Skip to content

Creating a shared purpose

By Amanda Powell-Smith

23 June 2015
, ,

From multidisciplinary teams in a hospital environment to broad, cross sector healthcare teams in the community, people with different expertise and interests are being increasingly expected to work together to meet healthcare targets.

While funding and accountability will occupy much of the debate on ‘who’s responsible’, senior leaders and communications professionals need to urgently consider how to unite and build trust amongst diverse and often disparate delivery partners.

Within hospital settings, success will increasingly rely on the strength and understanding of the NHS Trust or Foundation’s brand and on-going employee communications. Of course individuals are always going to be focused on the ‘what’ of their day to day role, but they must also understand the bigger ‘why’ it is important and ‘how’ their role enables that bigger vision to be achieved. Rather than a my-responsibility-stops-here approach, they should be proud of what their colleagues are achieving and constantly seeking ways in which they can make a bigger difference.

The strength of employer brands is particularly important in today’s environment of instant communications and the rise in strong, front line voices through print and social media, from Dr Kate Grainger’s #mynameis campaign to trauma surgeon Tom Konig’s dramatic first hand experience of performing open heart surgery in a London Air Ambulance after a fatal stabbing. These champions can either be lone pioneers, and seen as a risk to the Trust brand, or become powerful and authentic examples of an organisation’s overall commitment to improving healthcare provision.

When delivery partners come from beyond a Trust’s boundaries then it becomes more complex and a new, often unique, sense of purpose needs to be created. Of course different partners will have different priorities for involvement, but a shared vision of success must be found as part of the partnership set-up process, and an agreed narrative backed by individual roles and responsibilities created.

The simplest and most familiar way of doing this is to form a campaign with a clear call to action and an easily shared look and feel. When we created Mind out for Mental Health on behalf of the Department of Health in 2001, it was the first time that mental health charities had united under one umbrella initiative to destigmatise mental health conditions.

Even if a public voice and brand is not required, the same level of thinking around a shared purpose and desired outcomes need to be developed to help strangers come together, share insights and care about what others in their new team are doing. Only by knowing that they are all on the same side, can true change really start to take place.