Posted: 4 June 2018
This June we want to celebrate the great work that happens in our sector every day. Our CEO, Sharon Allen, reflects on what excellence in care means to her and how we can support you to strive for excellence in your everyday practice.
When I was asked to think about what excellence in care means to me I think back to some of my previous roles - my time as the CEO of a major provider of care and supported housing, working with a large employer in the North of England, and my current role where I get to travel the country meeting some of our best employers.
There’s no doubt that becoming an ‘excellent’ employer requires an ability to manage complexity and a strong investment in time and resources; anything worth having doesn’t come easy. This is especially true in a ‘people business’ like ours, where what we do day in and night out impacts the people we support, their families and loved ones.
From my experience, I think there are three key elements of ‘excellence in care’.
The first is values. One of the common features of providers who provide high quality care and support is that they have strong workplace values, and their staff live and breathe these values.
Values are the things that matter the most to us, and they influence how we act and behave in everyday life. In adult social care, we talk a lot about ‘values based recruitment’ and we do that because it works.
This approach involves finding out what sort of person you might be employing, and ensuring that their values match your workplace values. There’s no point in employing someone who can’t - or won’t - listen, isn’t empathetic, not sensitive to people’s cultural needs or just plain doesn’t care.
I’m not naive enough to think values based recruitment is fool proof; but we do know that it works. Our research showed this approach gives a return on investment of £1.26 for every £ invested (compared to traditional recruitment methods), and that employers using it have turnover levels nearly 6% lower than the sector average - what’s not to like?
A crucial part of this is ensuring that everyone in your organisation understand what your values are and how to put them into practice, even in busy working environments when they can easily be forgotten. You might do this through regular supervisions and team meetings – and most importantly, you have leaders who model your values.
The second element is leadership.
When I see negative stories in the media, the first thing I notice is the absence of strong leadership. Excellent leaders set the tone in an organisation where abuse will never be tolerated and the team collectively strive for continual improvement. There’s no doubt, though, it’s tough being leader in social care.
We’re working in some of the toughest conditions l’ve seen in my career and well-trained and supported leaders are the difference between good and excellent care. This is why we support registered managers networks across the country, so that these key leaders can take time out to talk with their peers about how they improve their practice, or just let off some steam to people who know exactly what they are going through.
We’ve created a range of practical leadership programmes and I’d recommend you look here to see which ones might help you and your colleagues to develop.
Learning and development
The final element is a commitment to life-long learning and continued professional development.
Now you might be thinking that I would say that, leading an organisation that’s charged with developing the skills and knowledge of 1.45million workers in our sector.
I say it because I know, on a personal level, that it works. Throughout my career I’ve kept on learning and developing my skills. Even now I have a mentor who helps me reflect on my practice as a leader, and whether I’m living the sort of values I talked about earlier. Do I listen actively? Am I empathic? And do the people who I work with know the values of our organisation and see me living and breathing them?
One of the main reasons I enjoyed my time as an adult social care employer was that I had great and committed people working with me. That didn’t happen by accident - we invested heavily in the learning and development of our colleagues at every level. We made sure at each stage of their career they were equipped to do their job, and as I travel the country I see how that commitment to learning and development works for excellent employers.
In an ever-changing, complex care environment, being an excellent employer requires constant vigilance and attention. The three elements that I think make for excellence in care are only starting points - if we get these right then it means the people we support have genuine choice and control over their lives.
There can be no greater reward than that for any employer or worker in our sector.