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How British Red Cross embraced digital through workforce


Pre pandemic some of our Independent Living (IL) teams were spending up to an hour of their working day driving back and forth to an office to check emails, to look up case notes or even to complete online elearning. For many, the pandemic shone a light on the possibilities of new ways of working and how we could do things differently. In 2019 a team from Information and Digital Technology (I&DT) at the British Red Cross worked with Independent Living to understand how technology could help and support these teams whilst working remotely. My colleague Alison from IL was one of the team members who has worked on the project since it started and has a great blog which gives further insight.

One of the outcomes from the scoping was that we could keep our teams connected by providing them with tablet devices. This would allow them mobile access to corporate applications such as emails and video conferencing, as well as being able to look up support services whilst with service users. The reality is however that not everyone will be keen to embrace technology and some will feel nervous about how they work.

So why not just post out a few hundred tablets and let people get on with it?

One of my favourite books was written by Dan Heath. “Switch: How to change things when change is hard”, builds on the analogy that Jonathan Haidt first set out that our brains can be compared to an elephant and a rider. In the analogy, the idea is that although the logical part of our brain (the rider) may understand why a change could make sense, logic alone however is not enough to convince the elephant (the part of our brain that controls emotions) to change its path. Fundamentally, without our people engaging and believing that changing their ways of working will improve their own experience, we can not deliver on the benefits such as reducing their travel time, being better connected to their colleagues and providing service users with additional services.

The coronavirus pandemic has touched all of us in different ways. The British Red Cross continued to respond through difficult times and offered our support to those who really needed us. Two of the inadvertent impacts of the pandemic was a sudden adoption of more digital ways of working, but also a level of change fatigue.

Our teams are now using zoom to attend training, they were already reducing travel by having online team meetings and access to the office was limited. But things are hard. People are tired. How could we aim to successfully bring in more change when people have already changed so much? We had to get creative and continue to focus on how we would engage with teams.

What have we done so far to support our people?

We have really leaned on the concept of Digital Change Champions. Peers within the teams who are ready and willing to step up and support. We designed an elearning package for them that would walk them through some basic change management techniques and coached them in getting used to their own devices. Already we are hearing the positive difference this is making and we will continue to grow our network and share learning across the country.

We also needed to be creative with our communications. It wasn’t enough to send them an email telling colleagues that a tablet would be arriving soon. We needed to use every communication as a way to tell a story of why we were issuing tablets in the first place. Thanks to Alison (mentioned above) and her network of peers, we were able to film some members of staff who were using tablets and share their experience. You can watch the two videos below -

Liam’s experience of using a tablet on the frontline

Natalie’s experience of using a tablet on the frontline

When writing our communications we orientate it around why we are delivering this project and not what we are delivering. As Simon Sinek sets out, starting with why helps us tell a story which is compelling. This pushes beyond any nervousness around using new technology and builds a human centred approach.

Our project isn’t over. We are still in the middle of rolling out devices and we are hopeful that the work we are doing will have made a positive difference. We will be collecting feedback along the way and adjusting our approach to ensure success. Having optional drop in sessions for teams and a group chat with our champions allows us to constantly get feedback and adjust along the way. Listening is important.

Change doesn’t only apply to organisation restructures or policy changes, it has great value in the adoption of digital ways of working and other technology projects. The learnings from our project will continue to be shared openly and honestly.


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