Sunday, 11 March 2012

It's only a name badge

A few days ago, my Chief Executive and I had a very good-humoured debate with our Union colleagues about some of the issues that have been raised since we issued new name badges. These badges attach to your clothing magnetically and simply state your name and that of our organisation, with the logo. They are plain, smart and intended to be worn wherever there are others who may not know who you are e.g. when working from a different office, when greeting service users, when at external meetings, when working with colleagues from partner agencies etc. We all have two, in case one ends up in the washing machine!

The issues raised?
·      Service users may use a member of staff’s name to behave inappropriately and impinge on their private life such as finding them on Facebook. (There are several issues here: the need to use Facebook mindfully and set high privacy settings; the fact that many of us can be found via search engines anyway and that, as an employer, we set up personal safety plans on the rare occasion a member of staff is at possible risk from a service user.)
·      Some of the names are incorrectly spelled or are not the names individual members of staff prefer to be known by. (A joint responsibility for the employer to send the badge makers the right name list and for individual staff to keep their personal details, including preferred name, up to date on our HR system.)
·      Some staff just don’t like wearing badges. (Well, how annoying is it for us all when we have to deal with officials, or anyone in a service capacity, and have no idea who they are?)
·      We already have photo ID badges worn on lanyards or on waistband clips. (These are not always easy to see but can be asked for to verify who someone is at any time.)

But hang on a minute; are we all (including me) missing the point here? Back to the title of this blog –  ‘It’s only a name badge’.

We are working in a public sector service at a time of unprecedented uncertainty, tightening of belts, doing more for less etc. In Probation, we have been waiting months for the government to publish a potentially far-reaching review of the service. We have a lot to think about and to prepare for, and the circumstances are highly complex. We will need to develop skills to do different types of work e.g. commissioning services, making finely balanced decisions between collaboration with partners versus guarding our intellectual property, also defining clearly what our unique strategic assets are etc. 

Just thinking about all this is headache inducing at times. It will certainly need to be done carefully at the same time as delivering a high quality service with fewer resources available to do so, year on year. We may also feel threatened at times for our future roles, and one thing is clear, our future roles will have to evolve. Is it any wonder that something easy to grasp, such as some concerns about the new name badges, generate lively debate? It is a tangible issue, it is about identity and safety and everyone can understand it.

Our role as leaders, will be to make sure that we engage with all staff to help to make future ‘big picture’ issues we will be grappling with, as easy to grasp and debate as the name badge concerns.