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It Makes Good Television
Nonagenarians calling desperately for the toilet or harassed care staff dealing roughly with an obstreperous human being, grab our attention. But they do nothing for the reputation of the care sector, on which most of us depend for our livelihood.
It is no accident that you will get the quickest response on most telephone menus by selecting the “Sales” option. It is by design, of course. Whether it is telephone response, a supermarket queue or answering night calls, the correct manning for these services are (or can be) determined by a range of techniques called operational research. It is a quirk that if the average service time reaches the average demand time (arrival at a supermarket checkout for example) then limitless queues build up. Think of the implications of that for night staff.
Get staff response levels right
As a consultant I hear the phrase “minimum staffing level”, in one form or another, quite frequently. Determining how many staff you need to deal with night calls or to provide adequate time to attend to Service Users in their own home is an operational research task. There is a significant amount of data available already – it is already used to determine those minimum levels. But every home has different needs and every town has its own traffic conditions. An operational research project with direct time study data uses statistics to provide invaluable facts for you and your particular situation. It will tell you what you need in staff resources and you can make cogent funding requests based on those clear facts in consequence.
Tackle unreliable staff
Crises do occur because staff let you down, sometimes unavoidably. But where individuals are unreliable the problem needs to be tackled. This is a subject for a blog article in itself. But there are managerial solutions to these problems; they do not need to become legal issues. The fact that one care provider on the recent television programme sought to tackle its human resource problems using a legal firm is disturbing. QCS works with Employer Solutions to help their clients find practical solutions without ending up in court.
Build in flexibility
Flexible contracts provide for the unexpected. Zero hours have come in for a bad press recently. Minimum hours contracts are an alternative, can be just as effective and they avoid risk of adverse reaction from inspectors. Of course the furore over zero hours might subside.
Keep off the telly
A statistical approach to determining your actual needs, gaining the funding where necessary and use of sound managerial approaches, will avoid you becoming the subject of the next Panorama investigation.
Malcolm Martin of Employer Solutions – QCS Expert Human Resources Contributor