Care UK has launched a buddy programme for new starters during Professional Care Workers’ Week, where it is already making a positive impact for buddies as a potential for career development and a rise in “retention” of new care workers.
The Buddy programme was piloted by Care UK last year with a target to recruit 125 buddies across the organisation. It has been widely embraced resulting in the recruitment of 590 Buddies by the end of August 2021.
Care UK has given the Buddy function a structure with training and mentoring, opportunities for buddies to interact with others from across the organisation and the potential for career development. The organisation introduced the Buddy programme at the same time as a relaunch of its induction programme so that the two could work hand in hand.
The aim of the programme is to match each new colleague with an experienced buddy within their care home. This ensures that they feel part of the organisation with the support to build their confidence from the word go. While a new starter and their buddy are officially paired for 12 weeks, the buddy remains a friendly face beyond that timescale. A new starter at Asterbury Place in Suffolk commented: “Caroline was assigned as my buddy and nothing was too much for her – she always came to check that I was OK and if I needed anything. She no longer needs to be my buddy but she continues to do so – she really is an amazing lady with a heart of gold who always puts others before herself.”
As well as assisting a new starter with early appointment needs such as induction, making introductions and finding their way around the home, a buddy is also an ambassador for Care UK with a remit to instil the organisation’s values and beliefs and share best practice with their new colleague. They act as an informal resource on procedures and are there to answer any questions a new starter might have.
All this is achieved via day to day working together and a weekly catch up, either in person or by phone.
Buddies are also able to interact with each other across the organisation. Think Tank sessions provide buddies with the chance to network and exchange ideas and best practice. This was especially welcome during the worst of the pandemic restrictions, reducing feelings of isolation and increasing opportunities to support each other while they themselves supported new starters in difficult circumstances.
Jordanne Anderson, Learning and Development Trainer at Care UK, was instrumental in the introduction and maintenance of the Buddy programme. She said: “From the start we wanted to be clear about what makes a good buddy, and to support that with a consistent structure across the organisation which involved training, mentoring and access to additional learning resources. We started with a target of 125 buddies in the first year and we are delighted to have recruited 590 by the end of August. Historically we may have struggled to encourage colleagues to take this voluntary role, but I think that by giving it formal recognition we have made it a more attractive proposition, hence the enthusiastic take-up from our homes.”
Jordanne and her colleagues set about selling-in the idea with a comprehensive internal recruitment campaign. Home managers were asked to put forward candidates and a direct call was made to everyone working in the homes.
A clear selection criteria was applied. Candidates needed to want to be a buddy and be engaging and warm with new starters. They needed to be skilled and knowledgeable about their new colleague’s job, and they needed to have patience, be good communicators and have excellent interpersonal skills. Importantly, they needed to be proud of Care UK and the contributions both they and colleagues make to the welfare and quality of life of residents.
A buddy from Montford Manor care home in Kent commented on what being a buddy means to her. She said: “I took on a new role as a buddy for Montfort Manor to meet and greet the new colleagues that were either brand new to the role of a carer or had experience, and I’m so happy I did. I get to pass on past experiences and assist them in every step of their way in helping residents live healthier, happy lives. To be part of a bigger picture and to be part of a fantastic team that care so much is more than the weight in gold itself.”
Another buddy from a home in Surrey, Sophie, added: “As a lifestyle coordinator, being part of the buddy programme has had a great impact on the way we welcome new starters into the Care UK family. Being a buddy has made me realise just how much first impressions count and how easy it is to forget the emotions that come with the first day at a new job. Appreciation is also very important – being told you are doing a great job goes a very long way.”
Nikki Evans, Head of Learning and Development at Care UK, commented: “The combination of the selection criteria and the sheer number of successful candidates in the first 10 months of the scheme mean it is making a real impact. We’re seeing colleagues take the buddy role and use it as the first step in their career pathway towards team leadership. We’re also seeing a significant rise in the retention of our new starters. All this, together with our ongoing focus on the individual, means that in colleague development terms we are futureproofing the organisation by nurturing our own talent and instilling a consistently high level of professionalism.”
She added: “The ultimate beneficiaries are, of course, residents who enjoy the highest standards of care delivered by teams who are consistent because they are professionally fulfilled.”