Martin Farrow, CEO Optalis. Martin has been involved in the health and social care sector for more than 20 years, working at senior and CEO level for a variety of commercial and charitable organisations including Sunrise, Bupa and Turning Point.
A diverse workforce enriches an organisation and makes the workplace more interesting. A mix of characteristics including age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion and ability will naturally bring talent and experience to an organisation. The inclusive companies are those that recognise the benefits that diversity will bring and promote this fully.
There are many benefits to being an organisation that encourages its staff to voice their opinion and suggest better ways of working. With a diverse pool of talent comes a wealth of experience and knowledge. Cross-cultural communication can help a business grow, consider better ways of working, and to learn. These different perspectives and opinions should be embraced.
One of our aims at Optalis is to recruit people whose values are aligned with those of the organisation. A key part of this is ensuring the workforce recognises that diversity is embedded into the culture of our work. They must be passionate about treating customers and colleagues with the dignity and respect they deserve.
This open and honest culture can only help to retain diverse talent. In a competitive social care recruitment market, retention is key to being able to sustain a quality care service and we have developed a detailed Workforce Development Plan to ensure that we are recruiting and retaining the best talent in the sector.
Skills for Care has recognised that social care providers need to think differently and more creatively about their recruitment practices. In 2017 they launched a series of innovative projects, which encouraged social care employers to ‘look past the label’ and recruit people from traditionally under-represented groups. We have taken extensive measures over the past few years to ensure that our workforce is diverse and reflects our client base.
The Optalis Workforce Development plan aims to “attract, support and develop people who are motivated, informed and inspired to provide a level of service demanded by our values.” Our key aim is to train and grow the best teams and leaders of today and tomorrow, to ensure that they stay with Optalis and progress within the company instead of looking for opportunities elsewhere.
We do this by regularly looking at ways to reward longevity and by reviewing flexible working practices; carrying out appraisals to outline progression plans and running a Staff Consultative Forum, where representatives from across all services come together to discuss matters of importance to the workforce, as well as to provide a forum for engagement between employees and senior managers.
As a Mindful Employer, we take the mental health of our staff very seriously, and regular meetings and fora give them the opportunity to raise any concerns they might have and receive the appropriate support. People spend a lot of their time at work and so we take great care in making sure that our team members’ emotional wellbeing is treated just as equally as their physical health.
Optalis’ Vision is “To fulfil the potential of every customer, colleague and community we work with” and one way we deliver on this is by placing a high importance on recruiting staff with disabilities. As a Disability Confident Employer, we actively encourage job applications from people living with disabilities – including customers – and work to ensure that all candidates are given the support they need at every stage of the recruitment process. We are particularly proud of our ‘customers into colleagues’ activity which has seen a number of customers become effective and valued colleagues.
We are an inclusive company and have recently appointed an Ethnic Minority Development Worker to the Optalis team to celebrate the diversity of our customers and staff, as well as to work across the organisation to increase inclusion and understanding of ethnic minorities. Our workforce is made up of a variety of ethnicities, religions, genders and demographics, and we want each and everyone of our employees to celebrate the diverse set of people that make Optalis a success.