Norms and expectations

Norms are rules, whether explicit or implicit, that define our expectations of appropriate behaviours. Norms are often so routine and embedded that staff are unaware of their specific behaviours and actions. They’re often the ‘unwritten rules’ that guide how people do things. 

Having shared workplace values influences the way your organisation and your staff behave – which helps to develop aligned norms and expectations in your organisation.

To ensure these norms align with your culture, everyone should understand what excellent, good and poor care and support looks like in practice. You should also set clear expectations of how staff will behave towards each other and people who access care and support.

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Exercise

Read the scenario and answer the questions below. 

David has been running Harberton Care and Support Services since 1994, supporting people in the community, two residential services and one nursing home. He prides himself on his leadership and feels that the workplace culture 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's 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, for example swapping shifts without informing their manager. She's identified low morale amongst staff 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 noticeably 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.

Now answer these questions.

  • 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?
  • Thinking about your own organisation, what could you do to nurture a positive workplace culture?
  • How are people supported and encouraged to positively challenge poor practice?

How to set norms and assumptions in your organisation

Ensure everyone understands what’s expected of them and the way they should behave in the workplace. You should embed this in induction, supervision and ongoing learning and development.

You should have effective people management processes in place, including to manage poor performance.

Resources to help: Common core principles for dignity

Our Common core principles for dignity toolkit can be used to support good practice by anyone in your workforce. They focus on the key values, attitudes, skills and knowledge required to provide the best care possible – this ensures the whole team understands what the norm is and expected ways of working.

The toolkit:

  • 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
  • gives real examples
  • includes teaching and discussion aids to support workforce development.

Resources to help: Reflective practice

Reflective practice can help you look at your own service and see what others are doing, so you can identify areas for improvement.

  • Our ‘Good and outstanding care guide’ shares best practice and recommendations from providers with these CQC ratings across the key lines of enquiry. It shows the key characteristics that differentiate CQC ratings, so you can improve your service. 
  • If you’re a registered manager you can get peer to peer support through your local registered manager network. Find your local network here.
  • It’s also important to share good practice within your team and recognise when staff are performing well. There’s a section in the People performance management toolkit which explains how to manage well performing employees. 

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