It goes without saying that the industry, and the economy as a whole, are facing challenges. Creating the right culture goes a long way towards tackling some of the issues, particularly those around recruitment and retention. It is important to me, and to the team here at Holmleigh, that they feel valued, respected, trusted, and empowered to do the best that they can.
Teams need to feel that they belong, that there is a plan, that there is a direction, and that, as leaders, we have our fingers on the pulse of what’s happening within this business. Crucially, it is important that we acknowledge some of the really, really hard work people are having to do, and that we remain active in trying to find solutions to some of the issues we face.
Leadership is about vision. It’s about hard decisions. It’s about leading by example. It’s making sure people can see that you are giving 140% and that you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and put in some hard graft. Those things mean that you are human. We all have the same goal of supporting people to the best of our ability. My role is to support the supporters and give them the tools they need to succeed.
I believe in sharing my vision, and in letting people know what’s going on and why. Our monthly managers’ meetings, and our manager’s charter, are a huge part of that. I attend all of the managers’ meetings. I go into services, and I know and am known by staff and the people we support. These are such simple things, but it is a mistake to underestimate how important they are. It gives me the opportunity to have open conversations with people, to understand their pressures, and to recognise and act upon them.
Leaders need to make tough decisions – and I think the worst thing is to sit on the fence. It is important that we are confident in making those decisions but, at the same time, quite willing to explain to the team why you’ve made that decision and explain the logic. That transparency, willingness to explain the rationale, and the faith to trust your team with the detail, are vital. If they can understand the thought process, and how the decision ties into the overall vision, then they are more likely to get on board.
One of the big issues, when I arrived, was agency usage. Working with the team, we set up a Managers Charter which has empowered managers to tackle occupancy and agency usage in a sustainable way. We’ve built relationships with key agencies to make sure that the rates we pay aren’t overinflated. We’ve bought properties for agency workers to stay in, to ensure that we can get the best people, especially where we’ve struggled with local recruitment. Doing so brings continuity in care, ensuring we have consistent staffing. But it also brings a reduction in staffing costs. By empowering managers to make these decisions, we’ve been able to plough the money we’ve saved on agency staff into our core staff team – which has meant 2 pay rises in the space of six months. Not only is that helping with recruitment, but it helps with retention – a huge focus of ours. We’ve employed a Wellbeing Officer to work closely with new recruits, support them to settle in, iron out issues, and improve staff wellbeing company-wide. We’ve got a new Director of People due to start, and a Service Improvement Director is also being recruited as we speak.
We have a robust quality assurance process. Every service gets audited every six months. We’re driving up quality. In part, that’s down to the more stable workforce, but it is also down to transparency and accountability. I put my hands up when something doesn’t go to plan, and I actively encourage people to do the same. It’s not a blame culture by any stretch, we’ve moved beyond that. By taking collective responsibility, by learning from our mistakes as an organization, we can grow, improve and meet the needs of the people we support.
We’re on a journey. We are building trust with our frontline team, taking responsibility for things that are not going perfectly, and making incremental changes. People are empowered. People are happy. I can’t claim to have all the answers, but overall, things are very positive. Our frontline staff team has had two pay rises. We’ve consolidated our agency use to reduce costs. Our occupancy rates have increased. Our staff team is happier, and our relationship with the local authority and CQC has never been better.