If the alarm clock is the signal for the daily dilemma –
whether to dive under the duvet for an extended period or to roll
out of bed reluctantly – perhaps your employer could be doing
more to put a spring in your step.
Working in social care is renowned for being stressful. But,
although employers are unable to wave a magic wand and make the
more onerous tasks disappear, they can take simple and inexpensive
steps to motivate the workforce.
The first is to acknowledge how important the staff are.
“In most social care settings the staff are the biggest
bill,” says Nick Johnson, deputy chief executive of the
Social Care Association. “A good employer will recognise them
as the most valuable resource and maintain them
This includes making every staff member feel valued, which Johnson
says can be done in part by allowing employees to help determine
the direction of the organisation. By helping to form the company
philosophy, staff are more likely to care about it and consequently
Johnson also suggests that employers give their staff time to bond
socially. “In a previous job the team was given a day a year
to do something together. One thing we went on was a cycle trek and
it fostered better relationships within the team and a good
attitude towards the employer.”
But these efforts to form good relations should not be one-offs.
When good relationships have become established, it is vital to
maintain and develop them. Sheila Barrett, practice development
manager at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, says the
nature of the social care sector requires employers to be that bit
“People are in the caring profession so think they will be
cared about by their employer,” she says. “They expect
to be nurtured and developed in the same way they are expected to
nurture and develop the people they work with.”
Employers can satisfy these expectations in several ways, says
Barrett. By offering training, listening to employees, and giving
constructive feedback, they can show that they recognise the
complex roles that staff undertake.
To an extent, senior managers need to be role models and embody the
company’s principles, says Judith Leary-Joyce, chief
executive of Great Companies Consulting, which advises businesses
on how to improve their services. But she also says managers should
take time to interact with employees on a more personal
“It’s very easy to get too worried about keeping a
professional distance, but if managers really know their people it
makes a huge impact,” Leary-Joyce says. One way employers can
show that they care is by taking an interest in an employee’s
Trying to be an approachable individual will not only make the
workplace more enjoyable but will also help to prevent problems, as
employees will feel more comfortable talking to their boss if they
are struggling. And the organisation as a whole can also benefit,
as being a better boss can have a positive effect on
It sounds like common sense, but common sense is a commodity
lacking in many organisations. Senior managers everywhere should be
asking their employees what they do when their alarm clocks go off.
If they admit to hiding under the duvet then trouble may lie ahead.
Particularly when their best staff head off to find an employer who
will treat them better.
Leading by example
Social inclusion charity P3 was rated fifth in the Sunday
Times‘ 100 best small companies to work
P3 runs four hostels in the Derbyshire area and employs a team that
works with rough sleepers in Wolverhampton.
Of its 110 staff, 86 per cent say they are proud to work for P3 and
88 per cent find their teams fun to work with. Overall, 83 per cent
of staff say they love their job.
However, only 3 per cent earn more than £35,000 a year so
their success cannot be explained solely by money. Instead,
director Mark Simms puts it down to the fact that P3 employees can
see at first-hand how their work helps people – and this
keeps them committed.
He says: “I’ve worked in the NHS and it is very
target-driven, but sometimes people don’t understand the
point of the target. The purpose of our job is about changing
people’s lives, not meeting targets.”
Focusing too much on hitting targets demoralises social care staff,
says Simms, because it takes their eyes off the people they are
trying to help.
“Everyone aspires to do a good job in the sector and if you
can meet those aspirations you’re on the way to having a
workforce,” he says.
How to be a good employer
- Focus your staff: they are working in the sector to care for
people so give examples of how they have a positive impact.
- Help them grow: people want to do their job well and giving
good training and support will help them achieve these goals.
- Be constructive: feedback is best with practical examples of
how to improve so ensure you put the effort into preparing for
- Listen: if people bring you ideas and you dismiss them without
discussion they will become demoralised.
- Ask questions: employees appreciate the personal touch so take
time to ask employees about their family or their weekend.
- Help staff balance their lives: your staff members aren’t
slaves to be worked until they drop so help them manage their
personal and professional lives.
- Promote bonding: not only will the organisation be a friendlier
place to be but a team that gets on will work better.
- Care: workers in caring professions expect to be cared for
themselves more than most employees, so make sure you give the
emotional support they need.
- Challenge staff: people want jobs that will stretch them so, as
long as you give good support, encourage your employees to push
- Be a role model: good bosses must lead by example so do your
job as well as you expect other people to do theirs.