Strong leadership is at the heart of every good and outstanding care providing organisation, without good leadership we know the quality of care provision declines. Over the past few months, Skills for Care have been working with the sector to understand the challenges it’s facing around leadership and management and the support needed to develop strong leadership skills. Over the summer, 588 employers (including care providers, Local Authorities and learning providers) responded to a survey which asked about:
- the priorities for leadership support and development for the sector both now and in the future
- what leadership development support should look like, and how Skills for Care can make it as effective as possible
- positive features of support and development for leaders and managers right now.
Priorities in leadership support and development needs
There were five priority areas identified from the research:
- Support with mental health and wellbeing for themselves, their teams and the people who they support, both generally and in response to a crisis.
- Working across boundaries – respondents highlighted a need for greater cooperation with other agencies including greater knowledge sharing, mutual respect and understanding. They expressed a need to have a greater voice with other agencies and support for integrated working. This included an understanding of the importance of strategic planning and a need for support in that area.
- Training and development needs - alongside support for managing teams effectively to support the retention and development of their workforce, respondents also reported a need for digital skills, for example to support remote working and management, support with diversity and inclusion, business skills and career progression.
- Support and guidance – the need to receive clear, streamlined, accurate, up to date guidance, information and policies was a strong theme in the results. Support from peers through mentoring, supervision and coaching was also important for respondents.
- COVID-19 specific support – especially support with infection prevention and control (PPE availability, training and advice) and support with testing.
What should leadership development support look like?
It was clear from the findings that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not desirable. Support needs to recognise sector diversity and be tailored to meet the needs of different services. It needs to be inclusive, accessible, with flexible approaches and of high quality. Whatever the future support offer might look like, it needs to clearly communicate the tangible benefits of engaging in it.
Peer support, coaching and mentoring, leadership programmes, webinars, networking, action learning and online leadership tools were all felt to be valuable approaches for delivering support. New channels and methods should also be considered using digital technologies.
It was clear from the findings that this support should be available for all levels – leadership isn’t defined by a job title and shouldn’t be restricted to those in managerial positions. Leadership is a valuable skill in roles from entry level to the most senior position.
Positive features of support right now
We also wanted to understand what support the sector values right now and we gathered many positive examples of a sector supporting each other during incredibly challenging times. Organisations have supported their workforce through good leadership and supportive line management, providing opportunities for remote working and using digital technologies.
There’s been support from external organisations such as local authorities or clinical commissioning groups. Peer support, networking and joint working has enabled the sector to share challenges and good practice, resulting in a greater unity. And the existing support from Skills for Care was also acknowledged.
It was clear throughout the research that there’s a real need for recognition and respect for the work of the sector, highlighted even more so from the impact of the pandemic and the importance of strong leadership in achieving this.
Skills for Care are now working closely with several focus groups to further explore the findings of their initial discovery work and inform and shape their future leadership development offer.