NHS secondment to HSBC – first blog post


Rhona Galt is on a six-month internship to a non-NHS industry sponsored by NHS Improvement and supported by The Whitehall & Industry Group. The internship is aimed at female leaders looking to develop their leadership style and effectiveness, preparing for executive director roles in the future. During her time on secondment, she is working at HSBC UK. This is the first in a series of blog posts in which Rhona plans to share her thoughts and insights to inspire discussion.

Blog #1

It has been nearly two months since I swapped my blue NHS lanyard for a red HSBC one, and it’s about time I shared some of my initial reflections. 

Why banking

I suppose the first question you might ask is, why banking? When I said I would be going on a secondment to industry back in January, most people assumed I would go into private healthcare or pharmaceuticals, and couldn’t see the relevance of banking. To start with, both are large and complex service industries reliant on having a skilled and motivated workforce. Both industries are heavily regulated, most likely as a result of high profile public scandals (2008 coincidentally saw both the NHS Mid-Staffs scandal and the crisis in the UK banking sector). More recently both industries are working hard to engender a ‘speak up’ culture, where staff feel able to raise concerns without fear of reprisal.  The list of similarities is endless (you thought the NHS liked acronyms? You ain’t seen nothing!), and to be honest I’ve been surprised by the amount of parallels you can make. 

Shut up and listen

If you’ve been following my tweets (@rhona_galt) you’ll have heard about ‘shut up and listen’ or Exchange meetings as they’re more commonly known at HSBC. Staff engagement and satisfaction is something I’m really passionate about, and it was this angle I wanted to explore during my secondment.  At my first meeting with HSBC they mentioned Exchanges, a meeting where a manager’s only role is to listen to staff views and concerns, but they didn’t sound much different from your usual listening event senior leaders often have in any organisation. What I didn’t expect to see was the impact of this on staff morale: staff who have attended an Exchange recently score much more positively about their trust in senior leaders; are more confident about the future of the organisation, and feel more able to speak up. Perhaps it’s not the content of these meetings, or the format, but the idea that staff who choose to participate are much more likely to gain benefits – you get out what you put in.  It seems simple, but a great gauge of the health of an organisation. 

I feel tired

My HSBC corporate induction told me that I should ‘choose my attitude’ when I go to work. I wasn’t sure what this meant and to be honest I brushed it off as jargon that my public sector self just couldn’t deal with. However as is the tradition when you’re getting to know a new organisation you do a cook’s tour, and try to see everything and anything you can to get a handle on how things work. It was during this induction that I got to understand more about choosing your attitude and being honest about it.  I visited a local branch and joined their team huddle before the doors opened for business. The team ‘check in’ with one another and make sure they are ready to face the day. Someone in the team said they were feeling a bit tired, and might be off their game – I couldn’t believe it! This was something I just couldn’t imagine doing at work, the shame of it!  But how wrong I was. The manager said, no problem, what are you going to do about it? To which they replied – I’ll make sure to have some coffee. Another team member said they were anxious as their sister was in labour – no problem the manager said, keep your phone in your pocket today in case of any updates. Really simple but effective team management. It’s important to know your people and to understand we’re all more than just our jobs.  I was beaming for the rest of the day. 

Until next time

The honeymoon is over and I have to start delivering some ‘real’ work now, but I’m committed to keep visiting different parts of HSBC and learning how things work.  I’ll be tweeting any fun bits that I spot; but more seriously I will be spending the next 5 months trying to understand more about staff morale, engagement and what enables people to speak up within large and complex organisations. I’d like to thank The Whitehall & Industry Group for facilitating this exchange, North Bristol NHS Trust for supporting me on this secondment, and NHS Improvement for sponsoring it. And a huge thanks to HSBC for opening their doors to me and letting me ask all the nosey questions I can think of!