BER20: The innovation of culture


This blog post was produced for inclusion in the Birmingham Economic Review for 2020.

The annual Birmingham Economic Review is produced by the University of Birmingham’s City-REDI and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, with contributions from the West Midlands Growth Company. It is an in-depth exploration of the economy of England’s second city and a high-quality resource for informing research, policy and investment decisions.

This post is featured in Chapter 1 of the Birmingham Economic Review for 2020, on Birmingham’s Economic Outlook Before and After the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Click here to read the Review.

The biggest innovation we cultivated at BHSF during the pandemic was the innovation of culture.

Like many other companies, we have systems in place for our staff to work remotely. Ensuring our employees in Birmingham, London, Liverpool and Northern Ireland, as well as our remote sales team across the UK, could access the same systems was obviously crucial. But that was just the beginning. We then had to ensure that we were working together in the best possible way, albeit from afar.

The desire for communication was much higher than we expected. We were also surprised by the degree to which people wanted to be briefed on the reality of the situation. Where we would normally issue a monthly briefing, at the height of the pandemic we were issuing daily briefings, and even now we brief twice a week. We kept our staff informed about the risks of contracting covid-19 and on the appropriate guidance, and we noticed that they wanted to do things that could help others. 

Our employees demonstrated this by getting involved in very real ways; some volunteered for the NHS, or delivered food to vulnerable people and they sewed medical scrubs and masks in their own time. We’re proud of their selfless acts and made sure they were championed and supported in our briefings. Our staff representatives had a discussion about whether the Executives  should put in wellbeing calls to our staff; literally just a call to ask them how they were feeling. We were unsure if they would want that level of contact from their Executives – but a significant number of staff did actually welcome the call.

In terms of our customers, the biggest change was moving our clinical consultations to video, and we have continued to work this way. In some cases it was about changing the mind-set of the client and thankfully they all bought into this new way of working. Our doctors and nurses deserve a lot of credit, too, because they have to ask different questions on a video consultation or over the phone than they would face-to-face, so their professionalism and adaptability has been a massive component in its success.

Two of our core products are BHSF RISE and BHSF Connect. BHSF RISE is an all-encompassing health and wellbeing service with a particular focus on mental health, while BHSF Connect is an easy-to-use app with nine bespoke health and wellbeing features. : The products provide essential support for employees, particularly in the current climate. 

We know that 65 per cent of adults with a pre-existing mental health condition saw a decline in their mental health during the pandemic1., that an additional 4.5m people became unpaid carers since the start of the pandemic2., and that, tragically, suicide rates are at an all-time high. We offer two products that truly can positively impact the physical and mental health of employees across the country.

And at a time when cash flow was a worry for everyone, we did everything we could to help by altering our payment schedules and shortening deployment times, and our customers really appreciated it. This was another way for us to demonstrate the strength of our culture, not just to our clients, but to our own people.

And on the subject of finances, unfortunately, many of our community partners were hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus and some experienced great difficulty in fund-raising, so we donated £5,000 to each of them to help ease the burden.

We are very fortunate to be able to call upon an experienced, skilled and fresh thinking staff group who put every effort into ensuring our clients were able to see a way through the pandemic which was imperative in our view.

Many of our staff have commented that they have gotten to know their colleagues so much more than when they were sat side by side in the office, which is amazing. This cultural change has taken us from surviving to thriving and it has all been led by the staff.  This is a massive change for us, but it’s definitely a change for the better.

Shelley Rowley
Chief Transformation Officer, BHSF