Sue Ryder Care is piloting a scheme in the north-east that enables employees to plan their careers using a web-based programme called the Electronic Knowledge and Skills Framework.
The move is part of the charity's strategy to improve its HR structures, which began 18 months ago when it adopted key elements of the NHS Agenda for Change, a policy that standardised pay and conditions throughout the NHS.
Sue Ryder Care, which employs 3,000 people nationally, has struggled to recruit skilled nurses, mainly because all 17 of its centres have acted independently of one another.
"People used to think you had to be really committed to join the sector, because doing so could hinder your career and the pay wasn't as good as elsewhere," says Heather Butler, acting director of human resources at the charity. "We didn't want all our staff to go to the NHS, so we had to create a level playing field."
Introducing pay bands and new job descriptions for all employees working in care roles has significantly reduced staff turnover. To ensure even higher retention rates, the charity felt it was essential to offer the same career progression opportunities as the NHS.
"The Electronic Knowledge and Skills Framework allows employees to monitor their own training records, identify skills gaps and work out what they need to do to get where they want to go in their careers," Butler says.
The programme has had a number of benefits, such as cutting paperwork and providing employees with the focus and incentive to develop their careers.
It also has the advantage of being totally compatible with the NHS system, allowing movement of staff between the two sectors.
"It will allow us to work more in partnership with the statutory sector," says Butler. "To ensure the highest standard of care, we have to be competitive."
If the pilot is successful, Sue Ryder Care hopes to roll out the scheme nationally from February.