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October 25, 2006

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The right recipe for business

Getting the recipe right is critical when you’re making a business case to your board — and Greer Bailey, employee relations manager health, safety and well being at Devon County Council aimed to convince the NSS audience to buy-in her services.

And although she didn’t manage to turn all of the audience’s red tomatoes to green peppers, she did convince those who really mattered — her employers.

“When building a quality business case you really need to do your research. When I first came into health, safety and well being management there was very little evidence linking health and productivity. Now we have an international institute.

“You need to understand that there is a major shift away from safety, towards health and well being management. Local authorities are expected to be exemplars in that.”

Greer said that it is important to know “your customer base”. For her, that is the 24,000 Devon County Council employees. She said that her research had revealed that 20 per cent of the authority’s sick absence was due to musculoskeletal disorders, with a further 20 per cent due to stress — figures that many delegates found hard to believe!

“We undertook a survey, stress audits and external research and once we’d done that we then had to ensure we got our house in order. We had to demonstrate that we were efficient, and that meant restructuring, bringing two services together to form the Well Being at Work service.

“But you need commitment from the top, and I was very lucky in that I’ve had that in Devon. Some of my proposals had practical implications and we did hear people questioning why we were investing in health and well being programmes for employees with taxpayers’ money.”

“I didn’t get everything I put forward to my board, and neither will you. You are unlikely to get a limitless budget and you may only get funding for a year. In any quality business case, you have to evidence the return on investment.”

And that is something Greer has managed to deliver — spending just over £100,000 to return a saving of £1 million.

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