Staff training has to be a top priority
One of the biggest challenges for those working in the care sector is staff recruitment. The ethos in my care home is that our residents are very special people. We therefore only want very special people to be caring for our residents.
Despite having an extensive and diverse training programme, the one area in which we have an inability to train is on caring. Put bluntly, you either care or you don’t care. That is not something we can teach.
Beyond the numerous regulatory requirements regarding training on issues such as manual handling, food and hygiene, there is much, much more to do than the mandatory or the simple minimum. Staff need to understand the culture of our residents, which requires cultural training. They need to understand the very special needs of those of our residents who are living with dementia. This does not come under the heading of mandatory training, but as far as we are concerned it most certainly is mandatory in our book.
However, when we are under pressure from our trustees to make “efficiency” savings, non-mandatory training can be seen as a luxury item. But any kind of cut to training budgets, in my view, is a false economy and will come back to haunt us in the long term.
As is the case for most charities, our service to our clients can only be delivered by our staff, so they are our biggest and our most valuable resource. It should therefore be apparent to us all that investing in that resource has to be our number one priority – not only in terms of their skills set, but also in terms of job satisfaction and self actualisation for our staff. A happy workforce means happy clients and that is what we are here for.
Whatever the temptation might be, particularly in these days of government cuts, I would hope that both chief executives and human resource managers will maintain and indeed increase their level of training expenditure.
Having said this, not all training needs to be expensive. Training is not just about going to a classroom and looking at Powerpoint presentations and flip charts. It’s also about on-the-job training, role modelling by managers and others, and through managers taking the time to give positive feedback to their staff. All training and knowledge transfer is of value.
Perhaps the biggest challenge, however, in relation to the training budget remains evaluation. How do we obtain scientific and measurable data on the cost-effectiveness of our training? This is not always easy particularly in the case of customer care which may not have any direct monetary value but in terms of the quality of life of our residents it will have an enormous impact. However, this presents us with something of a problem in that we need to convince those controlling the purse strings of the importance of continued and/or increased training. We have to point to some form of payback on the investment. Therein lies the challenge.
Leon Smith is chief executive of Nightingale, a London-based care home provider