Norms and expectations

Culture for Care:
Norms and expectations

The social care sector is continually under pressure to develop high quality services that deliver flexible and personalised care and support. In such times of change, positive workplace cultures encourage and support people to improve the service they deliver. Norms and expectations are key aspects of workplace cultures and have a significant impact on how people behave over time. In positive cultures, norms and expectations can support staff to become confident and capable workers, responsible for their own learning of both new skills through qualifications and other continuous professional development opportunities. There are clear expectations of how people will behave towards each other and those they support. As a consequence, individuals feel more able to speak out about practices or behaviours that they have concerns about.

Wren Hall Nursing Home sets out its expectations of its workforce using it’s mission statement. This is supported by our philosophy of care and together they set out what we aim to achieve as well as how to achieve it. As a result, our workforce not only understands what it is there to achieve but each individual employee is clear about the attitudes, behaviours and attributes that are required of them.
Wren Hall

David has been running Harberton Care and Support Services since 1994, supporting people in the community and also in two residential services and one nursing home. He prides himself on his leadership and feels that the workplace culture at Harberton Care and Support is positive and anyone new is integrated into the ethos of the services quickly. He has high expectations of his staff and expects everyone to do their best and deliver a very high quality service.

The organisation has grown over time from a small family run service but now, with over 150 staff, it has changed, and David sometimes finds it hard to remember everyone’s name. There have been some recruitment issues in the care homes, but David has put this down to poor public perception of care in the jobs market. However, Sarah, the new operations manager, has reported regular incidents of bad practice, including staff taking people they support to their own homes for tea, and inappropriate use of language. She has also picked up on poor management practices with staff in the habit of swapping shifts without informing their manager. She has identified low morale amongst staff in the residential care services who are feeling unsupported and are just ‘doing their own thing’. David is shocked to hear this and wonders what has gone wrong and how this culture has been able to develop.

Harberton Care and Support Services have had financial challenges in recent years. Rising costs and reduced fees have meant that David has struggled to pay competitive staff salaries. He had been proud of the strong tradition of staff training but has needed to cut this budget in recent years. David can now see that both staff performance and expectations have noticeable declined.

By comparison, the relatively new domiciliary care service has a very positive workplace culture. Led by an excellent manager, staff turnover is low and morale is high. Day to day running issues always seem to be overcome and feedback from customers and families/relatives is 99% positive. David considers all these factors but still does not understand why the cultures in the three services are so different.

  • What has gone wrong?
  • What can David do to rekindle and then maintain the positive culture that was so much a part of the organisation?

Now thinking about the norms and expectations in your own workplace:

  • What activities could you do to nurture a positive workplace culture?
  • How are people supported and encouraged to positively challenge poor practice?
Clear expectations - this is not a culture of ‘anything goes’. Where staff need to be challenged, on performance or timekeeping for example, they are, but in a nice manner.
Amber Trust
People also usually instinctively mirror what they see around them.
Heathfield Residential Home
How to set norms and expectations in your workplace

By using the seven Common core principles of dignity.

These seven principles can be used to support good practice by any member of the workforce across difference settings. The principles focus on the key values, attitudes, skills and knowledge required to provide the best care possible. The principles give the workforce, and those who employ and train them, clear guidance and practical tools for understanding how to place dignity at the very centre of quality care and support services. To support the principles Skills for Care created a toolkit to put the principles into practice which:

  • explains what each principle means to people providing care and support
  • describes the understanding knowledge, skills and practices required by the workforce to embed dignity
  • provides good practice guidance and gives real examples
  • includes easy-to-use teaching and discussion aids to support workforce development
  • provides an action plan to map learning outcomes and measure the impact of implementing the principles.

For more information visit

How will it help?
By using the principles and toolkit in the workplace the whole team will understand what is the norm and expected way of working, especially in regards to valuing each person as a unique individual, respecting each other’s views and not making assumptions about how people want to be treated.

Principle six deals directly with valuing workplace cultures to ensure that dignity is upheld, whilst principle seven discusses the need to challenge when it jeopardises the dignity of the individual. Both these principles are supported with scenarios and tips in the principles to practice guides that will help you to manage these issues in your own workplace.

Other resources to support you

Employing personal assistants toolkit
This toolkit guides you through the process of employing a personal assistant, what to do when they are working for you as well as helping you to understand your responsibilities as an employer and your legal obligations.


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