The Australian Government Department of Health recently released the report from Phase 1 of the Skills Development Program for Aged Care Staff1 and it makes for an interesting read.
The program, which is a part of the Enhancing Nursing Skills and Leadership Capability in Aged Care 2020–21 budget measure, looks to provide care staff with training to raise skill levels on the back of the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. In Phase 1 of the program, the Department set out to understand current industry needs through skills gap analysis. Training preferences were then mapped, resulting in a number of recommendations for the next phase of the program.
In addition to identifying training gaps for clinical Personal Care Workers (PCW) in the aged care industry, the report echoes the Royal Commission’s findings that there is a need to upskill leaders within the Aged Care industry in a range of areas, including business acumen and change management. For an industry that is in dire need of structural, cultural, capability and reputational changes, leadership development will play a crucial role in reinventing the sector.
Having helped clients across a range of industries develop leadership programs, we’d like to take the opportunity to share a couple of insights into how leadership training in the healthcare industry in general, and the aged care sector in particular, can be approached to increase the chances of successful results.
Make the most of your inhouse skills through mentorship and coaching programs
The healthcare industry has one of the oldest workforces of any sector in Australia. While often presented as a challenge, it can actually be an opportunity when it comes to professional development.
The older your team members, the more years of accumulated skills and knowledge already exists within your organisation. This places you in a great position to use mentorship and coaching as part of your training. We know that many leadership positions in the sector are held by people who are either former clinical PCWs themselves or those who are still practising. This makes the pairing of older and younger staff to prepare them for transitions into leadership roles a cost-saving approach that can have additional cultural benefits for the organisation.
Studies have shown that mentoring has a range of positive outcomes for both mentors and mentees beyond simple gaining of new skills, such as role modelling, networking, career rejuvenation, and increased confidence.
Ensure that your training is contextualised
Companies regularly spend considerable parts of their training and development budget on upskilling their managers and directors. As a result, leadership programs are offered by a wide range of institutions, from small HR associations and private consultancy businesses to university graduate schools like AGSM at the University of New South Wales and MBS at Melbourne University.
While many of these courses are great, their focus is often on leaders in the corporate world — which can make considerable parts of the course offerings a poor fit for the healthcare industry.
As we explored in our recently published post on scenario-based learning, using authentic, life-like scenarios not only produces better results but is also far more engaging for participants. Just like clinical PCWs should practice patient care using authentic clinical scenarios, so too should leadership training be designed with the unique environment of a healthcare organisation in mind.
The nature of the work needed to uplift the Aged Care sector saw the Royal Commission recommend a number of specific approaches to leadership development. These include training and capacity building with a focus on:
- Collaboration skills to enable collaboration across all levels of leadership, from board members to executive teams, regulators, policymakers and frontline leaders.
- Behavioural change training to align management with organisational missions.
- Day to day governance and organisational management.
- Development of business acumen to foresee and react to changes in the market.
With $17.7 billion allocated to the Aged Care sector over the next 5 years — a considerable part of which will be allocated to training — there has arguably never been a better time to invest in purpose-built leadership programs for the Aged Care sector.
If you want to know more about how contextualised, authentic leadership training can be used to upskill your team, book a time with one of our Learning Solutions Consultants here.
1Australian Healthcare Associates, 2021, Phase 1 of the Skills Development Program for Aged Care Staff: Executive Summary, Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra.