3 minutes Laura Palmer: engagement champion

Laura Palmer has swapped clinical work at a Norfolk trust for a brand new role – her mission is to uncover ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ as the trust’s staff engagement lead.


What does a staff engagement manager do? 

Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust recognised that staff did not always feel involved or valued. Our staff engagement score was below average for a community trust and our engagement sessions, led by the chief executive, were poorly attended. 
The trust wanted to change that. So it created the role of staff engagement manager to lead the development of a positive staff engagement culture, and to drive staff involvement and commitment to our online platform, Your Voice Our Future. This platform enables management to communicate with staff at every level and gather views on important issues. I ensure all staff – especially those in the ‘hard to reach’ sectors of the trust – have a voice and are listened to and communicated with on a regular basis. 
I put it bluntly to staff: I want to find out about the good, the bad and the ugly. Then I can support them, and our leadership and management teams, on the improvements and developments needed. I aim to make Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust an even better place to work. 


Why did you want to change roles?

I really enjoyed my clinical work, but I’m always up for a challenge. At times, I found there wasn’t an obvious way forward or a specific person I could go to and discuss my ideas for progressing service development, or trust-wide change. I was very excited to see my trust recognise that if staff engagement wasn’t addressed, patient outcomes could be compromised. 
I was also interested in being part of shaping the organisation’s future, especially the ongoing work on the sustainability and transformation partnership. This will lead to many changes which staff should be a part of. I wanted to champion effective communication with our workforce, building on the skills I developed as a clinician. And I wanted everyone to feel empowered and part of changes and new projects. 

What are the most daunting aspects of the job?

Our chief executive wanted my role – that is, me! – to be the best-known person in the trust, which was quite a responsibility. Also, we were gathering so much valuable information from staff about the broad range of challenges they face. It was difficult, not only to prioritise, but also to find and implement realistic solutions.

What rewards does the role bring?

The biggest rewards are empowering staff by giving them a voice on matters that affect them professionally and personally; working with senior leadership to ensure positive change actually happens and continuing to help leadership and management teams to enhance engagement for the benefit of everyone. I feel that if we have happy staff, we will have happy patients. 

You encourage diversity and equality of opportunity – how?

Through meeting and working closely with different members of staff and teams nearly every day. By building rapport, I am able to hear at first hand where equality and diversity is being advocated. I am then able to feed back to the staff engagement committee, made up of operational colleagues, representatives from corporate functions and union representatives. Using their knowledge and skills helps to ensure improvements are made.

Will you go back to practising as a physio?

The joy of my job is that I am still able to practise clinically. This has tremendous benefits. I find that by working alongside staff, I get a better understanding of their roles and the challenges they face, personally finding out the potential barriers to staff engagement. It also enhances my knowledge of best practice in all areas, which I can cascade across the organisation. 
  • Laura Palmer is staff engagement manager at Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust
Laura Palmer Staff engagement manager at Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

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