Case study

Employee engagement and wellbeing: Scottish Government, Primary Care Division

How the Primary Care Division in the Scottish Government increased employee engagement from 2012 to 2014.


Key ideas from this case study:

  • ensure organisational objectives and purpose are understood and embraced by all – this can boost team spirit
  • encourage transparent and visible leadership and empower all regardless of grade
  • create a positive physical working environment
  • consider how you can create a culture of reflection, and take actions on that feedback
  • promote skills sharing and informal collaboration, making the most of experience

The Primary Care Division is a small team of 18 and is split into 3 component teams. It is part of the Directorate for Population Health Improvement.

The Division has seen great improvements in People Survey engagement scores over the past couple of years - from 54% in 2012 to 78% in 2014 - with particularly large increases in the ‘My Team’ and ‘Inclusion and Fair Treatment’ theme scores.

We interviewed 4 members of staff, (a Deputy Director, Executive Officer (B1), Administrative Officer (A3), and Modern Apprentice), to understand why they had improved.

Team spirit, purpose and a culture of inclusion

The team has ensured that organisational objectives are filtered down through the team. They use a variety of different forums for discussion: team huddles, team leaders’ meetings, monthly catch-ups, and all-Division business-planning meetings.

More practically, whiteboards are used for providing updates and One Note software provides a shared IT environment. They feel this increases collaboration and being part of a bigger picture.

Transparent leadership and empowerment

Transparent and visible leadership is seen as key. This means knowing how to keep things moving through change and ensuring people are informed of all decisions.

Leadership are also encouraged to talk to ‘the person who knows’ and avoid hierarchy where possible.

This has helped all staff strengthen their connections with NHS management.

Positive physical environment

Changes to the working environment have helped improve circumstances for the team.

A working group identified the need for change and have overseen a workspace transformation in the past year: including new carpets and open desk space. This further supported communication and relationships.

Regular staff consultations informed the development of the physical environment, and ensured the transformation was inclusive.

Reflection, feedback, and resilience

Reflection is crucial to the team and individuals are provided with positive and constructive feedback, not only at set time points, but regularly in 1 – 2 - 1’s. This helps to build resilience within the team.

Leadership are also open to feedback. Many of the actions reported here were taken as a direct result of a feedback initiative created after an away day.

Skills sharing and informal collaboration

Informal collaboration is encouraged. The team has a number of secondees who are able to share their professional knowledge and varied experiences. The team aims to share work fairly and promote the understanding of the workloads of others.

Different personality types are acknowledged across the team (e.g reflective / lateral thinkers) with different approaches adopted as a result. It is recognised for example that not everybody is comfortable being open in group forums.

All of this combines to increase feelings of inclusion and satisfaction- ultimately leading to excellent employee engagement scores.

Benefits to the wider business

As a result of these measures work across the teams has become more streamlined, with an increase in communication and a reduction in duplication.

Published 2 July 2015