Policies and Procedures
Tell me if this sounds familiar?
You’re a registered disability service provider. You have over 100 policy and procedure documents that have previously passed muster. You have your next audit coming up in two months – piece of cake right? You do some quick polling of staff:
- ‘What is the QMS?’ blank face… ‘Ah the Quality Management System?’ more blank staring…. ‘Our policies and procedures?’
Most front-line employees know you have policies and procedures. They have probably even signed a bit of paper saying they have read and understood them. But how many are actually applying the required practice on a daily basis?
Here at Supporting Potential, we are getting very close to releasing our ‘off the shelf’ policy pack for service providers in the sector. This has been a labour of love developing it, but it has also been a great opportunity to really think about how we do things and why.
Having reviewed world’s best practice in multiple sectors, we believe the gold standard in QMS consists of:
- Quick and easy to locate, read and understand policies and procedures
- Intuitive and accessible learning management approach
- Easy access data that informs decision making
- Routine and regular triggers to ensure policies and procedures are working as planned. This is particularly relevant for the front line where you do not have as much visibility
- A steering committee comprised of organisational leaders who have ownership of and drive quality practices
Our policy suite is tailored specifically to the NDIS Practice Standards. Meaning there is a policy for every standard. From there, organisations can tailor their procedures to reflect their quality and service delivery point of difference. I have intentionally left the policy on Quality Management to one of the last ones I am writing – why…. Well, it’s really hard.
Policies are intended to ensure everyone in the organisation is working in a consistent way to deliver on important goals for critical operational areas. The Quality Management policy should then specify how the organisation is measuring, reviewing and improving the organisation’s effectiveness at reaching those goals. But too often we rely on point in time reflections, which end up being a mad scramble to get papers and maybe even data into the Quality Manager, if they exist, by the usual quarterly review meeting deadline. Often then we spend the vast majority of the meeting rehashing what we have done or focused on the retrospective fixes.
For Disability Service Providers to thrive in this environment of individualised funding and intensive compliance regulations, we need to build quality management systems which are self-sustaining. This brings me back to my point of the Quality Management policy being really hard. Historically we have relied on internal and external audits, customer satisfaction surveys and quarterly quality committee meetings. The issue with this approach is it’s all about looking backwards, rather than pre-empting issues and attempting new and different ways of achieving greatness.
Don’t get me wrong – at least for the short term, these things will still be required to confirm we’re not missing things, but I firmly believe if we are slowly evolving to a continuous learning culture, we will eventually be able to do away with some of these costly and time-consuming tasks. So what are the steps we take to begin?
- Look at how you are collecting data. Our front-line teams spend significant time entering data but can we pull it out again in any usable fashion? Things like shift notes have been built on a qualitative basis. Meaning a lot of text. Which is great, if your staff follow the shift note procedure and write it in the right way. I have read hundreds of thousands of shift notes and can probably count on my hands the number that have answered all the required information points in easy English. Changing the way you capture information now, may require some forward thinking and a bit of extra effort, but the long-term efficiency and improvement to the decision making will pay off ten fold.
Knowledge and Skills
- Begin actively encouraging employees to develop their knowledge and skills. This doesn’t have to be the traditional classroom or workshop style learning. From the perspective of the leader, it is:
- Appreciating that what you know is less important than what you may learn
- Knowing the answer to questions is less critical than having the ability to ask the right questions in the first place
- Encouraging the art of self reflection
- Seeking and accepting criticism and offers to help and improve
- Reward learning, but noting that peak performance and results often occur when we are NOT actively learning
- The best way to trigger curiosity is through identifying knowledge gaps in a way that still respects that we all have egos
Learning and Development
- Look at how you are currently offering learning and development opportunities that help employees perform at their best. For adults, learning should be seen as a journey and not a destination. Studies have shown that as adults, people will have forgotten an average of 50% of the information presented within an hour. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70% of new information, and within a week, they have lost an average of 90% of it. Whilst this seems bleak if we continue to grow on the 10% by continuously learning, the curve will work the other way. Our brains are programmed to retain only what is immediately useful to us. Therefore, we need to build in short but repetitive training that focuses on the things our front-line team will encounter daily.
I believe if implemented successfully through your Quality Management policy, then the benefits experienced by your business can be limitless. But we know what we measure we improve on, so set a scale for the following items:
- Increased productivity and profit
- Improved employee satisfaction, motivation and retention levels
- More positive mindset amongst employees
- Employee empowerment, ownership and accountability
- An enhanced ability to adapt to change and manage transitions
- Increased capacity to meet organisational business goals or possibly reduced operational overhead
- Attracting top talent
Have a look at our online learning management platform. We have taken the tools highlighted in this article and applied them to our learning principles. We also get super excited to talk strategy and building of organisational cultures, so please feel free to book in a free 15 minute consultation.