An end of year review hardly sparks excitement in most people, even if everyone acknowledges that managing performance is necessary thing. Often a tick-box exercise, it divides tasks into achievements and shortcomings and invites us to perceive our work in strict categories. Moreover, it translates into our daily work, as we shift our behaviour to meet the desired outcomes. In a pinch, it is likely you would prioritise something that is recorded as an outcome than another task that will not affect performance management.
On a more personal level, if you are motivated by achieving milestones, than the outcomes will also change your emotional investment into certain tasks and goals.
Young people who are supported by your service also feel the affects of defining positive outcomes narrowly, as it changes their own understanding of what success and failure means. Statistics are often used to ‘get through’ to young people, or they are often reported to highlight disadvantages that young people who grow up in care face. Statistics are however only ever on population level and therefore can never be person-centred. Outcome-focused support can as result often feel less relational and individual.
The metrics that we choose as our outcome can greatly influence our practice.
It is a great way to improve accountability in an organisation and making sure that the needed work is getting done. As such, performance management is crucial. Without metrics it could be difficult to identify success and shortcomings.
When defining the outcome measures, one implicitly or explicitly chooses where to centre accountability. For example, an outcome metric could be “length of time a young person receives support in months”, and a shorter length could be defined as positive. The intention might be to encourage young people to be independent. However, ultimately it makes the worker accountable to the manager to justify the length of support a young person needs. This could lead to questions such as “Why is [young person] still receiving frequent support after 6 months?” and lead to the decision to provide less frequent support going forward. In the question and decision, the young person’s needs are considered only after the metric is considered. Ideally, the metric would be redefined in a way that makes the organisation accountable to the young person, so that the support is meaningful to the young person. The metric from our example could be rephrased to: “what goals does the young person have or how long does the young want to be in the service” and measuring any deviation from that.
To improve your performance management, you need to define what outcomes truly matter and to whom. It is expected that different outcomes matter to different groups. For instance, budget related outcomes are unlikely to be relevant to young people. Therefore, outcomes should be grouped by categories such as people or departments.
As a second step you should evaluate current outcome metrics. Creating a list of current outcome metrics and discussing their value with colleagues and young people can help assess whether their intention is translated into reality. How are the metrics influencing your daily work? How are current metrics felt by young people?
Finally, discussing the differences between current and desired outcome metrics can help in implementing change.
Relationships are an important part of everyone’s life. For example, everything we learn as children depends on others teaching us. But did you know that good relationships also have an influence on our physical and mental health (Griffith, 2017)? Relationship-based practice combines what we know about childhood development, trauma, resilience, and relationships to promote the best for children and adolescents.
Early life experiences shape our mind and body in ways that we are understanding more and more, especially when these experiences are traumatic. Trauma-informed practice takes this knowledge and creates a holistic framework for practitioners and organisations to create healing and safe spaces and ways of working.
First introductions matter. It matters when, how and where they happen. Many young people speak about transitions are often the most difficult times. In this Guide we explore how transitions can be done from the lens of relational practice.
What do IT systems and relationships have in common? Both usually run in the background and are easily taken for granted. Perhaps surprisingly, IT systems can have a big influence on the quality of relationships and relational practice in general.
One of the first things you learn when you start your job is when you need to arrive and when you need to leave. Have you ever considered that the pattern of your work affects the relationships you are building?
Organisational values influence the working culture. They can inspire workers to follow the organisation's mission. However, for them to have an impact they need to be developed with staff and young people.
It is important to keep learning and growing. Recognise your staff’s value and expertise by developing internal training and discussion sessions. Enable staff to learn and train more. Training should not be a tick-box exercise but a place for growth and reflection.
As is often said, hurt people hurt people – it is even more important to consider the flipside: supported people support people. Working with young people and caring for them can be a demanding role, especially in under-resourced and stressful environments. A truly relational organisation also invests in the relationships between managers and staff, creating a positive environment for everyone.
Relationships do not just depend on one person, but rather on a network of people and the culture of an organisation. Sometimes one person who simple ‘doesn’t get it’ can put barriers in the way for an entire team to become less relational. So, it’s easy to see why recruiting the right people is so important to create and maintain a relational organisation.
All relationships take time and effort to build and develop relationships with young people with care experience is no exception, perhaps being even more difficult due to their backgrounds however with the right understanding and approach you could develop a strong and positive connection which will benefit both you and your young person.
Relationships are essential to all parts of life and encompass both our professional and personal lives. They are a vital part of the support networks for our young people and the stronger the relationship the better we can all do our jobs, perhaps making them feel less like a job and more like a vocation. And perhaps more importantly, the stronger the relationship the more important a young person might feel.