Creating a culture of care  
Posted by: Gemma Keogh | 11.08.15

Culture, broadly speaking, is a shared set of values, beliefs and behaviours that are transmitted to the different members/generations of a community, through learning.  The values and behaviours help the group adapt to its surroundings.

However, putting on my anthropologist’s hat for a moment, there is no real agreement on how to precisely define culture. It’s been an on-going debate for many years. It could be collective values, it might a shared belief structure, behaviours are included but there are variations and symbolism and language also play an important role. Each culture defines itself, so to speak, and no two cultures are the same.

And that’s, where we/you are concerned, as social care providers, is the exciting bit.

Your company’s culture is up to you; you can create the type of culture that you want to see for your business.

So for our purposes, let’s break the concept of culture into three key parts.

1. A shared set of values, beliefs and behaviours

Nearly every company now has a set of values listed on their website which should shape the way staff behave. These values are mostly centred around care, compassion and similar, focusing on the well being of residents, and rightly so.  To create a culture these values and behaviours must be shared amongst staff, right from the CEO down to the cleaner. It’s no good only half the team holding these values, everyone must embody the values and behaviour of the company ethos.

2. Transmitted through learning

If you want your staff to embody your company’s values then you must support them to do so, don’t expect them to do it themselves. Some people argue that a carer should naturally be caring, otherwise why apply for the job? Now there is some truth in that argument, but what is nature and what is nurture

I’m a people person and an optimist about human nature but I do believe that there are skill-based elements of care.  To work consistently with that caring attitude and approach five days a week, year after year, with challenging patients and with the added demands of paper work, not to mention other social and personal factors to deal with, is a great skill. And it is a skill that needs to be taught.

Culture is transmitted through learning and through training. Culture is passed from people to people and so investing in your staff’s development is critical to creating a culture of care.

3. Helps a group adapt to its surroundings

A supportive culture enables the survival of a group, it ensures that they can deal with challenging situations by sharing their skills and knowledge. The past few years have been a time of rapid change for the social care sector and this is set to continue. An enduring company culture will be one that supports your team to adapt to new circumstances, to have the confidence to face challenges together, whilst still enabling them to provide high quality, person centred care.

For me, the best thing about creating a company culture within the social care sector is the opportunity that it presents both for the people who work within it and those who are served by it. For staff, it’s the chance to perform a truly rewarding job, as part of a great team and make a valuable difference to the people and their families who require care. For those who use the services it is an opportunity to receive support during challenging times, from people who really mean what they say and act from genuinely heart-felt values.

A culture of care is one that truly cares about the people who are part of it, and in turn those people genuinely care about their culture. It’s a powerful reciprocal relationship that benefits everyone involved and has a real capacity to bring lasting positive change.

In PR terms, your culture is your reputation. It is not something that you add on at the end of the business but it is at the heart of your business and it is something that you live day in and day out.