New aged care standards: what HR professionals need to keep in mind

21 Jun 2019 1:18 PMLicensee Person

People living in aged care facilities will have their rights to safety, diversity and enjoyment safeguarded in legislation thanks to new amendments to the quality of care principles that come into effect on July 1.

Over the past two years, the Federal Government has conducted comprehensive consultation with aged care professionals to develop a single, streamlined set of standards designed to provide better, safer and more inclusive services to people living in aged care facilities. These amendments mark a major evolution of the aged care industry, and reinforce the important role people who work in aged care facilities play in ensuring great outcomes for aged care recipients.

New standards
The regulatory changes introduce new standards that require:

· clear feedback mechanisms for consumers to raise issues

· sufficiently qualified and trained people who respect safety, culture and diversity

· an organisational culture of engagement, safety and accountability, and

· effective organisational governance.

While the new standards impact aged care organisations as a whole, many responsibilities fall on HR practitioners to implement and maintain compliance.

There are four clear themes for HR professionals that have emerged as priorities from the new regulations.

Ensuring aged care workers are skilled, kind and respectful
The new standards require that aged care facilities ensure their workforce is sufficiently skilled to deliver quality care that is kind, caring and respectful of each person’s diverse identity and culture. This is not just about hiring the right people, but also ensuring employees are continually assessed against these standards and supported at every stage of their career.

Organisations are now required to consider a range of factors when assessing employees and candidates. It is no longer enough to only look at qualifications and job experience. The following is required:

· Employees’ attitude, beliefs and behaviours align with the new standard.

· Interviews and pre-hire assessments look at candidates’ experience in demonstrating the qualities that are integral to aged care, such as kindness, and the ability to be caring and respectful in the delivery of their work.

· There is a responsibility for HR practitioners to determine that candidates possess these skills and competencies.

Using feedback to continuously improve
In the context of the new standards, continuous improvement in aged care is anchored in fostering open communication (followed by action) between employees and employers. There is now a requirement for aged care organisations to regularly seek input and feedback from the workforce. Managers are also required to address feedback from aged care recipients to inform organisational improvement.

Ensuring people give and receive feedback is a critical part of any HR professional’s role, and the new standards place an even greater emphasis on this. We know that building a culture where people feel comfortable raising issues benefits everyone; employees feel their opinions are valued, the organisation gains a complete understanding of its position and challenges, and consumers reap the benefits of improved care. But it can be difficult to find the right time, channel, and way to give and receive feedback. By empowering employees to not only give feedback but to understand and action it when it’s given to them, organisations are better positioned to surface problem areas and course correct.

Ensuring accountability for improvements is an important part of the new standards, which require organisations to demonstrate that consumer complaints are reviewed and actioned. Not only do HR professionals need to enable feedback, but they need structured and well-documented processes for escalation and actions.

Developing the skills of the workforce
The role of effective, streamlined technology in improving talent management practices in aged care has never been more pronounced. Technology can provide tailored performance and learning management tools to meet individual and organisational needs.

A learning management system (LMS), for example, can deliver role-based learning activities automatically through a learning library that lets people drive their own development. A good learning management system will include an application so that employees who aren’t at desktop computers can easily complete learning tasks. Compliance checking and certification tracking is another key requirement of the new amendments, and an effective LMS can help HR practitioners ensure people are safe, certified and compliant with the amendments.

Having each person’s learning and onboarding activity tracked in one system (ideally linked to your performance management system) enables your facility to respond to audits quickly and with confidence.

Building a culture of accountability
Organisational culture has been a hot topic for many years, and today it’s widely understood that employee engagement and culture play a critical role in organisational performance. HR practitioners play an integral role in cultivating workplace culture, however they don’t always have the luxury of time to prioritise employee engagement activities. This can result in a disengaged workforce, lower productivity and efficiency, and even operational issues.

The new standards require organisations to place a greater focus and stricter guidelines around governance and culture – particularly as it relates to providing safe, compliant and quality care. The purpose of these standards is to ensure there is adequate investment into employees’ learning and development.

Governance is a complex topic – particularly in the aged care industry – and one that requires a deliberate approach. The new amendments specify that organisations must have clear processes for assigning roles and responsibilities, articulating performance indicators, and ensuring people leaders update position descriptions when required.

Become compliant before July 1
The new standards require HR professionals to demonstrate a consistent, measured and intentional approach to building a sufficient, skilled workforce. SaaS talent management platforms can play a key role in ensuring compliance, empowering HR professionals to optimise recruitment processes and capture, understand and track key performance information.

These regulatory changes mark a significant step forward for the aged care industry. It’s now up to organisations to put in place the necessary processes to comply with these new requirements – and most importantly to ensure great outcomes for aged care recipients.