme, a new low for Lloyds and the beleaguered banking sector.

The never-ending scandals in the sector highlight the ‘toxic’ culture that exists in many banks and it’s something that desperately needs to change. Banks must address reputational and People Risk, and to truly change banking culture for good. To do this they need to drive behaviour change and strive for a better understanding of their people.

The behaviour of many people within these huge financial institutions has remained unchecked for decades and we continue to see the results of negative and damaging behaviour. Banks need to restore the public’s trust in the sector but to do this they need to drive cultural change and encourage the right kind of behaviours.

Earlier this week, think tank ResPublica, called for an oath for bankers to “fulfil their proper moral and economic purpose,” suggesting this could raise accountability and standards in banking and help restore public trust. They said the British Bankers’ Association, Building Societies Association and the new Banking Standards Review Council should adopt the oath for their members.

Last year several recommendations were put forward in the UK’s Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards report into the culture and failure of the UK’s banking sector ‘Changing Banking for Good’.These included making it easier to send top bankers to jail for “reckless misconduct” and a wholesale shake-up of the current approval regime for bankers after finding just 156,000 individuals on the current register – which would allow regulators to take action against them..

British Bankers Association executive director for financial policy and operations, Paul Chisnall, said: “Restoring trust and confidence is the banking industry’s number one priority. But meaningful cultural change in an industry as complex and diverse as banking takes time.”

Whilst the oath may be a ‘nice to have’ does it really address the issue of how to change banking culture for good? Would those responsible for rogue behaviour have thought twice if at the start of their career they had sworn an oath? Probably not.  Banks need to stamp out the culture of greed, excessive risk taking and bad decision making and the only way to do this is through them having a better understanding of their employees’ behaviour.

They also need procedures that regularly assess employees at every stage of their career, so they know how competent their people are and their likely behaviour in any given work scenario.

Only by addressing human behaviour will banks be able to truly regain the public’s trust and restore their damaged reputation.

What do you think about the proposed banking oath? Do you think this would help restore public confidence in the sector? Please comment and share via your social media networks using the hashtag #bankingculture #reputationalrisk

 

 

Developing a learning culture in the NHS is a must for reducing patient safety risks

24-Jul-2014 – Mary Clarke, CEO, Cognisco discusses safety issues in the NHS and why developing a learning culture and having a better understanding of staff competency and behaviour will be key to improving patient safety.

In June, the Department of Health launched a new web site called ‘How Safe is my Hospital’ that will allow people to compare hospitals in England based on a number of safety indicators, including ward staffing levels, incident reporting levels, pressure ulcers, falls and how the hospital is complying with patient safety alerts.

This web site is a key part of Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt’s ‘Sign up to Safety’ campaign to improve patient safety and crack down on preventable deaths, which aims to save up to 6,000 lives over the next three years. The campaign was planned following a review by the Department of Health, which found that 29 out of 141 NHS trusts could be under-reporting incidents to the National Reporting and Learning System. Hunt has said: “It is my clear ambition that the NHS should become the safest healthcare system anywhere in the world. I want the tragic events of Mid Staffs to become a turning point in the creation of a more open, compassionate and transparent culture within the NHS.”

This is obviously a step in the right direction for improving patient care after years of neglect, negligence and too many unnecessary deaths in some parts of the NHS. However, whilst reporting on safety levels in hospitals is a good way for hospital trust to become more accountable, it’s more important to encourage a culture of learning across the whole of the NHS.

 

 

Interestingly, 75% of the UK NHS is currently using a reporting system called Datix that has been a pioneer in the field of patient safety since 1986; however, mistakes are still happening. Whilst most of the NHS is using this system to conduct their incident reporting, different Trusts have different criteria for reporting incidents, varying views on what should be reported and as such, there is a real lack of consistency.

The key to truly improving patient care and safety across the NHS is to understand and address the human factors that impact patient care most. To do this, organisations need more insight just about the competence of their medical teams but also how every individual behaves at work and the likely decisions they will make doing their jobs. According to Martin Bromiley, the founder and director of the Clinical Human Factors Group[i], the NHS is starting to see the value of addressing “human factors” to improve safety but progress is not happening quickly enough. Cognisco is a keen supporter of the Clinical Human Factors Group and recently attended a workshop session and debate run by Martin to identify how the human factors agenda can be accelerated.

Martin set up the Clinical Human Factors Group following the death of his wife, when the inquest revealed a series of factors termed as “human factors” or failings in “non-technical skills” were responsible, despite the medical team having many years of experience between them.

 

Although healthcare professionals generally don’t set out to harm patients, they are all human beings. People can become complacent in their jobs or not feel confident in certain aspects of their role or take short cuts because of various pressures – all of these factors can translate into risky behaviour. Whereas in other industry’s this may not cause any harm, in health care this kind of behaviour is high risk.

Only last month three babies died from blood poisoning after being given a contaminated batch of liquid food which was two days out of date. This could have been a simple human error; however, because it was a hospital dealing with vulnerable patients it shouldn’t have happened. All NHS professionals need to be regularly assessed to identify risky behaviours that may have become normalised, and tailored training implemented should it be needed. This needs to be done regularly across the whole of the NHS to create a culture of learning which helps counteract the risks associated human behaviour. Only by tacking human behaviour can the NHS improve its patient safety record.

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Customer Service Excellence? What’s (really) holding you back?

What can you do when despite all the training you can throw at it, all the knowledge management you can muster and all the away-days, intranet sites and e-Learning investments you’ve made, your customer service staff still makes errors in the way they deal with customer queries or complaints?

Operating with sophisticated products, services and processes, in a regulated and highly competitive environment is a constant challenge for any organisation tasked with delivering consistently excellent customer service. Couple that with pressure coming in the form of consumer comparison sites and league tables, a media all too keen to find and expose any possible chink in your armour and an ever vigilant and increasingly litigious regulator; it’s easy to understand why so many well-known and high profile organisations are placing more emphasis on getting the basics right.

The problem is that the solution isn’t immediately obvious. After all, most organisations of stature already have comprehensive Learning and Development tools and processes, in house training teams and their own Knowledge Management Facility too.

So what is it specifically that’s not working and what do you need to do to fix it?

In our experience, the first symptoms the business experience may well appear as a lower than expected score on Customer Satisfaction Surveys, increased Call Backs to the Contact Centre, increased Customer Complaints or a longer than average time to resolve a customer query.

This is often despite satisfactory or even good results on tests, training courses and questionnaires and despite there already being comprehensive learning and support materials available via an internal Knowledge Management system.

The standard response of more training and one to one coaching is unlikely to yield any real improvement either and this is often the cause of significant frustration for the business and indeed the Knowledge and Learning and Development professionals too.

 

So what’s the root cause?

1. Your people don’t truly understand what you’ve “told” them.

Are you measuring the RIGHT thing?

Typically one root cause is that giving people knowledge does not mean that they truly understand how, when and why they should use it. After all, the typical multiple choice questionnaire handed out at the end of a training course, can only really measure the ability to select the right answer from a list of possible answers more often than not.  It does not and cannot identify if a person truly understands in what specific circumstance they should apply their new knowledge. It does not and cannot allow for “grey” areas where there is room for doubt or ambiguity and therefore it cannot truly reflect the typical environment, pressures and dialogues within which we expect people to use the knowledge we have imparted. The typical response is to provide more training.

2. Your People are 100% confident they do know and they do understand – when in fact they actually don’t.

Confident incompetence presents the greatest risk.

This root cause is insidious and is often the most damaging simply because it’s very hard to uncover. It’s further compounded by the fact that in the main most of your people will come to work believing they’re doing a great job. They will believe wholeheartedly that the advice or response they’ve given to a customer query is the right one and they will be happy and confident that they’ve followed the correct company process and procedure along the way.

So, when you ask people to attend a training or refresher course on something they believe they already know and understand well, the evidence suggests that they approach the course with the wrong motivation; a desire and intent to simply “get through it and tick the boxes”, rather than with a genuine interest or agenda for re-examining the subject and challenging their own understanding and experiences.

While they may well “pass the course” they’ve done so by rote, chance or knowing the questions or typical examples that are likely to arise in advance.

The net result is that “more training” often doesn’t equate to fewer errors, complaints or delays in issue resolution.

 

3. The tools and resources you provide are not used to best advantage

How can you get more value from your existing resources?

Most organisations make significant investment in Learning and Development Systems, tools, materials and expertise and many have made an even greater investment in organising, maintaining and syndicating industry and “Corporate Knowledge” via a central Knowledge Management System.

The professionals that plan, build and develop the tools and materials are of course expert in their field, they know how to build a logical hierarchy of information and how to present it in a highly structured format. However, it is often forgotten that the intended user is not an expert. They will approach the resources with a very specific question or need and can find it intimidating at best and impossible at worst to know where to start to find the answer they’re searching for quickly and easily. And so, they tend to use the tools and resources provided infrequently (if at all) and that further compounds their lack of familiarity.

The information provided via the Intranet or Knowledge Management solution may be excellent but if the people it’s designed to help, find it difficult, cumbersome, time consuming or intimidating to find, they simply won’t use it all.

 

Uncovering your root-causes

We suggest you start by looking not at what your people should know but rather identifying specifically what it is they  don’t understand. So for example, to use a recent Retail Banking example,  they may know it takes three days for a cheque to clear (that is what the training states and is correct) however the practical application of the understanding, is that if those three days fall over a weekend or bank holiday it may take five or six days. It is the application of the understanding that is key to providing accurate advice and therefore great customer service; and if you can measure that you can identify what the risk areas and root causes are for you.

Once you can see where the gaps in understanding are, you can design specific interventions and provide appropriate learning media (see root cause 3) and resources to address it.

Find out how we achieved this with existing clients:  Customer Service Excellence in a regulated environment

 

Download your PDF version here: Customer Service Excellence whats (really) holding you back

How can safety on Britain’s railways really be improved?

Rail safety may be the safest land transport in the UK, however, the latest Annual Safety Performance report 2013/14 from the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) reveals that a record number of the public were killed on Britain’s railways last year and 293 trains went through red lights and signals.

The report says 300 people were killed, either by taking their own lives or from accessing parts they were not supposed to, and there were 293 Signals Passed at Danger last year, 43 more than the year before. Whilst suicides are impossible for rail companies to safeguard against, errors made by front line staff shouldn’t be happening.

The risks involved in terms of a train going through a red light are all too clear.  These incidents could cause crashes and derailments, which could lead to serious injuries and even deaths. The new boss of Network Rail, Mark Carne mentioned he wanted to make the network safer in his job interview and his predecessor, Sir David Higgins, also regularly said that safety came first in everything he did on the network.

But what exactly can be done to improve rail safety? Over the past ten years investigations into major rail accidents have highlighted human performance as a contributory factor. Misunderstanding or employee error can result in safety breaches that cause injury and death. Driving through a red light is likely to be a result of human error, and the key for rail companies in preventing these incidents is to identify why they are happening and then address them.

 

It could be an error of judgement, a lack of knowledge, a lapse in concentration, even possibly intentionally – as can happen on the roads where someone feels they have just enough time to get through a red light. Rail bosses need a better understanding of their employees and their likely behaviour on the job.

All rail companies have to have formal competency management systems in place to maintain and assess the competence of operators responsible for safety critical work and ensure front line workforces are monitored and assessed, but how these systems work varies.

 

We have been working with both Network Rail and Eurostar for several years to implement penetrative situational judgement assessments, and our competency management system my*KNOW that provides a unique insight into employees skills, knowledge and confidence.

The results provide insight not only into how knowledgeable a person is but how they might act when performing their jobs and the decisions they might make. Such assessments work by asking employees a series of multiple response questions based on common ‘on the job’ scenarios.

 

The scenarios include specific ‘at risk’ circumstances and the answers can’t be guessed unlike multiple choice assessments. The results reveal how competent a person is in all aspects of their role and highlight knowledge gaps and where confidence might be an issue or pose a risk.

Whilst rail is much safer than it was in the past, more does need to be done to make it safer. We believe our unique approach is one way that rail companies could do this to really understand likely human behaviour on the job and ensure measures are in place to tailor training where it is needed. Only by having a fully competent workforce can rail companies be confident they are operating as safely as possible.

 

What do you think could be done to improve rail safety? Can rail companies really safeguard against human error? Please comment and share via your social media networks using the hashtag #railsafety

 

 

Driving a learning culture in the NHS to mitigate risk

In June, the Department of Health launched a new web site called ‘How Safe is my Hospital’ that will allow people to compare hospitals in England based on a number of safety indicators, including ward staffing levels, incident reporting levels, pressure ulcers, falls and how the hospital is complying with patient safety alerts.

This web site is a key part of Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt’s ‘Sign up to Safety’ campaign to improve patient safety and crack down on preventable deaths, which aims to save up to 6,000 lives over the next three years.

 

The campaign was planned following a review by the Department of Health, which found that 29 out of 141 NHS trusts could be under-reporting incidents to the National Reporting and Learning System.

Hunt has said: “It is my clear ambition that the NHS should become the safest healthcare system anywhere in the world. I want the tragic events of Mid Staffs to become a turning point in the creation of a more open, compassionate and transparent culture within the NHS.”

This is obviously a step in the right direction for improving patient care after years of neglect, negligence and too many unnecessary deaths in some parts of the NHS. However, whilst reporting on safety levels in hospitals is a good way for hospital trust to become more accountable, it’s more important to encourage a culture of learning across the whole of the NHS.

Interestingly, 75% of the UK NHS is currently using a reporting system called Datix that has been a pioneer in the field of patient safety since 1986; however, mistakes are still happening.

 

Whilst most of the NHS is using this system to conduct their incident reporting, different Trusts have different criteria for reporting incidents, varying views on what should be reported and as such, there is a real lack of consistency.

The key to truly improving patient care and safety across the NHS is to understand and address the human factors that impact patient care most. To do this, organisations need more insight just about the competence of their medical teams but also how every individual behaves at work and the likely decisions they will make doing their jobs.

 

According to Martin Bromiley, the founder and director of the Clinical Human Factors Group[i], the NHS is starting to see the value of addressing “human factors” to improve safety but progress is not happening quickly enough.

Cognisco is a keen supporter of the Clinical Human Factors Group and recently attended a workshop session and debate run by Martin to identify how the human factors agenda can be accelerated.

 

Martin set up the Clinical Human Factors Group following the death of his wife, when the inquest revealed a series of factors termed as “human factors” or failings in “non-technical skills” were responsible, despite the medical team having many years of experience between them.

Although healthcare professionals generally don’t set out to harm patients, they are all human beings. People can become complacent in their jobs or not feel confident in certain aspects of their role or take short cuts because of various pressures – all of these factors can translate into risky behaviour. Whereas in other industry’s this may not cause any harm, in health care this kind of behaviour is high risk.

 

Only last month three babies died from blood poisoning after being given a contaminated batch of liquid food which was two days out of date. This could have been a simple human error; however, because it was a hospital dealing with vulnerable patients it shouldn’t have happened.

All NHS professionals need to be regularly assessed to identify risky behaviours that may have become normalised, and tailored training implemented should it be needed. This needs to be done regularly across the whole of the NHS to create a culture of learning which helps counteract the risks associated human behaviour. Only by tacking human behaviour can the NHS improve its patient safety record.

 

[i] A coalition of healthcare professionals, managers and service-users who have partnered with experts in Human Factors from healthcare and other high-risk industries to campaign for change in the NHS. (http://chfg.org)

News of mis-selling in the energy sector damaging consumer trust?

Despite the many high profile cases of mis-selling in the energy sector, it appears some companies are still not putting their customers first. This week energy regulator, Ofgem accused British Gas of mis-selling and making exaggerated claims to customers.

Ofgem said British Gas sales staff working in Sainsbury’s stores nationwide between 2011 and 2013 failed to make accurate comparisons between suppliers’ deals, and made overblown claims about the amount of money that could be saved by customers when switching suppliers.

British Gas has been forced to pay an average of £130 compensation to 4,300 affected customers. The total compensation bill is £566,000, with a further £434,000 being paid into a fund to help vulnerable customers.

 

Whilst this is a relatively small penalty, after the millions some energy suppliers have had to pay for mis-selling, it highlights that poor behaviour is still going on in the sector and customers are still being mis-led, especially when it comes to the benefits of switching suppliers.

This report comes at a time when consumer trust in the energy industry is at an all-time low. Research from Which? last November in its ‘Consumer Insight Tracker’[i] found that only one in seven consumers (15%) said they trust energy companies to act in their best interest and six in ten (59%) said they lack trust in energy companies, making energy the most distrusted of all consumer industry sectors, lower than banking (33%), car salesmen (55%) and train companies (27%).

Energy companies need to prioritise winning back consumer confidence in light of the mis-selling scandals and escalating energy prices over the past few years.

To do this, they will need to ensure their employees provide their customers with the best service at all times and behave in the most appropriate way. Too often companies are in the dark about how their sales staff or customers services teams really handle their customers and this can lead to major risks. It is not enough to do mystery shopping or observational assessments – companies need to have confidence that their people will do the right thing

To do this companies need to assess not only what people know, but also their understanding of when to apply that knowledge, and have the confidence to put that understanding and knowledge into practice at the right time, by understanding likely behaviour of individuals and teams and the decisions they make. By identifying knowledge gaps, misplaced confidence and where training isn’t landing, will reduce the risk of mistakes such as this one from re-occurring. Gaining insight into how individuals behave in their given job roles enables the right training to be provided, to the right individuals, at the right time, which can lead to major uplifts in performance, reduced exposure to risks and a more engaged workforce

Let us not forget, the energy sector is undergoing a huge change over the next six years as the Government’s plan to install smart gas and electricity meters into every home by 2020 kicks off next year. Energy companies need customers to be onside to ease the introduction of smart meters, but it’s also a huge opportunity for suppliers to win and retain customers.

 

Energy companies have their work cut out to restore customer confidence and this can only be achieved by ensuring their staff behave appropriately and are competent in their roles.

Have you been affected by the British Gas mis-selling scandal? Have you been affected by mis-selling in the past? Has your trust in the energy sector weakened? Please share your views with us across your social media streams using #PeopleRisk

More than ever before energy companies need to focus on providing excellent customer service and put past misadventures behind them.

 

[i] http://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/consumer-trust-in-the-energy-industry-hits-new-low