Next month, Care UK will go head-to-head with household names such as Heathrow Airport, Direct Line Group and Waitrose as finalists in the 2016 Engage Awards – the only customer and employee engagement awards in the UK.
Care UK’s shortlisted entry is for its sustained, ten-year programme to improve communications between the colleagues working for this leading provider of over a hundred care homes, their managers and the support teams who help them to deliver great care for residents.
Back in 2006, Care UK’s Residential Care operating company was a medium sized business with 54 care homes and 3,500 employees. A decade later, it runs 113 care homes and ten day clubs, with over a dozen more homes expected to open in the next two years. The homes’ award-winning care is provided by a team of more than 9,000 employees.
HR director Leah Queripel said: “This rapid growth led to challenges, especially with communicating policies and corporate issues to our teams which are spread across the country from Aberdeen to Bournemouth. Back in 2006, there was almost no opportunity for employees to have an input into decision making; there was limited employee recognition and there was inconsistent practice across the company.
“As a result we faced a higher than necessary turnover of employees and, at times, poor morale and our concern was that this could, in time, affect the service we could deliver to our residents. It was clear employees needed to have a voice and the ability to influence decisions that would affect them and the way they worked.”
So in 2006, Care UK set up Colleague Voices, a consultation and listening forum, designed to engage colleagues and open effective two-way communication between first-line colleagues, support services and senior management. Every home has a representative who attends regional and national meetings on behalf of their colleagues, bringing feedback, ideas and discussing potential solutions for issues concerning employees. The scheme reflects Care UK’s strongly held ethos that it is those people working in care homes who have the day-to-day relationships with the people they support who hold the knowledge to enhance and refine the service that everyone offers.
The system needed to be flexible to meet the changing needs of the business and teams so Colleague Voices continues to adapt and evolve, being pro-active and responsive in equal measure.
Leah Queripel said: “Our ethos is to be open and transparent about what is achievable. As a result, reps are realistic with their ideas, understanding the need to look at the bigger picture, balancing the needs of colleagues with those of the people they support. What has been achieved by the reps is always visible – we gain the insight, make the changes and provide the feedback.”
During the last two years, a weekly manager’s bulletin has been developed, along with an intranet and a bi-weekly newsletter with direct contributions by the homes.
Leah added: “The results show our investment has paid dividends. Our annual major survey of colleagues’ views and opinions shows more employees feel they can access the right training, more employees told us they have the opportunity for personal development and growth. They also reported increased satisfaction with Care UK as a company to work for.”
Amy Nolan, a Colleague Voices rep for Station House care home in Crewe, explained: “I have been attending meetings for nearly three years and I love it. You learn lots about the company and we can ask any questions we like. Everyone is so open and honest with us. The meetings are different each time; we often spend time in small groups so everyone gets their say. I feel really valued being a rep.
“I have noticed lots of changes coming from Colleague Voices over the years such as uniforms, pay for NVQs, long service awards, store discount cards and more training. I truly believe that we are listened to and we are always excited to hear about the outcomes from the meetings.”
This year’s award winners will be announced in a glittering ceremony at the Westminster Park Plaza Hotel on Tuesday 8th November, attended by hundreds of customer and employee engagement professionals and hosted by veteran broadcaster and former breakfast TV presenter Bill Turnbull.