Sergiu Calauz, CEO of A1 Care and is a thought leader on Care Providers
Could you please share a bit about yourself, your background, and the journey that has led you to become an entrepreneur? What makes your perspective unique on the subject of leadership and navigating uncertainty?
I've been working with people my whole life, and I can tell now after more than 20 years since I've started my entrepreneurial journey, that there is nothing more rewarding than making a difference in people's lives. I've finished a Computers and Information Technology Colleague, degreed a Business Administration University and graduated a Master in Business Administration. My passion was always working with people, and I've decided to use all my skills in the Human Resources industry. I'm aware that being successful nowadays is a continuous learning process, so I've trained myself as a Recruitment and Selection Specialist, Human Resources Analyst, Human Resources Manager, Mediator and Trainer. I've screened over 30,000 CVs in my career and been part of thousands of candidates' career success by educating them, giving them a job and watching them thrive in their career development. Possessing a solid HR expertise, corroborated with the concerning stats on the healthcare industry, were clear signals that I could best use my skills and qualifications as a leader of a home care provider: Care England reported that 95% of care providers were struggling to recruit staff, and 75% were struggling to retain their existing staff; High turnover in healthcare, almost double than the average industries. Skills for Care estimates the turnover rate of directly employed staff working in adult social care was 29% in 2021/22, equivalent to approximately 400,000 leavers over the year. Concerns around low staff morale and burnout are among the main reasons for low retention rates. The King's Fund organisation has shown that between 2020/21 and 2021/22, the vacancy rate rose sharply from 7.0 per cent to 10.7 per cent and the number of vacancies rose from 110,000 to 165,000.
After serving more than 600 clients so far, I'm pleased to confirm that nothing is as rewarding as bringing a smile to someone in need, vulnerable and lonely. Even though there is a lot of uncertainty in such a dynamic industry as home care services, you have to deliver confidence and certainty as a leader. As the CEO and the Nominated Individual at A1 Care, I'm aware of my unique position to lead and support the service to embed the skills, knowledge, and values required for continuous improvement and delivery of an outstanding service.
You and your business have presumably faced some interesting challenges and changes over the years. Can you describe a key moment when you felt uncertainty was at its peak?
Every enterprise encounters challenges at certain junctures. When establishing an operation from scratch, I perceive the most formidable obstacle to assimilating the company's culture, vision, and mission throughout the entire organisational hierarchy, starting from its upper level and extending to its lower tiers. This holds particular significance within the healthcare sector, wherein Care Workers deliver the provision of care services on the frontline, not the management. The recent pandemic has pushed many industries to the edge and brought a lot of uncertainty everywhere. Our care industry deals with a certain degree of unpredictability, but the pandemic has exacerbated this circumstance, adding a heightened level of pressure.
From your experience, what are the core principles or values that guide a leader during uncertain times?
Running a CQC-regulated activity, a care leader provider should build his/her own core principles around the 5 main standards that govern the healthcare industry: Safe, Effective, Caring, Responsive and Well-Led. The home care industry requires a leader to be able to make crucial decisions quickly, sometimes right away. A thorough understanding of the industry, especially of his/her operation, workforce, and logistics resources available, is paramount. In uncertain times, a leader should engage in effective, timely communication with optimism and resilience. Having a structured list of priorities aligned with the company's contingency plan will also help the team focus on what matters most.
How do you cultivate a culture of resilience and adaptability within your team? Can you share a practical example where this culture made a significant difference?
The culture of resilience and adaptability within the A1 Care team commences with onboarding each new employee. These initiatives collectively nurture this culture from a warm, welcoming message and extend to tailored, in-house training, followed by a thorough coaching and mentoring program. However, their significance lies not only in cultivating the culture but also in facilitating its integration across all echelons of the company. As part of our company culture, we consider challenges as opportunities and always try to learn from mistakes. To seamlessly align our workflow with the prevailing dynamics and technological landscape, we have engineered our proprietary recruitment platform: www.a1.agency. This innovation has successfully transformed the complete recruitment and onboarding process into a paperless operation, thereby enhancing the overall resilience and flexibility of the entire Human Resources department.
Many aspiring leaders struggle with the fear of failure, especially when the path ahead is unclear. What strategies or mental frameworks have you developed to overcome this fear and embrace uncertainty as an opportunity?
I believe that A1 Care has achieved the status of a premium care provider not primarily due to our approach to opportunities but rather because of how we dealt with our failures. Each mistake has shaped our operation and helped us to become better. Lesson learned is something part of each of our investigations. Failures may inevitably arise within the entirety of the operational chain due to the involvement of human beings. Nonetheless, we have wholeheartedly adopted the latest cutting-edge technologies in our processes. These technologies have not only enhanced our ability to manage uncertainties but, more significantly, have enabled us to prevent the recurrence of mistakes.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes leaders make during uncertain times? Can you offer a real-life example where recognizing and avoiding such a mistake led to success?
A common mistake during uncertain times can be under-communication, which only exacerbates the fear and uncertainty among the staff members. In the peak of the pandemic, where uncertainty was everywhere, home care was under massive pressure. The heightened stress level was exacerbated by the unfeasibility of in-person meetings, compelling us to devise an adequate remedy. This gave rise to a commendable project management solution, namely Asana, which we have seamlessly integrated into our operational processes ever since.
Looking towards the future, how do you plan to continue evolving your leadership style to meet new uncertainties and challenges? What advice would you give to others looking to do the same?
I'm working closely with the local authorities and decision-makers to build a more predictable working environment. Nevertheless, it is essential to acknowledge that the distinctive nature of the home care sector gives rise to a range of challenges and uncertainties that consistently lie ahead. I am committed to endorsing A1 by consistently integrating cutting-edge technology into our operational processes. At present, I am actively engaged in the development of an ingenious initiative known as the "Virtual Care Companion."
You've clearly demonstrated a willingness to learn and grow through experience. Are there any books, mentors, or resources that have particularly influenced your leadership style? How would you recommend others to approach their leadership development journey?
Google and YouTube can be exemplary sources akin to books, mentors, teachers, advisers, or resources for individuals in leadership roles seeking answers about developing their leadership journey. No magic recipe or a mentor tells us how to always make the right decision. At least not in the home care industry. It's all about continuous hard work, thorough research and a high level of dedication to bring smiles and hope to those in need.