Retaining Your Caregiving Staff in 2021
Despite the media’s irresponsible coverage of the social care sector during Covid, retention improved for a while. Carers seemed to be committed and there had coincidentally been a lack of alternative employment.
However, the social care sector still has significant problems with high staff turnover and job vacancy rates and retention is now worsening again. In the last 6 weeks there has been a huge drain on applications.
Understanding what causes retention problems is complicated. The sector is characterised by a large number of (often small) employers, and people move jobs a lot. Many people are employed by agencies, and some of this movement relates to people leaving one agency to work with another. The way the sector is financed also adds to the complexity, with a mix of local authority funding and people paying directly for their own care. This affects the market rates which drive salary levels for social care staff.
Many think that the simple solution is increasing pay, but it really isn’t just about money.
Of course we want carers to be paid more, they deserve it. However, studies have shown that there isn’t always a positive correlation between hourly rates increasing and retention, and let’s not forget that higher pay does not counteract feeling undervalued and struggling with work/life balance due to long hours.
Recruiting, retaining and managing care staff may seem trickier than ever before, and retaining an adequate workforce is not only one of the greatest challenges in the care industry today; it is also the lifeblood of any care business.
Bearing all of the above in mind, when it comes to your caregiving staff, you must both change the way you recruit and have certain things in place to make sure you successfully manage them. This will in turn have a big impact on your retention.
We know this is easier said than done, so here are some tips that may help you retain caregiving staff in 2021:
1. Assign a mentor to each new member of your caregiving staff. Someone they can go to to ask questions, bond with, be a peer. It can be extremely rewarding and comforting knowing that you have someone on your level you can go to that isn’t a manager or an executive. This can be a particularly lonely industry, especially in Home Care as it often requires lone working, and one of the reasons carers leave within the first 90 days is at times because they don’t feel confident or competent in what they are doing, so having someone to reach out to can be a huge help.
2. Another great option could be reducing the amount of hours in one shift and instead trying out perhaps 6 or 8 hour shifts. You will likely see more enthusiasm from your carers and although this means needing to recruit more, the carers that you do have will be happier and therefore those they care for will also benefit. Remember, carers are an exhausted workforce, working less hours can help boost morale massively. Reducing the length of shifts will also help improve work/life balance, which is something carers are also concerned with as they usually work very long hours and have time for little else. You should encourage them to take holidays/breaks when necessary. This will show them that you, as their employer, care about their mental and physical wellbeing, they are more likely to feel valued and stay.
3. Where you look for caregiving staff influences their sustainability and how long they end up working for you, so look in the right places. Do not focus on job boards, as these only help to find ‘active’ job seekers. You need to focus on finding ‘passive’ job seekers. Those looking for a change in career in the near future, or people who already care for a loved one. These have great potential to be solid, reliable carers. You can also recruit through employer referral schemes: Your current employers are likely to know of good potential carers in your area, use them!
4. Show your caregiving staff that they matter. Since much of the sector runs on trust and appreciation, person centred care is paramount and can help to prevent early staff loss. This can include, sending them a welcome card when they first come on board, getting someone senior to greet them on their first day, regularly thanking and praising them, checking if they need any support or help, celebrating milestones etc. Keeping communication lines open from the very beginning is vital. Some care providers still treat their carers as if they are lucky to have a job, when in reality, both care providers and those needing care are lucky to have wonderful caregivers that are passionate about what they do.
5. Conduct exit interviews, they can be an extremely helpful tool. This is an opportunity to ask some very precise questions, find out why your carers are moving on and perhaps put things in place to prevent this from happening in the future. For example, if you are finding that they are leaving because they don’t think the job description actually matched their day to day activities you can add a segment into your interview process where you go through their exact day to day activities so that there are no surprises. If you find that they seem reluctant to open up, you can also conduct anonymous surveys. Equally, this is a great time to find out if your carers are happy with their work environment. Positive feedback is also helpful so that you know what you are doing well and can do more of!
6. Make career progression a possibility. It’s important that we spread more awareness of career opportunities in the social care sector at a grassroots level, in schools, colleges, universities. Try to change the perception of what a career in care means. It is a rewarding, skilful and challenging profession and your marketing when recruiting caregiving staff should reflect this. The possibility of progressing and growing also boosts morale and gives people inspiration, a purpose, it is paramount. You as their employer should also show interest in and be a part of their personal development. The carers you employ should feel they are progressing in their career but also becoming better people in the process, prioritising this will highly impact your staff and the work they do.
As the demand for care grows, so will the need to recruit and retain more workers, to be able to deliver high quality care and support.
It is clear that in the current market, care providers are having to work a little harder to attract new caregiving staff and keep them, the sector has changed and we no longer have a ton of applicants to choose from.
This is why putting into practice some of the tips above will be of great help in 2021 and beyond.
If you have any more tips that you’d like to share with us, or any content you’d like us to discuss, drop us an email at [email protected].