Juggling learning needs

    Scotland is in the midst of a national consultation and debate
    on how to bring forward the best leaders and managers in social
    care. The Scottish executive’s 21st Century Working Group is
    looking at the need for a coherent framework for developing leaders
    and managers in social care – a framework which looks at roles,
    competences and qualifications, training, development and
    guidance.(1)

    Meanwhile, in England, leadership has been identified as key to
    the development of the social care workforce over the next five
    years. The social care training body Topss has recently put its
    proposals on developing leadership out to consultation.

    Our research sought out experiences and views of those in the
    front line to answer some of the questions posed by the debate. The
    findings were used to make important changes to the support and
    training of the managers in South Lanarkshire Council.

    But we need to get management induction programmes right before
    we move on to more specialist training as there is evidence that
    staff who are already in management posts often feel ill-prepared
    for the role. Good planning and induction for our managers will
    provide the foundation for a move on to meaningful continuous
    professional development.(2)

    Since the main question posed within the research was “Are
    social work managers prepared to manage?” the logical approach was
    to ask social work managers if they felt prepared to run their
    service. The two main aims of the research were to then use the
    findings to inform a future in-house management support and
    training programme and also to contribute to the wider debate on
    the subject.

    The findings revealed 86 per cent of respondents had undertaken
    some form of internal management training but for four out of five
    this happened only after they had taken up their management
    position.

    All the managers felt ill-prepared for their new managerial
    roles. They also raised concerns that in-house courses focused on
    human resources tasks, such as maximising attendance, recruitment
    and selection, and discipline and grievance. The research found
    that these areas of training are not high on new managers’ agendas.
    Instead, management of people, managing risk and managing finance
    are viewed as the priority issues.

    South Lanarkshire Council had established links with Strathclyde
    University for external management training. This provided managers
    with the opportunity to undertake a certificate, then a diploma and
    move on to masters level in advanced social work management. It was
    found that despite these links just under one in 10 managers had
    gone on to undertake any external management training. Just 8 per
    cent of those held the social work post-qualifying advanced award
    certificate in social work management and 1 per cent held the
    Diploma in Social Work Management from Strathclyde University.

    The research found that most managers had no formal external
    management qualifications. Those with such qualifications had been
    employed in social work for 15 years. None of the other managers
    who had come from other professional backgrounds and were working
    in social work had a recognised management qualification.

    Although this raised concerns about managers pursuing the
    continuing professional development opportunities open to them, it
    was even more apparent that the main area for concern was the lack
    of in-house training for new social work managers. This should
    involve a comprehensive induction and training programme that
    provided managers with the foundations and confidence to move into
    the more formal academic routes of management training.

    Better in-house management induction and training was seen as a
    key by 43 per cent of those surveyed. Interviews with managers
    found that the training should be in three areas.

    • In-house succession planning, giving potential managers some
      exposure to the role before being considered for a management
      post.
    • Induction training programme, where new managers were allowed a
      four to six-week settling-in period where they had no operational
      responsibilities and were fully trained, supported and briefed on
      their role and the expectations of the organisation.
    • Mentoring, where an experienced senior manager was identified,
      who would be available to the manager for the first six months to a
      year for consultation and support outside formal supervision.

    As a result of the research South Lanarkshire Council changed
    the support and training given to social work managers. The new
    training and support programme now includes a comprehensive
    induction pack, induction training, and action learning sets which
    include access to mentors.

    Management training has now become a central part of the
    training agenda in South Lanarkshire Council. The programme of
    change is ongoing with plans to include management training for
    more senior managers and more joint management training with
    partners in housing, health, education and police.

    Succession planning has also been put in place for managers in
    residential and day care services and it is hoped to roll this
    policy out to include operational fieldwork staff. Forty managers
    from residential and day care services have now achieved Scottish
    Vocational Qualification Level 4 – the registered managers award in
    health and social care.

    There is already evidence of progress as a result of the
    research. A group of new managers who took part in a six-month
    action learning set reported that they now felt more prepared,
    valued and supported by the organisation and welcomed the council’s
    training and support initiative for new managers.

    Marian Price is practice learning centre co-ordinator at
    South Lanarkshire Council training team. Her role is to develop the
    learning centre’s resources and practice learning opportunities for
    the new social work degree and provide induction, training, support
    and continuing professional development opportunities for social
    work managers. She has worked in local authority social work for 15
    years.

    Abstract

    This article looks at the findings from research into whether
    Scottish local authority managers are properly prepared to manage
    their service. The findings led to South Lanarkshire Council
    embarking on an in-house induction and training programme for new
    managers linked to a framework of continuing professional
    development.

    About the research

    A range of research techniques was deployed to pull together the
    data: desk research; questionnaires; and face to face interviews. A
    total of 142 of the 198 social work managers employed by South
    Lanarkshire Council took part in the study, equating to 71 per cent
    of the managerial workforce.

    References

    1. Council for Excellence in Management & Leadership, Managers
      and Leaders: Raising our Game, 2002, www.managementandleadershipcouncil.org
    2. Marian Price, Are Social Work Managers Prepared to Manage?,
      unpublished thesis, 2003. Copies available from the author for a
      donation of £20 which will be divided between the British
      Liver Trust and National Kidney Research Fund

    Contact the author

    E-mail: marion.price@southlanarkshire.gov.uk
    or phone 01698 527487

     

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