University Hospitals Birmingham accelerates recruitment

Lean, automated business process management from IBM and Axispoint

Published on 22-May-2012

Validated on 20 Feb 2014

"Business process management is key to UHB’s ongoing strategy across every department. By blending technologies into a service-oriented approach, we can deliver significant and continuous improvements in many areas of UHB’s operations." - Stephen Chilton, Director of IT, University Hospitals Birmingham

Customer:
University Hospitals Birmingham

Industry:
Healthcare

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
Business Process Management (BPM)

IBM Business Partner:
Axispoint

Overview

University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust is widely regarded as one of the leading teaching and research trusts in the UK. The Trust provides a wide range of health services at its new facility, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, which is a specialist centre for oncology, trauma, burns and plastic surgery, liver medicine and has the largest solid organ transplant programme in Europe. It is also home to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, which trains military personnel for the treatment of wounded service personnel. UHB employs 7,200 people.

Business need:
Recruitment processes at UHB could take up to 26 weeks and involve considerable paperwork. To reduce administration time and cut agency staff costs, UHB wanted to find a way to streamline these processes.

Solution:
Working with Axispoint, an IBM Premier Business Partner, UHB re-engineered its processes around a new system called START, built on IBM® Business Process Manager software.

Benefits:
Cut the longest recruitment cycles from 26 weeks to 18, with an ultimate target of 12 weeks. Leaner processes reduce paperwork and admin costs. Real-time process monitoring enables continuous improvement.

Case Study

University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust is widely regarded as one of the leading teaching and research trusts in the UK. The Trust provides a wide range of health services at its new facility, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, which is a specialist centre for oncology, trauma, burns and plastic surgery, liver medicine and has the largest solid organ transplant programme in Europe. It is also home to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, which trains military personnel for the treatment of wounded service personnel. UHB employs 7,200 people.

Like all NHS Trusts, UHB is constantly looking to find ways to streamline and optimise its operations. Several years ago, it set up a service improvement team, tasked with reviewing business processes across the organisation and assessing them according to lean management principles. Working together with the IT department and individual business units, this team identified a number of areas where improvements could be made by introducing a more automated approach to business process management. The HR department was at the top of the list.

“We had already started modernising HR through IT by introducing a staff portal known as me@QEHB,” explains Suzanne Hartshorne, Deputy Director of HR at UHB. “But many of our core HR processes were still very manual and paperwork-driven, or relied on various spreadsheets and small databases that weren’t integrated with each other. We were keen to work with the service improvement and IT teams to build some solutions that could streamline and automate these processes.”

Meeting the challenge of streamlining recruitment

One of the biggest challenges in the NHS is recruitment. When a new position is advertised, it must be posted on the NHS Jobs website, and applicants must be managed through a complex process involving shortlisting, interviews, provisional offers, and a variety of employment checks (identity, right to work, references, qualifications, criminal records and occupational health). Finally, the new staff member needs to be added to the payroll system, the Electronic Staff Record (ESR). At UHB, this process was taking an average of 18 weeks, and in some cases up to 26 weeks.

“Like most NHS Trusts, we had a recruitment process that involved many different systems and process steps, and there was a lot of duplication of effort – particularly in terms of re-keying the same data into different systems,” comments Suzanne Hartshorne. “Recruitment was an excellent candidate for streamlining and automation, because re-engineering it would not only save us administrative effort and improve data quality, but also ultimately help us reduce expenditure on temporary agency staff by cutting the time-to-hire.”

Designing a new process

The first step was to create a full process map and apply lean principles to eliminate unnecessary steps and complexity. Next, stakeholders from HR worked with IT and the service improvement team to create a functional specification for a system that would support the re-engineered process. Instead of designing and building this system in-house, UHB decided to find a suitable technology partner.

“We were introduced to Axispoint by another of our partners, and we saw a number of areas where their capabilities were a good match for our requirements,” explains Stephen Chilton, Director of IT at UHB. “We quickly came to the realisation that working together would be a win-win situation for both parties: they had the business process management expertise to deliver what we needed, while we gave them an entry point into the UK health sector. Ultimately, the hope is that the solutions we develop together can be turned into products that other NHS Trusts can benefit from, which would be a good outcome for UHB, for Axispoint, and for the NHS in general.”

Axispoint provides an agile approach

Axispoint used an agile development methodology to create a solution known as “Selecting Talent And Recruitment Tracker”, or “START”. The solution is built on IBM Business Process Manager software, which is used to orchestrate a variety of other systems and services into a single, seamless business process that reduces the need for human intervention. Among the systems that have been fully integrated into this service-oriented process are the NHS Jobs website, the UHB Workforce Approvals System (Finance Tools) via a solution from Blue Prism, and the me@QEHB portal, which enables recruitment staff and hospital managers to access the system and monitor progress.

“The main advantage of an agile approach is that the organisation begins to see value quickly,” states Stephen Chilton. “Development happens iteratively, so with each iteration you get more and better functionality.”

Significant process improvements

Suzanne Hartshorne comments: “The integration between the systems is making a major difference to how the process works. For example, when a manager gets approval to hire a new staff member, all they need to do is input the workforce approval number and it pulls the relevant information from the Finance Tools system. Then they write the job advertisement, and following a review by the Recruitment Team it’s automatically posted on NHS Jobs. There’s no re-keying of data and very little paperwork – so a part of the process that could take two days can now take about 20 minutes, and there’s much less scope for data quality issues.”

Setting up and managing the interview process for shortlisted candidates has also been streamlined significantly. Instead of the recruitment team printing out interview packs and sending them out via internal mail, the manager who is running the interview panel can log in and read the information online, or print off only the paperwork they want. This avoids wasting paper and eliminates delivery delays.

Collaboration with other third parties

Another key challenge for the recruitment team is that several critical steps of the process need to be performed by third parties over whom UHB has no control. However, even here, the re-engineered processes and work to introduce IT into HR are beginning to deliver improvements. As one example of introducing technology into the recruitment processes, the criminal record check, which used to involve sending paper forms to the CRB by postal mail, is now completed online via the Capita Recruitment Vetting Service. This has cut the time taken to receive a response from several weeks to just four or five days.

Increasing visibility enables continuous improvement

“Besides accelerating various stages of the recruitment cycle and reducing manual effort and paperwork, the solution also gives us much better visibility throughout the process,” says Suzanne Hartshorne. “Via the START system, managers can see the current status of each of the positions they are looking to fill, so they don’t need to keep calling the recruitment team for an update; their tasks are shown on the me@QEHB staff portal so they can easily see what they need to do”.

“From the HR department’s point of view, we have introduced a ‘traffic light’ RAG rating system of key performance indicators for each stage in the recruitment process, so we can see which areas are improving and which need more attention. This is all part of our focus on continuous improvement, because it’s only when you gain the ability to measure something accurately that you can start to improve it.”

Looking to the future

The new solution is still at an early stage of adoption by the Trust managers and the recruitment team, and the focus is now on driving the cultural changes necessary to streamline their ways of working in line with the re-engineered process. Even so, the process is seeing improvements: recruitment cycles of 26 weeks have become a thing of the past, and the team is confident that the 18-week average will be gradually reduced towards the target of 12 weeks. Enhancements to START are still very much required to improve the efficiency of the recruitment process and eliminate paperwork or stand-alone databases, but UHB is working with Axispoint to do this. UHB IT staff are also being mentored to use the methodology and apply it to other projects.

Ultimately, faster recruitment should reduce UHB’s need to rely on agency staff to temporarily fill vacant positions, which should deliver considerable cost benefits. Equally, once the new process has been adopted fully, administrative workload should be reduced.

Suzanne Hartshorne comments: “The recruitment project is a major step in the modernisation of the HR department’s systems and processes, and we’re planning to take a similar approach with several other projects, such as a new solution for learning management. Again, we expect the combination of UHB’s lean management expertise, Axispoint’s technical skills and IBM’s business process management software to help us transform the way we work.”

Stephen Chilton concludes: “Taking a broader view, business process management is key to UHB’s ongoing strategy across every department. By blending technologies into a service-oriented approach, we can deliver significant and continuous improvements in many areas of UHB’s operations.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
IBM Business Process Manager Standard

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012. IBM United Kingdom Limited, PO Box 41, North Harbour, Portsmouth, Hampshire PO6 3AU. Produced in the United Kingdom. May 2012. IBM, the IBM logo and ibm.com are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. IBM and Axispoint are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor Axispoint makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.