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I intend to reflect critically upon my role in undertaking human resource management (HRM) within my own agency. Firstly, I will examine what HRM is and how it has developed within Social Work Service (SWS) and specifically within my own organisation. I will examine and reflect upon specific HRM tasks in which I have been involved relation to myself, the staff I supervise, the organisation and the profession. In doing so I will consider to what extent the changes in the management of SWS have been positive.
Human Resource Management
Since the 1980s, there have been attempts to install a culture of management in local councils, which has continued to the current day. Previous practices were criticised for being inefficient, self-serving and failing to respond to the needs of clients. Some commentators suggested that social services were 'â€¦a metaphor for all that was considered to be wrong with the welfare state' (Harris and McDonald, 2000, p57). It was argued social work needed to adopt the practices and the priorities of commercial firms.
HRM is the staffing function of the organisation. It includes the activities of human resources planning, recruitment, selection, orientation, training, performance appraisal and clear employment procedures. Previously many large organisations saw people management as the primary responsibility of the personnel section.
Beaumont (1993, p10) states that, "The concept and practice of human resource management are widely held to have evolved out of the prior area of personnel administration". He goes on to argue that HRM came into fashion due to the competitive market, the successes of the Japanese system and the high performance of individual companies which accord human resource management a relatively high priority, the declining union member numbers, the growth of white sector employment and the need for personnel departments to have more involvement with management thinking (p.11). To address these changes human resource techniques have been applied.
PersonnelÂ managementÂ can be seen as administrative in nature, dealing withÂ payroll, employment law, and related tasks. Whereas HRM focuses on managing the workforce as a resources necessary to the success of the organisation.
Torrington and Hall cited in Mullins "see the nature and degree of difference between personnel management and HRM as remaining 'largely matters of opinion rather than fact and the similarities are much greater than the differences" (1996, p18). What is important to me as a manager of people is that it stresses the role of line managers in regulating their own staff.
Beaumont (1995, pp18-19) argues that it makes use of the techniques of strategic management for the operation of human resources. Within commercial firms, HRM policies strive to get the best out of the workforce by keeping morale high and fostering good working relationships with decent working conditions:
"The manager needs to understand how to make the best use of human resources of the organization. The promotion of good human relations is an integral part of the process of management and improved organizational performance" (1996, p625). CHECK REF DATES HERE AND MATCH ON BIBL.
Social Work Services are required to constantly respond and adapt to the changing social, economic and political influences prevalent at any given time. In recent years, a number of important legislative and policy initiatives have resulted in increased demand on social work services. Within my agency, a package of measures to assist in the retention and recruitment of qualified fieldwork staff was approved.
The Staffing Establishment: Review of Fieldwork Staff Report (GCC 2003) highlighted that; the organisational model prior to the review was thought to be outmoded. There was seen to be a need to change the model of frontline service delivery to reflect the changes in the external environment.
In reviewing the current deployment of staff, a number of conclusions were reached. It was found that experienced and qualified staff were in a system, which did not appropriately recognise their core professionalism and capacity for decision-making. There was a lack of continuous professional development and limited career development opportunities for support staff. To address the above a new model of service delivery was implemented. It was a radical shift from the status quo in recognition of the need for an effective solution to the long-standing and complex difficulties in recruiting and retaining a skilled motivated workforce able to provide quality social work service.
This introduced a new framework for the management and delivery of core social work services. These changes have created significant opportunities for new professional development and leadership. Action was required to make staff feel valued, to improve internal communications, manage change better and to improve the involvement and support of staff. The agency has aimed to tackle the key issues of recruitment, basic pay, learning and development opportunities, internal communication and staff participation in decision-making. One example is that Team Leaders got the opportunity to undertake the Social Work Management Course to enable them to become better managers of people.
Salaries were increased and there is more career progression. The organisation has bought into the commercial model that the most effective organisations make the best use of their human resources. "An organization's employees are a major asset, not only in themselves, but also because the organization's whole reputation and future success depends on them" Coulshed and Mullender (2006, p161) .Similarly Beaumont argues (1993) that HRM practices value employee participation, are founded on robust recruitment strategies and that should be considered as part of the business plan.
There is now a further review-taking place aimed at saving several million pounds while protecting front-line services. This is ongoing.
Recruitment lays the groundwork for obtaining suitably qualified employees in order to contribute to achieving corporate goals in an efficient and cost-effective manner, (Foot & Hook, 1999). The recruitment process has significantly improved in Glasgow. Glossy brochures, DVD's, CD's and recruitment fairs are all strategies employed to attract the best candidates. Factors adversely affecting recruitment include the professions poor image, stressful and difficult work, poor pay and conditions. Salary scales were substantially increased, a commitment to continuous learning, and the opportunity to work more flexibly were introduced. It will be interesting to see if this can be sustained in the current financial climate and under a changed government.
I am acutely aware of the increased pressures that can arise for the team managing the extra problems, which come because of staff shortages. I spent a period managing a team, which had a 60% vacancy rate. I was involved in gaining the appropriate authority for recruiting replacements to my team (evidence-see Arndale stuff-David McCrae or Liz Frew). Ward discusses how it is a key activity for managers to recruit the best people. He explains that how this is done is important to whether a new employee feels part of the team or not. According to Ward the management team have to be clear about the job specification so it is clear what tasks the potential employee requires to be able to complete (Ward in Seden and Reynolds 2003). However, staff recruited as part of a larger recruitment campaign and interviewed in another part of the city filled some of the team's vacancies. I have been involved in interviewing on several occasions, but this has never been directly to my own team. (Witness statement re interviewing?)
I work in a large agency and the HRM department continues to coordinate most of the recruitment tasks. I feel it is vital that we have a system that allows managers to feed into the process. With regard to recruitment, it may be desirable to devolve HMR activities to a local fieldwork management level. Managers should be more involved with the recruitment process contributing directly to the selection of a prospective team employee/successful candidate. In order to encourage finding the right person I network at events. If someone has a good reputation, I am proactive in encouraging him or her to apply to us. Collins (2009, p181) states, "Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus." Through networking, I have been able to influence this with regard to internal transfers. (EVIDENCE)
However, I can also see the flaws in being so directly involved in recruiting for your own team. I was asked onto an interview panel for Health colleagues and it was clear that one of the candidates being a close relative of the service manager influenced the two Health managers, who were recruiting directly to their team. This type of practice can be risky:
"Selecting the wrong person for the post has implications ... for that individualâ€¦service usersâ€¦colleaguesâ€¦damaging to the organisationâ€¦.upsets valued staffâ€¦complaintsâ€¦even litigation, make improved selection procedures look cheap at the price". (Coulshed and Mullender 2006, p131).
Coulshed & Mullender (2006, pp158-159) argue that the orienting of new members of staff is sometimes ignored in management literature. This lack of attention to staff induction has been evident in my setting. I have worked for my employers for about 15 years and have never received formal induction training. However, over recent years there has been a gradual process to improve this. Initially some personnel sections developed a brief induction package to explain issues like absence reporting, use of flexi leave and working hours. Whether you received this would depend on which geographic area you worked in. More recently, this has been formalised with a general induction package developed by our training section and provided annually. This still focuses on conditions of service and is not routinely offered to new workers, but has to be applied for at appropriate times during its rolling programme. Induction to the actual post is dependent upon your line manager and there is no formal standard or monitoring of this. Before being a manager, I was a practice teacher. I used to give new students Learning Styles Questionnaires. I found that most students tended to fall somewhere between being pragmatists and activists. I have tried to keep using these and find it a useful tool for creating discussion with new workers. I recognise that this is still not adequate to help new employees develop their roles and I hope to expand on it. Not enough action is being taken by my team to improve the quality of new members and although I do contribute, there should be a more holistic, systematic approach. EVIDENCE.
Consequently, I did not always arrange for students to visit different resources and do the standard induction tour. Instead, I gave them casework, which involved contacting and visiting various agencies. I found that often students learned most successfully when actively participating in a defined task. I recognised the need for a pre task meeting to enable discussion the techniques and reasons for completing the task. After the task, we would use supervision to provide feedback and enable reflection. I have continued to use this method as a manager when supporting new workers. (EVIDENCE) Over the years, I have had opportunities to reflect on this during Effective Learning for Social Work Management Module of this course. This encouraged me to look at the work of Kolb (1984) and Honey and Mumford (1982). Much of this reflection and learning has reinforced my technique. However, it has also encouraged me to question if I am being negligent by not developing a formal induction package. I have raised this at management team meetings and â€¦. Evidence?
Following induction, it is important to provide continuous professional development opportunities including ongoing supervision and appraisal.
The employment relationship plays a vital role in maintaining skilled and motivated workforces, (Clark, 2004). Hawkins and Shohet state,
"Supervision, like helping, is not a straightforward process and is even more complex than working with clients." (2005, p5)
Good managers understand their people and work with them. They want to see a satisfied staff and support them in developing their roles.
Humphries (1995, p38) states, "A common myth is that everybody is motivated by money". He argues that the greatest motivator is recognition and respect. Clark (2004) also points out that the relationship between employees and management teams not only affects the performance of the corporation but also influences the retention of employees. Getting across to them that you are interested in them as a person is important as is listening to them.
Evaluation is essential to the agency's function, the individual's professional growth & development while safeguarding clients and others. My agency has developed a Personal Action and Development Plan (PDP) tool that is used to provide staff appraisal and support continuous professional development. PDPS allow the organisation to get 'best value' whilst investing in the individual, by developing their competence. This is a useful tool for ensuring that these tasks are completed although it can feel that the supervisor and the supervisee are trying to fit into a format. Coulshed and Mullender, (2006, pp 171-172) discuss the negative aspects of appraisal schemes highlighting the top down approach taken. This may incur feelings of anxiety and mistrust making staff feel defensive.
It is important to be clear whether PDPs are measuring behaviours, the performance of technical tasks, attitudes and interaction, practice knowledge and skills, quality of work, delivery of outcomes, meeting organisational requirements or a combination of these. However, I am concerned at the lack of autonomy now afforded to social work professionals. Central government and employers are now more able to prescribe the process and content of social work education and training (Orme, 2001). Tightly drawn legislation and guidance was also introduced. As a result, over the past decade social work has become a more accountable and procedurally regulated activity.
I recognise that there are many forms of evaluation and that most contact I have with my supervisees contributes to the evaluation process. According to Kadushin & Harkness, "evaluations are as ubiquitous and necessary as they are inevitable. There is no way of not communicating an evaluative message." (2002, p329).
The main tool I use to evaluate is formal supervision. Having been a practice teacher has helped me to do this in a structured manner.
Richards and Payne (1991) describe four main functions of supervision:
If we are to remove one element then the process becomes potentially less satisfying to both the immediate parties - and less effective. This is similar to the functions highlighted in my agencies own supervision procedures.
I have been given authority by the agency to oversee the work of the supervisee. This carries the responsibility:
"... both to ensure that agency policy is implemented - which implies a controlling function - and a parallel responsibility to enable supervisees to work to the best of their ability". (Brown and Bourne 1995, p10)
It is also crucial to remember the function of the agency to provide the best possible service to empower users.
Initially I found conflict in this role. As a practice teacher I found it rewarding to assist, others develop their social work skills. This has continued to be a major role of supervision as a manager, but combined with this there is more pressure to ensure workers are accountable and that we as an organisation are getting as much from workers as possible, which can create tension.
(Witness statements re supervision??)
As Salaman (1995, p63) argues, managers must have a concern for both performance and learning:
"The essentially managerial aspects of managers' work is their responsibility for monitoring and improving the work of others; their managerial effectiveness is determined by their capacity to improve the work of others. If managers are not able to make this contribution, then what value are they adding? The only ultimate justification of managers' existence is the improvement of the work of their subordinates. If managers fail in this way, they fail as managers".
However how does this fit with social work values?
As the HRM role of the manager has increased, I have been involved in taking on additional tasks.
Over the past year, I have been asked to chair absence disciplinary hearings. As a social worker, you learn to empower people through building on their positive actions and minimising the response to negative behaviours. Increasingly as a manager, I am called into a punitive role. Although I have been involved in chairing these absence disciplinary hearings, there is no real chairing involved- the decision has already been made and is enshrined in procedures. (Witness statements etc re absence hearings). These situations can be difficult. Staff may have years of good service with no absence but then hit trigger points in the current year and have to go through disciplinary hearings and there is no discretion allowed. This can be irrespective of medical advice, unless you employee has an underlying health problem. In such circumstances, reasonable adjustments must be made but they are still subject to same procedures and if you continue to be off lack of capability procedures can be considered leading to employee losing job.
Another potentially punitive task I have been involved in is Fact Finding and the subsequent disciplinary hearing of a staff member (witness statements etc re fact-finding and disciplinary). Coulshed and Mullender (2006, p111) describe how early theorists such as Weber and Taylor viewed conflict as undesirable and believed it destroyed morale. Normally as a manager I am trying to encourage staff to work towards a common goal as a team, but then I find myself in the uncomfortable position of interviewing team members individually, encouraging them to reveal poor practice by a colleague and to search for inconsistencies.
Social Workers' professional training includes knowledge and skills in work with oppressed populations. The agency I am employed in declares itself "Inclusive, Supportive, Protective". It advertises that it has a policy to provide equal opportunities in all areas of its employment. Â However Coulshed and Mullender (2006, pp200-205) suggest there is still a long way to go. They add that it is all too easy for employers to boast that they have equal opportunitiesâ€¦ when in reality there may be no accompanying resources and only limited commitment... On this course, a participant spoke openly about how the absence management procedures of her employer result in her taking annual leave rather than sick leave when her epilepsy affects her. Fundamentally, equal opportunity is a legislation that prevents discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, age, disability, religion etc. Yet, currently, discrimination can take more complex forms than can be simply identified by the groups covered in the equal opportunities legislation. Because of the shortcomings of the legislation, a more sophisticated and relatively new approach has been developed. The core theme of this approach is to recognise and appreciate the differences in the workforce and utilise those differences to achieve maximum outcome and profit. This new approach is known as 'managing diversity'.
One of the core differences between managing diversity and equal opportunity is associated with the force for change. Whereas external forces, such as government legislations, social fairness, ethical and human rights etc, tend to drive equal opportunities, managing diversity tends to be driven by internal forces within the organisational structure and is immediately connected with the bottom line.
Another difference between these two approaches is their goals. The goal of equal opportunity has been mentioned as social justice and rectifying errors that have been made previously in the past: "to correct an imbalance, an injustice, a mistake" (Thomas, 1990, p108). On the other hand the main goal of managing diversity is discussed in much broader terms; that is to treat employees as individuals, acknowledge that each of them has unique needs and therefore will need different sorts of assistance in order to succeed. The core motivation behind the equal opportunity framework at governmental level and the equal opportunity strategies and practices at organisational level has been identified as an attempt to establish equality. For example, the creation of such a community or organisation, where men and women are dealt with in the same manner and no advantage or disadvantage is given to them based on their sex. In contrast, the term 'managing diversity' is there to point out the significance of difference and put forward a viewpoint where difference is welcomed and is considered as an advantage rather than a disadvantage to the organisation. Hence, a lot of ambiguity and conflict still surround the two contrasting ideals.
Torrington, Hall and Taylor (2005) suggest that human resource management is about getting the right people to work in the most productive way in the positions most suited to their abilities. A psychological perspective has become increasingly important in HRM literature as well as in organisational behavioural research. This is because of the correlation between someone's psychological condition and his or her work performance, (Bradburn, 1969; David and Smeeding, 1985; Wright and Cropanzano, 2004). Human resource is considered an important strategic resource and its performance directly influences organisational competitive capabilities. I believe my employers are using a variety of methods including this CSWM course, Ready to Lead course and e-Learning to assist managers to develop a strong leadership style in order to encourage an organisational culture, which will in turn ensure that employee motivation, can be raised during the current difficult transformational stages. Financial reward is not the only approach to motivate employees and consideration is given to the provision of comfortable working environments, increased job satisfaction through effective communication and a strong inclusive organisational culture. Staff retention needs to be a key part of organisational strategies as satisfied employees are more productive and contribute more to creative and innovatory processes, (Wright and Cropanzano, 2004). I would suggest that what is more important about staff retention is continuity for clients.
New systems of line management incorporating HRM have possibly reduced the risk of malpractice (Whipp et al., 2004). I suggest that trying to make social work fit into and compete with the commercial sector has perhaps come at a price. There is now mounting evidence (e.g. Green 2006) of rising levels of stress and demoralisation in the social care workforce with record levels of sickness and absenteeism. The LGA conference on Lord Laming's review heard:
"The morale, status and training of child social workers also need to be improved. The latest polling has reinforced the LGA's fear that the fallout from Baby P will lead to a decline in respect for frontline workers and difficulty in attracting new recruits" (http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/core/page.do?pageId=1742737).
There also appears to be less team spirit and more scepticism between basic grade workers and management. In the long term, this state of affairs may have a damaging impact on the nature and quality of services provided by social work services. I would argue that the increase in HRM has resulted in more discourse, which separates the role of manager and social worker rather than combines it. Power (1997) has warned of the dangers of the 'audit society'. Assumptions of distrust sustaining audit processes may be self-fulfilling as auditees adapt their behaviour strategically in response to the audit process thereby becoming less trustworthy. He points out that the very quality of service or output, which the audit process is intended to enhance, is itself damaged even though goals of efficiency and cost effectiveness are achieved. Social Work has always been dependent on a sense of professional vocation and a willingness to work above and beyond your contracted hours. The risk today is that management reforms are undermining this ethos and will 'weaken still further the local and moral economy that still prevails and, arguably, still sustains the best social work practice' (Langan 2000, p167). As Taylor-Gooby puts it, "Trust takes time to establish, but it is easy to destroy". (1999, p.101) Reviewing the results of surveys conducted by economic psychologists, he notes that contrary to the predictions of rational choice theory, people's decisions in welfare markets are strongly influenced by a normative framework in which trust plays a key role. It appears that markets in welfare depend more on trust because of the importance of professional decisions and because of the difficulty of assessing future risks. Taylor-Gooby wonders to what extent current welfare markets are sustained by the moral legacy of the welfare state and how the erosion of this legacy might compromise efficiency. Essentially, it can appear that this style of management is focussing on failings, which puts further pressure on staff and can prevent them from dealing with their main business to support service users.
In December 2005, Seddon produced a paper entitled 'Adult Social Care: a systems analysis and a better way forward'. In it, he argued that there was a significant amount of time and effort being wasted on performance measures, which did not actually provide what service users required. He argued that activity measures, budget management, people management and IT systems are shown to be part of the problem. In essence, waste is a man-made phenomenon and it comes as a shock when managers realise the unintended consequences of their actions and insistence upon performance indicators as a measure of how well a service is doing.
Social workers and our clients are not machines. HRM does not recognise that social work relies on professional discretion and this needs reflected throughout all our processes for staff and clients.