Key ideas from this case study:
- disregard hierarchy when you can
- spend time on the frontline to understand your customers’ needs
- bring a dispersed team together regularly
CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) Cymru provides independent expert advice to courts in Wales on the interests of children involved in family proceedings. Their Central Support Team supports the running of the organisation, with a remit including HR, IT and finance, managing contact activity referrals; managing complaints and ministerial business and answering correspondence and Freedom of Information requests. The team is geographically dispersed across three locations in Wales with 20 staff.
The team maintained employee engagement scores of between 72% and 76% from 2012 to 2014, and these excellent scores manifest themselves in a number of tangible ways. People go above and beyond the day job and are happy to stay behind to help others where they need it.
The Central Support Team and senior management in CAFCASS Cymru have adopted a number of practices and behaviours which appear to have contributed to these excellent scores.
Leaders demonstrate real passion for what they do
Senior leaders at the top of CAFCASS Cymru are very visible, and are perceived as being committed to making time to engage with all their staff. Although CAFCASS Cymru is spread across 13 offices, senior leaders visit offices every month and demonstrate a real passion for the organisation’s work. Senior leaders’ passion for their organisation’s purpose filters down through all grades – people feel like they are making a difference and have a sense of commitment to the broader Welsh Government, as a result of feeling valued from the start.
Inclusivity is central to the team’s ethos
Over the past few years, the volume of work in the Central Support Team has increased, and they have needed to streamline processes and absorb new responsibilities. Their team leader has actively ensured that everyone is involved in decisions behind changes. For example, where they needed to bring new work in, all members at all grades were involved in process mapping and contributed to decisions on how to proceed. The team leader also ensures that people are not treated differently based on their grade. Everyone gets the same opportunities – for example, being involved in corporate work – and the team is not seen as hierarchical. Managers in the team promote these positive behaviours, value people’s ideas, and are trusted to follow through on any issues.
Connecting with frontline services enables all staff to see the bigger picture
Every member of the team spends time each year visiting CAFCASS Cymru’s frontline delivery services and other operational teams. This helps people to get a balanced view – especially when they’ve been handling complaints or issues with service users. It gives team members the time to remember the bigger picture of what their work enables, and helps them to feel they are really making a difference.
Bring the team together
The geographical dispersion of the team presents a very specific challenge to engagement. In addition to monthly team meetings by video conference, twice a year the team comes together face to face. A day spent volunteering together – doing something very different from the day job and for a good cause, was something everyone enjoyed and helped bring them together as a whole team.
Team members are highly productive, contribute actively to corporate projects, and demonstrate real commitment to and enthusiasm for the organisation’s goals.
CAFCASS Cymru’s Central Support Team’s story is a great example of how treating people inclusively, taking time out to connect with each other and the bigger picture, and passionate, visible senior leadership have led to excellent employee engagement.