Charmaine: shaping a culture where staff want to stay
Since being on the Headline programme*, I’ve thought more about workplace culture and how to improve working relationships so that we can better serve children and families in our area. It’s helped me to implement my values into my role as a head of service; I really like that there is a focus on authenticity of self, as well as values. I believe that you’re more likely to achieve improved outcomes for people if you’re connecting with individuals authentically – this is relevant for both direct work with children and families as well as interacting with staff to create high performing teams. I have focused on applying this to addressing one of our key problems – staff retention.
Improving my speaking, influencing and negotiating skills
I’m now actively working to change the way we value our staff and ensure their voices are heard by senior leaders. Improving my speaking, influencing and negotiating skills through the programme has been essential to having impactful conversations with key stakeholders in my local authority about this. My leadership development advisor, Tom, has also been instrumental in helping me navigate difficult conversations in achieving a more positive working culture. One idea I had to influence the culture is by turning the celebration of World Social Work Day into more of a month of celebrating our social workers; we have gifts and certificates for our staff, all of which has been managed within a reasonable budget.
It’s important that we are shaping a culture where staff want to stay
Another action I’ve taken is to become involved in our staff exit interview process to learn more about why our staff are leaving the organisation. It’s important that we are shaping a culture where staff want to stay to deliver a better, more consistent service to children and families – the relationships individual social workers have with families and the impact this means they can have can’t be underestimated. I now have a greater understanding of the importance of exploratory questioning and being curious and by using this I have already successfully managed to persuade one leaving staff member to stay in their role which is a great result.
Another area I wanted to focus on was how to ensure we are being truly anti-racist as a team and local authority. The resources and knowledge that Jeffrey, an executive coach and facilitator of the Headline programme, shared at the second residential enabled me to facilitate a conversation about anti-racism in the workplace. It was incredibly challenging but the Headline programme workshop about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion definitely helped me think about how to have those conversations differently, and more effectively. I’ve learned I have to hold my feelings in mind and be true to my work values and work ethic. Having these challenging conversations at a leadership level is critical if we want to provide the best service to children and families, as we support a diverse community of people from different backgrounds. Our workforce needs to represent those diverse communities, and social workers need to constantly consider the structural inequalities and systemic racism which affect children and families too.
*The Firstline and Headline programmes ended in 2022 and have since been replaced by the Pathways programme.