Remote Aged Care services encounter many challenges not the least of which is staff management. Staff can understandably become accustomed to doing things a certain way, then along comes the new Coordinator who has different ideas and expectations from the previous one.
Sometimes local staff have competing priorities such as cultural business or family commitments to attend to, however the work still needs to get done. So how can you motivate and encourage a strong and vibrant workplace?
From my experience, here are some ways that may help:
1. Be clear
Ensure that staff roles are clearly defined and that expectations of daily and weekly tasks is understood.
A good practice I see in very efficient and effective Coordinators is to have a morning meeting where the Coordinator confirms with each staff member what tasks they will be doing that day and who they will be working with.
2. Understand why your staff come to work and what motivates them
One of the key issues I hear from Coordinators is that they have to prompt or remind staff of their tasks or tell them to do the same thing each day, but they don’t seek to understand why this is happening. This is unhelpful for both the Coordinator and the staff member.
Be direct but fair.
- Is there something you can change in the work place to make staff more pro-active?
- What motivates them to do one task over another? Is it because they don’t understand, or are they procrastinating because they don’t like the task?
- Do they need a change?
Identify staff strengths and address the things they are not so good at constructively by understanding their likes and dislikes.
An effective leader will support their staff and assist them to be ‘self starters’ by encouraging autonomy and responsibility.
3. Support what they do best and offer opportunities
Some people enjoy driving while some people prefer to prepare and cook meals. Often we think we’ll swap things around and give people a break to share the load. However, I have found that in a remote setting some people like to know their job and do that one job well first.
If you find that someone enjoys doing a certain task like the laundry and it gets completed efficiently, let them know that they are doing a good job. Your positive acknowledgement helps build their confidence.
Ask them what they like about doing that job and why? This encourages self reflection. Most often it will be because they have a sense of control based on knowing the job. Then take the next step and ask if there is something else they would like to try. Don’t just assume that this is all they ever want to do.
4. Give them the resources needed to do the job
Staff need the right tools to get the job done. Be prepared and have the correct resources on hand to support them in completing their tasks. Ensure supplies are ordered in a timely manner and maintenance schedules are complied with to prevent breakdowns.
5. Give praise and recognition
People like their manager to recognise their work. Take the opportunity to highlight things that are done well. This can be when talking one to one with the staff member and discussing what they did well. It can also be highlighted in a staff meeting, however take care to minimise embarrassing a staff member in front of their peers, or alienating other staff. Talk positively about what is being done well and how this helps provide better care and services to clients.
6. Be part of the team but lead by example
This brings us to the team. It is important that you develop a team environment so that one person is not carrying the majority of the workload. Have regular staff meetings where everyone is encouraged to share ideas and ask questions.
Yes, you know you need to get all those assessments and care plans written and the food orders in, but let your staff know what you are doing, often they just see ‘The Boss’ sitting on the phone in the office; they don’t understand your workload.
Let staff know what you are working on and why. Outline to staff what your priorities are for the day and when you will and won’t be available. If they can see that you are doing your job and you are being consistent, it reinforces a good work ethic. Be clear about when you are available and when you are not, and stick to this.
7. Listen to their opinions, ideas and concerns
Listen to your staff. Sometimes we neglect to take the time to talk through issues with staff to get their input and ideas. Many Coordinators are not from the community they work in and may not understand other community factors that impact on staff and service delivery.
Value the input of staff.
Staff are often part of the local community and can bring insight to a situation. If a problem has arisen, encourage the staff to discuss it and come up with a solution. This way they are more likely to support a new or changed approach and carry it through as they now have ownership.
8. Invest in staff development and learning – and mentor them
People coming into the Aged Care industry need training. So many people think that caring is an innate ability and that staff automatically know what to do. In my years as a trainer I have seen many ‘light bulb’ moments as learners suddenly realise ‘why’ they are doing something a certain way.
- Why do we expect a careworker will know how to shower a person correctly and recognise what to do to protect skin integrity?
- Why do we expect staff understand how to meet a person’s special dietary needs if they don’t know about the problem, the risks and best practice?
When our staff have low literacy levels they are also unlikely to have read up on best practice in an aged care setting as we may have done.
As a Coordinator, you need to train and mentor staff in key skill sets where there are identified gaps.
- Buddy up experienced staff with new staff and talk to your training provider about skill set training.
- Most of all encourage your staff and create an active learning environment.
9. Make sure staff understand the importance of their work and the service in the community
Sometimes staff are under the impression that the Aged Care program is just a meals program – maybe an extension of the community kitchens that operated out of Women’s Centres years ago.
Support deeper understanding about aged care reform and the key role that care staff have in ensuring that the work they do is meaningful and appropriate.
Reinforce the ‘doing with, not doing for’ when they are working with clients.
One of the biggest motivators for both staff and clients comes from understanding and being understood as people. Don’t underestimate the value in a regular conversation between staff, clients and their carers.
- Encourage ‘active listening’ and observation when staff are with clients.
- Reinforce and support staff contribution to tasks such as progress notes and assessments.
Support staff to learn and understand about program requirements and the driving principles such as consumer directed and person centred care.
- Broaden their knowledge about program changes and expectations, e.g. Commonwealth Home Support and Home Care Packages.
- Use staff meetings to discuss different programs and their requirements.
On the CDCS website we have added a couple of downloadable ‘Info Shares’ that you can get for free and use to share program information with staff using scenarios based on a remote context.
Let us know how you and your staff find them. We like feedback too!
Outside of work, Donna keeps busy with family and a passion for horses and holistic approaches in land and animal care.
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In her spare time, while she ages gracefully, she helps out with kids theatre, rides an electric bike and drags her husband off to explore the world as often as possible.
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