Using tech to build a culture that staff really CARE about?
Posted by: Alistair Clay | 07.03.16

A key element of any culture you are building as a social care provider is how you evidence that culture in action – how you communicate it.

Whatever values you have chosen to build your culture around, be it excellence, innovation, empowerment etc, it’s vital that you demonstrate to your employees, especially if you operate across multiple sites, that these values are real, tangible and they are being LIVED day in day out.

Part of your culture must actually be communication if it is going to thrive and blossom. In many ways a culture is a shared story, a narrative, and as an organisation you need to tell that story.

So how do you communicate a culture internally?

You need to go beyond a top down ‘telling people things’ way of communicating. If your culture is built on openness and equality, then your communication methods need to mirror that. Newsletters and websites are of course vital but now you can do much more.

I would argue new (often free) communication technologies offer providers an incredible opportunity to build their cultures.

The next evolution in social media is producing more private, closed platforms that are designed for internal team use. Three of the most popular are probably; yammer, slack and whatsapp.

You may have heard of some, all, or none of these, but what you do need to know is that these social media platforms are transforming the way many organisations do business. An overview:

  • Yammer is an enterprise social networking service used for private communication within organizations.
  • Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams.
  • Whatsapp is a mobile and deskbased instant messaging service than can host closed groups and public broadcasts.

Translated into English these are all basically semi-private messaging groups that allow businesses to share information in real-time on an ongoing basis.

An example may help here.

Imagine you have 25 care homes, each with an enthusiastic activities coordinator. Excellent and creative activities are a vital strand of your culture and you want to accelerate the speed at which innovative ideas spread, and are adopted, throughout your organisation.

Our suggestion; set up a yammer group for activities coordinators where people can post photos, videos and a few words about what they did today and why it was a success, how it had a positive impact on a resident/service user. Remember, this is not a space for official company announcements it is an online, ongoing conversation where likeminded people can enthuse each other about best practice, comment and react to what they have seen.

It should be light and conversational, but of course professional. Suddenly the culture you are introducing is being discussed and evidenced on a daily basis across all sites by your activities people via their mobile phones or desktops. What’s more this is a great way to spot something that’s so successful it should be rolled out across the group and perhaps used in a broader piece of communication, perhaps the newsletter or even press work.

Real-time closed messaging groups allow you to constantly take the pulse of the culture of your organisation, so you can tweak and refine as you go along, at any moment you can dip in and see what your staff are actually doing and how they are doing it.

We find the more you empower staff as communicators the more they step up to the mark and the greater pride they have in their job.

Are there risks of giving staff access to shared mobile message groups, could certain disgruntled employees abuse it? Ceratinly, but there are always risks and I would argue that in the long run denying your staff a voice is an even greater risk to the roll out of your ambitious new culture, they must feel as though they are partners in this enterprise. Most will thrive given half the chance.

At a time when staff retention and recruitment is probably more challenging than ever for social care providers you need to do all you can to set yourself apart from your competitors. Using smart technology to work in an open and transparent way will go someway to help you attract the brightest and the best and to ensure your culture is alive and thriving.