HENRY REED supports many clients in the ‘care’ sector, an area focused on the provision of personalised care services not limited to health or medical care. These services can be delivered by highly educated professionals and industry trained carers. Services in this sector include nursing care, allied health care, disability care, aged care, youth care or the delivery of support services requiring the direct interaction and strong connection between a carer and a person requiring care.
As culture specialists focused on helping organisations care for their employees, we observe many trends across all areas of the care sector that require immediate attention by employers.
Current trends suggest that attracting and retaining employees in the care sector is difficult. Low wages, limited career development opportunities, fatigue and overwhelm due to the nature of work, and understaffing is placing increasing pressure on carers to ensure those they care for do not miss out on services or are left unsupported.
An impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a shift in the care workforce. Many employees have used this period of change to reconsider their priorities and left the care sector to focus on family or work that presents less personal risk, while many more employees have entered the care sector from highly impacted industries, such as aviation, travel, and hospitality.
For many current carers, this may not have been their chosen career path, however, through our client discussions we have found that they choose to stay in this industry because of the personal satisfaction they derive from caring for others, the close connections they make, and the ability to positively influence the lives of others.
Through our work we have spoken directly to many frontline care givers and heard stories of CEOs, chefs, airline pilots, small business owners, travel agents, and others who have entered the care sector and are now providing essential services to the most vulnerable members of our community. There is a consistent theme of an incredibly strong connection from carers to those they care for that underpins so many of these conversations. Unfortunately, there is also a consistent lack of loyalty to the organisations they work for as there is limited connection, a limited sense of understanding, and limited support felt by carers. In essence, the business focus is on the care of their customers and not the care of their employees.
This is a huge culture issue.
Employers who do not prioritise the support, connection, and wellbeing of their employees are at high risk of losing them to other providers, neglecting their employees’ wellbeing, and losing the competitive advantage that comes from an engaged and aligned workforce. Not only does this impact the company, but in many cases, a passionate carer exiting the workforce places pressure on the sector’s ability to provide care for those in need.
For many employers, the creation of a cohesive culture, alignment to purpose, and consistent demonstration of values-based behaviours is challenging to master, particularly when employees often work in offsite facilities, in shared home or client home environments, and are not regularly at a company premises.
In an industry where funding is continually squeezed, all activities are highly regulated, there are low wages, and high expectations for quality service, intentionally creating culture can seem overwhelming.
The onus for creating culture starts at board level and must be brought to life by executive teams and senior leaders who role model values-based behaviours, set clear expectations, uphold policies and standards, and create an environment that delivers the desired employee and customer experience.
Leaders have the most significant influence on an organisation’s culture, and this can be disastrous if there is not a clearly defined culture that supports effective ways of working and is experienced consistently across the organisation.
We have found that culture is often not well defined in the care sector, creating differing levels of experience based on connection to purpose or fulfilment from client interactions and delivery of services. Executive teams tend to be highly engaged in culture and aligned to purpose. However, this dilutes through organisations and middle managers find themselves disconnected from purpose and lacking a sense of being able to make a difference. The creation of employee experience for the majority of employees often falls on front-line leaders who are time poor, task focused, and engaged in solving operational matters.
At HENRY REED, our purpose is to make all aspects of life better through the experience and impact of work. We believe that the cost and risk of not acting on culture is far greater than proactively investing in culture. Nowhere is this more evident than in the care sector where the impact of human connection and organisation culture is seen in each and every interaction and experienced deeply by all involved.
Our 2020 HENRY REED Culture Research Study was conducted to gain an understanding of the impacts on organisation culture during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The insights from this Study identified the risks and rewards to be gained from the proactive management of culture and supported the benefits of using culture to drive change, growth, and sustainability in times of disruption. Insights revealed that leadership capability and behaviours were considered both enablers and inhibitors of culture. The Study further revealed a leadership capability gap across all industry sectors, identifying this as the most significant impact on an organisation’s ability to deliver results and make required changes during the pandemic.
Our 2021 HENRY REED Culture Research Study revealed that, despite the positive response of leaders to implement reactive change and communicate through the pandemic, there remains a need to improve leadership capability to lead culture and change effectively. The 2021 Study highlighted the link between the ownership of culture and the enablers and inhibitors of success, along with insights from participating organisations about culture risks and focus areas for the future.
Changing trends in leadership, the ability to understand the dependencies and impact of culture and leadership, the actions and capabilities of current leaders, the adoption of agile leadership mindsets, and the understanding of how to inspire the performance of others to achieve greater results and mitigate behaviour risks, all have significant impacts on workplace culture, the sustainability of workforces, and the success of our future leaders.
An investment in developing culture and leadership capabilities is a cost that many organisations feel they are unable to afford. However, the cost and risk of not acting is greater than proactively investing in culture and leadership.
Some significant risks of not investing in culture and leadership include:
Not being able to attract and retain quality employees, with impacts to quality of service and potential loss of clients, customers, and revenue
The detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of employees and by extension those they are responsible for caring for
Failure to comply with regulations and to meet standards
Inability to grow or sustain business operations.
In the care sector, leadership capability remains a critical element in retraining and attracting quality employees. During these disruptive times the importance of designing culture to provide aligned delivery of service, offering attractive employment options, leadership and employee opportunities, and flexible work arrangements should not be overlooked by organisations looking to maintain employee satisfaction and in turn provide quality care to those most vulnerable.
At HENRY REED we support leaders to design efficient workplace culture, inspire performance, and deliver results. To find out how we can support your organisation book a time to have a confidential discussion with Georgia Henry, Director or call 1300 266 995.