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Jamie Lawrence

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Insights Director

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Culture and HR at Great Ormond Street – an interview with the hospital’s deputy director for HR and OD

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This is an interview with James Devine, Deputy Director of HR and OD at Great Ormond Street Hospital. GOSH are finalists at this year's OC Excellence Awards in three categories – Learning, Technology and Public/Not-for-Profit. James is an experienced HR professional with a proven track record of delivering at both a strategic and operational level. You can view his LinkedIn profile here.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What does 'culture' mean to you?

James Devine, Deputy Director of HR and OD, GOSH: For me, culture is shaped by the way people behave, interact, communicate and support each other.

Our hospital values underpin the behavioural expectations and standards, and the great thing is that these were developed in conjunction with our staff, patients and their families – in turn, this has meant that people genuinely believe in them, and our senior leaders can then bring authenticity to the way we lead and develop our teams.

I also think that culture is also about how people feel toward the organisation.

Expectations have an incredible ability to shape behaviour, but in our case, the expectations that drive us, are those of the children, young people and their families that come here.

This is what drives culture at GOSH.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What have you learned about nurturing organisational cultures at GOSH?

James Devine, Deputy Director of HR and OD, GOSH: Since the launch of the Trust values in 2015, we have really seen the benefit of taking the time to engage with our staff, our patients and their families when developing them.

Expectations have an incredible ability to shape behaviour.

It is these people that create the right culture after all.  At GOSH, we have a workforce who is incredibly passionate about the care they provide, and about the role they personally play in delivering that safe and effective care.

Our values (Always Welcoming, Always Helpful, Always Expert & Always One Team) stem from the original value of GOSH being ‘the child first and always’ – in embedding the Always values, we haven’t simply put up posters around the hospital; instead, we have taken time to develop bespoke pieces of work that allow the values to flow through them in, for example, the language we use, and the approach we take to particular situations.

It would be easy to have six-foot posters in the reception area of the hospital telling everyone what our values are – instead, we almost allow people to feel the values by the way in which they are respected and treated (staff and patients)

If we want to develop a strong culture, it has to be built on strong foundations.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: How do you maintain strong culture over time?

James Devine, Deputy Director of HR and OD, GOSH: It’s about consistency.

Culture isn’t an initiative that has a project plan or a definitive end date – its consistency in the way we do things, the way we treat people, the way in which we communicate with each other, and the way in which we respect each other.

If we want to develop a strong culture, it has to be built on strong foundations.

In terms of leadership, creating the right culture is about allowing freedom and autonomy, but so that it becomes the norm

GOSH has a long standing history of providing excellent care – at all levels and staff groups across the hospital.

Our strong culture therefore becomes everyone’s business in the hospital. In terms of leadership, creating the right culture is about allowing freedom and autonomy, but so that it becomes the norm

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: GOSH has a very strong identity and a strong reason to collaborate and work efficiently – does this make it easier to develop a strong culture? Are there any downsides?

James Devine, Deputy Director of HR and OD, GOSH: I think the identity of GOSH brings expectation – however, the great thing about our teams across the hospital, is that they strive every day to meet, and even exceed those expectations. 

Many of our patients have co-morbidities, which mean that teams across the hospital have to work together and develop shared pathways for patients and their families.

The Always Values have really provided a focus and a framework for how we do things around here in relation to our culture.

We want to provide the best service we possibly can, as we are very aware that for many parents, bringing their child to this hospital is their last hope.

Our most recent CQC report talked about how our teams across the hospital were aware of the Values, and our Friends & Family Test has high scores for individuals knowing our values – this in turn brings a culture of engagement.

Downsides; expectations of each other, and our patients and their families.

We want to provide the best service we possibly can, as we are very aware that for many parents, bringing their child to this hospital is their last hope.

If we can’t meet those expectations for whatever reason, our staff feel that personally.

We are extremely fortunate at GOSH that our senior leaders share our organisational values in the same way that our porters, nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, scientists do.

It is our role to develop the right support mechanisms that maintain the right culture, and work with them to design the right interventions to embed that ethos of One Team.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What mistakes do organisations make when they try to strengthen and deepen organisational culture?

James Devine, Deputy Director of HR and OD, GOSH: I think organisations often believe that strengthening culture is a quick fix. It isn’t.

Culture is something that happens over time, and requires consistency, authenticity, and an organisation that is willing to be open and honest when things go wrong.

It also requires visibility of senior leaders, and spending time understanding the issues affecting the wider workforce.

We are extremely fortunate at GOSH that our senior leaders share our organisational values in the same way that our porters, nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, scientists (to name a few) do.

Our culture and reputation has been developed over time, to the point where our values are lived every day by the people that choose to work here – we have a team of ‘Experts’ who are ‘Helpful’, ‘Welcoming’, and work as ‘One Team’.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

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