How can health and social care employers help staff development?
In any workplace, it’s important to have employees who are fully trained and have the right skills and up to date knowledge to do their jobs efficiently. But in the health and social care sector, it’s an absolute pre-requisite, demanded by the Care Quality Commission.
Outside of the requirements of the CQC, ongoing learning and development are vital to the career progression of the industry’s professionals.
What are the benefits of continual development?
Improved staff retention. When an organisation offers training and development to their employees, the staff are more likely to experience high levels of job satisfaction, and consequently stay in the job longer, so improving retention levels. This clearly has benefits to the employer in reduced recruitment costs and maintaining consistent relationships with the service users.
Increased staff empowerment. Ongoing development makes people feel more confident in their knowledge and skills. This leads to more positive feelings about their careers, and also gives them the self-belief to take on new challenges.
Higher service levels. When the University of Kent conducted a study into the effect of more training for social care staff, it was found that it can lead to better outcomes for the service users, including a more homely environment, more involvement in community activities, more opportunities for decision making and improved cleanliness and comfort.
And what are the barriers?
It seems clear that there are multiple benefits to the employee, the service user and the organisation in investing in ongoing training and development. So it’s concerning that according to a recent Guardian study and round table with health care professionals, well over half of health and social care staff don’t feel they have opportunities to take training to further their career and just over two-thirds don’t feel they have enough training to do their job.
Some of the reasons behind these statistics could include:-
A lack of modern technology support. Almost nine out of ten respondents to the Guardian survey said they had some training for their job delivered online. But with only 25% of care homes having good quality wifi systems it’s almost impossible for staff to use technology to access learning whilst at work.
Time pressures. 68% of respondents said their workload was too high to fit in training. And one contributor explained that there is a two-tier approach to learning within adult social care where permanently employed staff were not expected to learn outside of their working hours while those without a permanent contract had to undertake training requirements in their own time.
Lack of literacy. Some of the people employed in the sector have low levels of literacy, such as workers who may not have English as a first language. There is also an issue around people who may not be comfortable with using technology to learn. One participant in the survey cited that they had come across people who “didn’t know how to switch a computer on”.
Many respondents in the Guardian study – in fact, 90% of them – reference the prevalence of online training. It’s a popular route to development, driven by the issues of logistics, time and money. But it’s important not to have an over-reliance on this method of learning, which at worst can represent little more than a tick box exercise to satisfy the regulators.
Face to face training is highly valued thanks to the ability it brings for professionals to discuss and practice what has been learned in the training room. It’s usually carried out during the working day – and is therefore approached more consistently and enthusiastically than e-learning that employees have to schedule in their own time. And its inevitably more in-depth and interactive than any online resource can be.
Participants in the survey agreed that when it comes to implementing effective training and development for the health and social care workforce, there are challenges to be faced. There is good practice, however, and a balanced mixture of high-quality online resources and in-depth face to face training needs to be made available to workers in the health and social care sector. The NHS Training Quality Improvement team has resources to support best practice including a set of Education and Training Standards tools developed to help training managers design, deliver and evaluate their training in line with best practice.