Navigating the second half of the year can feel like a voyage across stormy seas. Waves of mandatory training compliance deadlines and new regulations threaten to capsize your progress, while the final destination of the new year seems only fraught with future challenges. But steering yourself and your staff through this challenging time doesn't have to be a desperate race against the tide.
Today’s article aims to help you chart a course through this always-challenging time of the year, minimising stress and providing you confidence. Moreover, by incorporating your staff’s valuable feedback and promoting their career aspirations, the second half of the year can allow you to build a stronger, more capable team ready to meet future challenges head-on.
Traversing the year ahead
For many, entering the second half of the year can feel like control has already disappeared. Days have flown by, items have been put on hold and priorities readjusted. And now you are left with the stress of managing your staff’s learning and development requirements as the days dwindle into the new year.
First stop: taking stock.
Let’s unpack how you can take back control of this year and set your ship sailing straight once more.
Let your staff voice their concerns now
Now is the time to talk with your staff. If you’re feeling stressed about the year ahead, they likely are too.
Mid-year reviews and performance appraisals don’t need to become an echo chamber of how stressed everyone is. Rather, you can take these as tools to honestly look at what learning and training challenges your staff has ahead of them and break them down into manageable steps. Are your staff limited by time, and therefore cannot meet their training requirements in a timely fashion? Do they believe the training is not relevant to them, or perhaps they’ve already completed it?
The urgency of meeting all training and compliance requirements for the year cannot be overstated. However, a common pitfall is to leave discussions around this until the last minute, resulting in a scramble to play "compliance catchup" as the year ends. Now is the moment to let your staff voice any concerns around completion. From there you can identify problems your staff have experienced in the earlier part of the year and then collaboratively develop their individualised training plans.
Create a culture of improvement
These mid-year discussions are also perfect places to understand where your staffs' ambitions lie. Make this a place where staff can voice their career aspirations, not just report on their compliance, and you can become an aid in enabling them into next year.
Create a culture where staff know that you want to help them improve.. Develop training plans for your empowered, motivated and engaged staff members, so they can foster where their interests lie, above just compliance. Encourage opportunities to seek out formal education opportunities and find ways to assist that. This could be achieved, for example, by promoting your care workers to seek out formal education as Enrolled or Registered Nurses, which may in tandem help address resource shortages within your facility. Such an approach empowers staff to move forward confidently into the next year, armed with clear goals and ambitions, rather than aimlessness.
Be conscious of your staff’s capacity
It’s also important to be conscious of you and your staff’s capacity and be particularly cognisant of burnout issues. With continuing resourcing challenges across the industry, it’s easy to feel the pressure of mandatory training in addition to providing business-as-usual care. Be aware of where your staff’s capacity lies and work alongside them to develop a plan that can be realistically executed alongside their existing commitments.
The second half of the year can also be challenging due to a variety of seasonal factors as well.
The second half of the year is host to a variety of diverse holidays and events. It is worth checking which demographics make up your staff, understanding what proportion will be affected by these holidays and crafting a diversity-minded and flexible training plan to suit. This is essential to ensure fair workload distribution and maintain staff morale. Below is a (not exhaustive) list that is likely to be relevant.
Furthermore, understanding what surgical closure dates will also be a consideration; it is worth checking with applicable hospitals within your region or confirming your own site’s closure times.
Surgical closures can often lead to aged care residents scheduling elective surgeries just prior to holidays and then requiring, during their post-operative recovery phase, more intensive care and supervision. Combined with lower staffing, this can lead to a challenging time to complete any training.
Meanwhile, within clinical care, surgical closure dates can have the reverse effect. With less requirements for pre- and post-operative care for patients, it may be a time of brief respite and an ideal time to schedule in training and development.
Lastly, the seasonality can also inform what training you may provide your staff. In addition to the aforementioned post-operative care, assigning learning for emergency preparedness and response may be worthwhile, considering the general upswing in these kind of events during the holiday period.
Charting a course for the new year
So you feel like you’ve gotten things in order for this year, to the best of your ability. It’s now time for forward planning into next year. When it comes to the variety and complexity of changes that the healthcare industry can face, it is more than worthwhile to start preparation as soon as possible before pressure and workload take hold and force it into an afterthought. But with what crystal ball can you know what to expect? Below are a couple of items to consider.
Upcoming regulatory changes
There are a variety of upcoming regulatory changes slated for the healthcare industry in 2024.
Most important to consider will be the National Nursing Workforce Strategy. This aims to address the current and future challenges facing the nursing workforce in Australia, such as shortages, skills gaps, retention, and diversity. It provides a national framework and action plan to support the development, recruitment, and retention of nurses across all settings and sectors, including aged care. You should be aware of the goals and priorities of the strategy, as well as how to support your nursing staff to access the opportunities and resources that the strategy will offer.
Looking more towards aged care is the aged care reform roadmap. Below is an extract from the Department of Health and Aged Care that maps out key milestones up to June 2025. It’s worth keeping an eye on this page — it’s an ever-changing document.
Key items of consideration from the aged care reform roadmap in 2024 include:
The new Rights-Based Aged Care Act, which is expected to be passed and commence in July 2024, will replace the existing Aged Care Act 1997 and introduce a new set of rights and obligations for older Australians and aged care providers. This will require you to review and update your policies, procedures, and contracts to ensure they are compliant with the new legislation, as well as to train your staff on how to respect and uphold the rights of your clients.
- Places to people – Embedding choice in residential aged care: This is a new residential aged care system commencing on 1 July 2024. It aims to have a person-centred approach that places older Australians first and provide them with more choice and control over which provider delivers their care. This will also require providers to compete for clients based on quality, price, and service offerings.
- Aged Care Diversity Framework: This is a continuing framework that aims to make sure that aged care services are respectful and inclusive of all people, regardless of their social, cultural, language, religious, spiritual, psychological, medical or care needs. It’s important to continuously keep in mind developments of this framework and appropriately train your staff.
Looking towards technological advancements
We also need to be cognisant of the transformative power of technology and how it can augment staff training and development. The rate of technological change has been incredible during 2023 and 2024 only looks to accelerate that growth in technology. It will no doubt impact the healthcare sector and the learning and development of the professionals within it. Technologies to consider and potentially incorporate or up-skill your staff in may include telehealth and on-demand healthcare, artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) and digital therapeutics/wearables.
Using the past to predict the future
A reflective review of past feedback and compliance issues also provides a solid foundation for strategic planning for the upcoming year. Past performance, insights from staff feedback, and challenges faced in maintaining compliance serve as useful indicators of areas for improvement, growth, and innovation in the L&D process. Turn your lessons learned into actions and you can foster an environment of growth and advancement, setting the stage for a successful year ahead.
The upcoming year's challenges may appear rocky, particularly when under pressure from deadlines and stress. By engaging in open discussions, valuing feedback, and combining this with foresight regarding future changes, you can unlock potent opportunities for your staff's learning and growth. With this well-laid course ahead, you can captain your organisation’s L&D confidently, turning the year ahead into one of growth and bounty.
- Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care (2023b) National Nursing Workforce strategy, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/national-nursing-workforce-strategy (Accessed: 31 July 2023).
- Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care (2023c) Places to people – embedding choice in residential aged care, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/places-to-people-embedding-choice-in-residential-aged-care (Accessed: 31 July 2023).
- Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care (2022) Digital transformation for the Aged Care Sector, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/digital-transformation-for-the-aged-care-sector (Accessed: 31 July 2023).
- Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care (2023a) Aged care diversity framework initiative, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/aged-care-diversity-framework-initiative (Accessed: 31 July 2023).