Five minutes with Karen Knight
Karen Knight is Managing Director of NorseCare, an award-winning care home provider, managing residential homes and ‘housing with care’ schemes across Norfolk.
Since qualifying as a social worker in 1985, she has undertaken a range of leadership roles that have focused on improving people’s lives through the provision of care services. For Karen, success in business has always been measured in the level of care that she is able to provide to those in her homes.
“I think more businesses should put themselves in the shoes of their customers”
Our basic premise in terms of the service we provide is ‘would this be good enough for my mum or dad?’ We want to get it right for people, and the driving force behind the new homes that we have built and the homes that we run is that sentiment. We have a reputation that is built on quality care. You have to have a value base that is focused on wider benefit and not just the bottom line, and I would recommend this approach to more businesses.
“People don’t just focus solely on their salary”
People have higher expectations about what they can achieve. They want to know whether they will have fun at work, whether they will be working in a pleasant environment and if everybody in the team has a common purpose, pulling in the same direction. What is so important is the feel of our care homes, because you may spend more time at work than you do at home. So why wouldn’t you create a culture where people really love being there? Our staff are our most important resource and unless we create environments that are a nice place to work and live, people won’t come and work for us.
“We have to support each other across sectors, we can’t pull up the drawbridge”
The economy has such great pressure on health and its public expenditure. Unless the public and private sectors pull together, it will become impossible to get good services, which in turn impacts on people’s health, their ability to hold down jobs and their education. We need to work together and create systems that work and support each other. That is how the country will thrive.
“We told a story everyone could understand and bought in to”
When I took over NorseCare we found ourselves with a company that was running with a deficit of £1 million a year. We have pulled costs down whilst driving the level of service up, and we have done that through a commitment to transparency and empowerment. We gave our managers the tools to manage the budget and made them accountable for it. We enabled people to understand on a cultural level that unless we took the action we did, we wouldn’t be able to care for anyone.
“Everybody in the company is as valuable as everyone else”
That is a key part of the culture we instil. We have an awards system to ensure that people who are doing a great job are rewarded – we give awards to people that have gone above and beyond what is expected of them.
“The public sector needs to be more business-like”
We need to see more investment in the public sector and by working in partnership the public and commercial sectors can achieve a lot such as developing opportunities to deliver a more business-like approach to how services are provided and thereby maximising efficiency and accountability. This way we can get the best of both worlds.
“Our homes are part of the local community”
For us it is so important to be a member of the community. In each village or town we are situated in we make sure that the people living in our homes don’t lose contact with what’s happening in the town, but it’s also a two-way street. We run outreach dementia programmes, and are very involved with local schools. I think more businesses should remember the importance of engaging with their local community wherever possible. In terms of dementia, many more people will have parents and grandparents living longer, and many more of them will experience dementia. So it’s about getting younger people familiar with dementia and what that actually means. It is really important for them to understand what they may have to deal with.
“We have an open door approach to recruitment”
We encourage work experience in our homes, to provide opportunities for young people to understand what great places care homes can be. We also support people that have disabilities to get back to work, and we employ a lot of people who are local, rural carers.