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Allocate Software spoke to Neil Eastwood, international speaker on care worker recruitment and retention, Founder and CEO of Care Friends (Global) and author of ‘Saving Social Care’, and Ross Bell, Director at Care Advantage and Care Friends (ANZ), to discuss various recruitment challenges faced by social care providers: in particular why they need to diversify their recruitment sources to help with the challenges.

Neil Eastwood
Founder and CEO of Care Friends (Global)

Ross Bell
Director at Care Advantage and Care Friends

In the last blog Neil and Ross shared some of the retention strategies that have been proven effective in improving staff retention in social care. This time we turn our focus on recruitment.

Neil and Ross said there are three major groups of candidates that social care providers source their workforce from. The first one is the migrants. They make up more than one-third of the Australia social care workforce, but since the pandemic and the closure of borders we’ve lost them and their vital skills, and so the focus will be on the other two groups – active and passive job seekers.

Active job seekers and internet job boards

Active job seekers are those who are actively looking for another job on the market. They can be reached via internet job boards and have been the major source of how we recruit these days. But Neil said that there are a few issues with candidates coming from this source.

“First of all, a large portion of job seekers on internet job boards are looking for local work. And when they see lots of job in care, they just put their application in thinking this could work. The problem is that these candidates often apply to multiple jobs in a diverse range of industries, including retail, hospitality and tourism, who offer better pay rates and benefits. This will create a screening problem for your recruiters, as often they will receive a large number of applications, but when they start the interview process, they have very few responses.”

A portion of active job seekers on internet job boards, about 15% in the UK, are already care workers looking for another care job. “They are often job hoppers and tend to move around. So while they might be able to come in and pick up some shifts straightaway, it is unlikely that they will improve your workforce capacity long-term.”

Passive job seekers need to be sourced from different avenues

Passive job seekers are those who are not actively looking for a job for various reasons. They would make high potential frontline staff but need to be approached or are happy with their current paid or unpaid care role. As they are not actively looking for a job, they are unaware of the job advertisement you put on the internet job boards.

To reach the passive job seekers, Neil said providers really need to look at different sources. “Employee referrals and word of mouth are the most common ways to widen your reach to this group of people. The pandemic has impacted this though, as face-to-face interactions are limited. Providers are not able to run outreach programs in the community to talk about what a job in social care really is about. So you really need to look at utilising social media and other digital channels to raise awareness and reach out to the passive job seekers.”

Another good source is to look at contacting the people that had previously worked for you who you want back. They might have moved to another job, but then feel like they missed the residents, clients or service users and can be persuaded back.

Recruitment is very local and needs to be provider-led

The Australian government will shortly release $91 million to find 13,000 homecare workers that are needed over the next two years. Traditionally, these programs involve generalized media campaigns to build awareness, traineeship programs, and recruitment drives to build candidate pools working with employment services like the job active network and recruitment companies. Whilst these measures are both important and valuable, the Australian government places a lot of emphasis on this approach. Ross is hesitant as he thinks successful recruitment is driven by local needs and local timing. His other concern is that we are in new territory because the active job seeker pool is the lowest it has been for over 10 years – and getting worse, especially for the care & support sector.

“While you can expect an influx of people coming into the applicant pool with the proposed government approach, this will not fill those vacant shifts or job openings because of the difficulty with matching applicant skills, availability and location to providers’ job vacancies. So, in large measure, the response has to be provider-led and organisations have to do something different than just running job ads on internet job boards that are not delivering the quantity or quality required.

Neil added that maximising your opportunity to meet people locally is key here “whether it is through a community outreach program or through an employee referral. That way you have a much better chance of getting high-quality candidates that will stay working for you longer.”

Streamline the recruitment process and diversify your sources

Having a more streamlined recruitment process is also key to improving recruitment. “We are all so used to things happening instantaneously nowadays, but in social care it’s not uncommon to have to wait for a week before someone calls you back about your application.” That might be due to the multiple hats the manager has to wear, or the recruiter workload due to applications coming from poor quality sources.

“The problem is the more admin work your staff have to do, the less likely they will say ‘let’s go out with one of the team to talk to the community about working in social care’. And as the pressure of filling the vacant positions grows, the common reaction is to just put another advertisement up on the internet job board to draw in more applicants.”

But both Neil and Ross urged social care providers to look at diversifying their recruitment sources.

“Going into the community, asking for employee referrals and contacting your old employees are some of the great ways to attract more high quality and local candidates, and really are the keys to help tackle your workforce challenge. Effective recruitment these days needs a farming approach, not just hunting through job boards.”

What recruitment sources are you currently using? Have you tried any of the sources suggested by Neil and Ross? Share your experience with us by emailing [email protected].

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