Dec 20

Same storm; different boats

Posted: 9 December 2020

Diane Buddery, our Programme Head for Sector Digital, reflects on leadership and digital working in the care sector.


At times of crisis we look to our leaders to steer the ship, and through the turbulent seas of the last year social care leaders and managers have been the focus of our response to a national pandemic.

We are lucky to have significant talent across the sector who have helped the workforce meet the challenges. However, we know from feedback trying to lead whilst the environment is in an almost total state of flux is extremely demanding.

As the virus spread the use of technology became central as one of the only safe ways to operate the services that the people we support need.

As former senior diplomat Sir Simon Fraser comments that: ‘If you want to be a leader you have to be prepared to lead. It does require self-confidence’.  However, Leaders and managers across the sector are at different points in their experience and understanding of using technology, and though this is the same storm for all of us, we are experiencing its effects differently.

For those services where technology was embedded, with strong vision for what its role was and could play, the new working world was not such a challenging shift. For those who had yet to start on their journey, it has been at times a more difficult year.

Leading without feeling confidence in your own knowledge or abilities can unsteady those you are hoping to get to follow you!

Before the pandemic, Skills for Care was building an evidence base on digital leadership. We knew that a substantial proportion of leaders and managers in the sector didn’t feel confident in this area. We also knew that the different digital skills levels across the care workforce were often cited as a problem -  often by managers who didn’t feel all that confident themselves - reporting the skills base of their staff was also blocking progress.

So has COVID unlocked digital working? Has it made leaders more skilled and confident and care workers gain more skills? To find out, we set out to find out; we talked in depth to leaders and care workers across the sector.

We found that although COVID had accelerated change it had not embedded the skills or change needed. We found a lack of confidence in skills and knowledge from leaders, few learning opportunities for managers and an ad hoc provision of learning opportunities for staff.

To meet some of these challenges, Skills for Care is developing concepts to address learning for leaders, with perhaps some digital leadership standards, and exploring digital champion models to accelerate and support learning for front line care leaders and workers in ways that they told us would work for them.

Once through the other side of this storm digital working will remain part of the new world we find ourselves in. We intend to be there, helping to develop and grow the skills and confidence of the workforce, who we know are ready to make the best of every part of this new opportunity.

In the meantime we have a range of online tools that will help leaders and workers make sense of the explosion of digital working over the last few months
�� See the digital working resources