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Date:March 21, 2015

Southwark Council

John Howard, Head of Organisational Development at Southwark Council

With the introduction of the Care Certificate in March 2015, aimed at tackling the inconsistencies in the preparation of healthcare assistants and social care support workers as highlighted in the Cavendish Review, many employers have welcomed this approach to providing a minimum level of requirements to help assure quality in the sector.

However, some employers are aiming even higher in their quests to build quality care services for their communities. We spoke to John Howard, Head of Organisational Development at Southwark Council about how the Council’s determination to deliver exceptional care is being achieved through its current Workforce Development Plan.

“Our aim with the workforce development plan is to provide the right interventions, to create and retain high calibre people, with the right skills, so that we provide high quality care to people who need it,” explained John Howard.

“We need to support and encourage staff and managers in the industry and make this an attractive career option. Having motivated, well-trained staff with the right values, and who are appropriately paid and valued, is the foundation for any quality care service.”

With the objectives defined, John and his team first analysed the Council’s existing recruitment processes and evaluated any weaknesses which could have been impacting on the Council’s ability to attract, create and retain the right people.

“We started by reviewing our sources for potential employees, from Job Centre Plus right through to regional newspapers and we found we were being ‘mechanical’ in our approach to recruitment, we were too functionally based and with high staff turnover it was obviously not working for us,” explained John Howard.

“So we took a step back and thought more about what a good Carer looked like, not just in terms of qualifications. We spoke to the Carers working with us and clients on what they thought were good and bad behaviours. That way we could be more specific in explaining the kind of person we are looking to recruit to our sources of employees.”

John and his team also evaluated the internal resources involved in recruitment and selection and came across a problem experienced by many employers.

“As is often the case, some of the people who were doing the selection interviews didn’t have a great deal of experience in interviewing candidates. It was often not their main job and while they did their best we needed consistency throughout the process,” said John.

As the development plan was underway, John asked his team to trial the Profiles4Care values-based recruitment tool, with very positive results.

“I received fantastic feedback from the team on the speed and accuracy of the reports, particularly the guided questions for interviewers to use, which has become really important to us.

“We then tested the system at the Job Centre Plus in Peckham and at London Bridge and no one taking the questionnaire had any reservations and understood the rationale behind it completely. And again the results were extremely positive.

“Everyone understands the need for ‘soft skills’ in this environment and from our research we now know what a good Carer looks like. The Profiles4Care tool helps us find individuals with the right traits simply and quickly and as a result we have now embedded the profiling tool in the recruitment process.”

The Profiles4Care tool will soon also be used as part of a Carers training programme as John and his team endeavour to develop a more structured route for Carers to progress their careers with Southwark Council.

“We don’t want to stop at mandatory, we want excellence,” stated John Howard. “We’re moving towards establishing career pathways for Carers. We need to raise the game in making Caring a profession and with greater recognition, for example by introducing CPD accredited ongoing training. The profiling tool will be critical in monitoring and mentoring of Carers as they develop their careers.”

Rewarding current success is also a high priority for the team. In December Southwark Council it held the first ‘Care Workers Recognition’ event. Care and Support workers nominated by their clients were invited to a celebration tea and presentation ceremony in acknowledgement of their work and commitment to their customers. Plus a series of YouTube videos involving actual Carers and clients have been created to raise the profile of Care and illustrate what working in the care field is really like.

“We want to capture people who would never have thought about a job in Care previously and the  way to do that is to keep raising standards, make it a real profession and to recognise and learn from people that do it well,” concluded John Howard.