Aug 25, 2017

‘Help Me, Help You’

Working in the aged and community sector has finally taken the leap in transitioning the sector and the services to be focused on empowering people to direct the care services they need against their own goals for achievement in wellness.

I believe now is the time to focus on what it is that makes a really good care support worker, carer, community or aged care professional. Part of this thought bubble is in regards to our relationships we take on with our clients. In order to enable a person to better wellness and better care outcomes, the person themselves must be motivated to achieve the things they are being guided by in the care relationship.

Communication is the key in most of what we do here and perhaps a poorly understood and mastered foundation.

The current expectations of industry care workers is that they will be the new ‘leaders’ in the ‘new aged care’. I think this is a ‘great expectation’ considering the practices in recruitment and retention of the care worker given the workforce conditions and pay parity to other job roles. If you read some of the current posts and blogs, there is a war on in the sector for attracting the best care workers as partners in the care program. This may be true, but there is a significant realisation that has to be faced when we consider who it is that arrives for the interviews to get that job and who it is we service as customers.

Below I will attempt to outline some considerations for any provider when they think about strategy in the workforce:

Communication skills: English is the first language in Australia and as such, much our client base and their support networks have a strong need for the care workers to be proficient and confident in the skills of communicating in english. Our education system that teaches VET and Higher competencies is all at a standard outlined in the AQTF, which has a need to comply to the skills in Literacy , Language and Numeracy (LLN) and have the ability to be supported if the student needs support to proficiency.

At VET level and in particular the Cert III and IV the standards are quite high and the outcome for assessment very clear. Make sure that the person being interviewed for the job is able to confidently meet the KPA in this role, without prejudice to any race or ethnicity…….this should be a high consideration for any candidate, tested and checked through the recruitment and induction process. A strong value here should be well known by the applicant and reflected in the industry, to vet those who believe anyone can just rock up with a Certificate and get a job in aged care and community services.

Competency: This is perhaps another serious consideration when looking at the new expectations of allowing autonomy for care staff (all ranks) to step up to what is needed in the contemporary practices. Given that the definition of competency is “The ability to do something successfully or efficiently” this again should be fully understood by any applicant looking for a role in the workforce and thoroughly tested in the probation period by the organisation. Competency can vary in relation to each role in a care team, however the ability for a person to identify weak skills and a lack of competency in some aspect of their role should be the first place to ask for assistance and support to transform to being that autonomous leader in the field.

Customer service: Our clients are the customers and as such have an expectation no different to you if you were paying for a service. The value in customer service should be shared by client and provider and known by the workforce. Value this connection and ensure it is entrenched into the values statements that give the team members purpose to work with and fully support the customer and brand of the business. Another KPI for the selection and improvement of staff capacity to be autonomous.

Emotional Intelligence

The demand on a care workforce today and specifically the ‘care worker’ is that they can handle the decision making needed to enable wellness and promote better goals in CDC programs. Given that many of the staff in the workforce are limited to a certificate only qualification and perhaps are challenged by conflict and diversity situations, they also need to be well equipped with the competency and skill in good emotional intelligence as this is what is needed when faced with change on the frontline in care. Clients can be demanding, experiencing grief and loss cycles in regards to their circles of influence and their healthcare reality of needs and wants. At a time when we have an expectation for frontline carers to manage complex scenarios and administrate risk management, we also are expecting them to be partners in the care and keeping the client as a customer. their is much more to just giving care or providing a service than what we used to do as robots on a factory line. If you want your workforce to work well without supervision and be a thinking workforce partner, then train and enhance their EQ. Just be mindful to value them as they will bring change where they see it needed.

Person Centered Staff: I have always stated that “you cannot give person centered care without having person centered staff”. This is the value we should share when it comes to asking our frontline teams to demonstrate the philosophy yet neglect it in them as our best asset. Take the time to focus on what your staff need and want to achieve their goals and desires. Have them understand that you value them and what they do. When we ask them everyday to go above and beyond, ask yourself do we do it for them in return. There is much to flesh out and consider with type of ethos and perhaps one that will take a combination of all the points I have listed above in your leadership here. At a time where there is huge issues that are not being openly discussed and hidden by the political correctness of it all, maybe its time to ‘look behind the curtain’ in aged care and community services and at least address the sentiments on pay and conditions and begin to find a balance in rewards for the work our staff do.

Finally I will point out what many of us are discussing in the public and private domain. It’s time to step up the education and transformation issues with the general community. Consumers, clients, customers, families, leaders, associations (the public). What we are expecting in a change in supporting an ageing society does not come cheap and it is not easy. To achieve what is being asked of society to respect its elders, so too is the reality of burdens, conditions and costs of a first world order. We need to increase the education, knowledge, value and empathy for the service providers and their staff from the community itself.

This is truly a partnership we undertake in care services, not exactly a free for all under the funded medicare environment and not independently by us the workforce to do what we are ‘supposed or espoused to do’. Our staff and networks today need to be more confident in our relationships with our clients to be able to have them understand “Help Me, Help You” if our relationship is going to work. If the consumers want a better service, then it requires a better collaboration and a real value for the workforce. It also requires them to lead us in their way within reasonable boundaries and shared values in service. Everything comes at a cost at some point. Your staff will be a key cog in the business from now on and when valued and understood the customer will be happy to pay for the service when needed.

This content was originally published on a Dr Drew – a Big Man Talking

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