In complex environments, we often look to technology to solve or disrupt deep-seated problems. But within the Australian aged care ecosystem, the Royal Commission has shown that technology alone isn’t able to address our biggest challenges.
The power of technology is its ability to scale at a speed and efficiency that doesn’t rely on the constraints of humans. In settings where the people are essential to the work however, like care, tech is often applied as the antidote to problems that actually start with people.
The Scaling Paradox
In many cases, realising the benefits of technology means changing people and their behaviours, attitudes and actions. You can’t have the former without the latter deeply involved.
And, while it’s been promising to see that a human-centred approach in aged-care has been developing quickly with a solid focus on the people receiving care, there seems to be little consideration for those who are instead giving care.
Short of massive changes happening to the way aged care is funded, it’s clear that technology is essential to scaling care. But it can’t be done without placing care-givers at the centre of this transformation.
Better employee experiences leads to better aged care
When you’re in the business of providing a service, your employee’s experience is inextricably linked to your customer’s experience.
As a society, we undervalue the role of care: a trend reflected at the industry level with workers who are underpaid, undervalued and overworked.
“We consistently hear that [workers] are concerned about low pay, the erosion of existing conditions, that they don’t have adequate training, they don’t have manageable workloads, and that there aren’t enough staff,” says Clare Tunny from United Voice.
It’s a well known fact that being customer-centric is crucial to successful organisations, but it’s short-sighted if it comes at the expense of employees. When it comes to service delivery, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction are two sides of the same coin.
In healthcare settings in particular, recent studies have shown that an increase in patient experience leads to better business performance as well as better records in safety, technical quality, length of stay, and readmission rates. The interesting thing noted, was that better employee engagement correlated with better outcomes on each of these measures too.
Employee-centred design in aged care
When it comes to technology and your employee experience, it’s important to make sure your workforce understands why the technology is needed, that it fits their needs and that they’re trained and empowered to use it.
A 2020 study on why employees resist new technology identified employee skills, organisational culture and inadequate infrastructure as key contributors. Technology is about culture as much as it is hardware and software.
While, yes, technology can help scale services with more speed and breadth than human limits, it usually sits on the shelf, untouched or resisted, if those who are using it don’t have a say in how it’s made.
When you invest in listening to, training and empowering staff to make technology relevant and useful to their needs, the delivery outcomes will naturally lift. It’s time to forget the old school way of bringing technology in; choosing the vendors or products that have all the bells and whistles.
Instead, start evaluating solutions based on how well it’ll deliver benefits or efficiencies and how it will impact and improve the lives of your employees. Then of course, making sure you invest in your employee’s so they feel confident in using the technology and understand why it’s important to do so.
Translating it to your reality
The health and community sector is the fastest growing industry, meaning future risks are particularly high. But so too are the opportunities.
By showing our care workers that they’re valued and giving them the training and support needed to deliver high-quality services at scale, we can create an aged care industry we can be proud of.
If this article has left you inspired but confused about where to start, consider translating some of the processes you may already be using to better understand your customers with your employees.
For example, turning a customer journey map into a employee lifecycle map and exploring their experience during stages such as: recruitment, on-boarding, compensation and benefits, ongoing learning and development, ongoing engagement and community involvement, rewards and recognition, performance and feedback, career advancement and finally retirement, termination or resignation.
Investing in your employee’s experience shouldn’t be your only focus, but it should be a core focus. In order to have quality services, you need to have a workforce that is valued, engaged and has everything they need to perform at their best.