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 the strategies social care providers can implement to help improve their staff retention.
Founder and CEO of Care Friends (Global)
Director at Care Advantage and Care Friends
In the last blog Neil and Ross shared with us the common challenges faced by the social care sector internationally. In this discussion they are going to share some of the learnings and strategies that have proven to be effective in improving staff retention in social care.
Neil and Ross pointed out that there are three phases of retention – the first one starts when you offer the candidates the job; the second phase, which is also the most challenging one, is the first 90 days when someone has started working at the facility; and finally, the ongoing retention which largely depends on your workplace culture and leadership.
First phase of retention starts with the job offer
The first phase of retention actually starts when you offer the job to the new hire, before they even start working with you. “During this phase, providers in the UK can lose up to 40% of new hires – and it is probably one of the times most overlooked,” Neil explained. “One of the things you can do, and it is becoming very popular here in the UK, is to send your new hires a welcome card immediately after they accept your job offer. This way you show them they are valued as part of the team and establish an expectation that they will be joining you.”
Active and constant engagement with the new hires while they are in training is also important. Due to regulatory requirements in social care, the joining process is longer than those in the supermarket for instance, so there will be times when people feel like dropping out because they are just sitting there and not actually earning money. “It is essential that you keep engaging your new hires who are in training to check in with them,” Neil stressed. “But also to let them know what is going on and where they are heading to, so they feel they are progressing towards their starting point and feel like they are part of the team.”
Second phase is the biggest challenge on retention – the first 90 days
Once someone has started working for you, your biggest challenge on retention also starts. “If we actually plot when people leave, it is usually within the first 90 days, so it is really crucial that you do things right in the first three months in order to keep your staff.” Neil said.
“The way you welcome and onboard your new hires holds the key here,” Neil explained. “Are your new hires being introduced to the team and made special on day one? Or are they being inducted during a busy shift and told to sit at the back and be quiet, therefore left feeling useless and unwanted? If you’ve hired the right people, they are often quite sensitive about people and are very relationship-centric, and this will make them feel rejected.”
Grow people’s capacity if they are new to the sector
How their shifts are being presented can also impact if they are staying or not, and that differs from whether your new hires have already worked in social care before. For someone who is already in the sector, they probably just want to get their hours back up to what they were and are often more prepared for the job.
But if you have someone who is new to care, straightaway presenting them a 50-hours shift for the week can be overwhelming. The same goes for the tasks they need to perform. “Especially if you have been shy about telling them the unpleasant tasks involved in their role during the recruitment process, and on their first day at work they are presented with the inconvenient truth of what their job actually involves, people will feel they’ve made a mistake even they didn’t act on it right away. That’s how you lose people.”
“And don’t forget, only a third of people we are bringing in are new to the sector, the rest are already care-workers moving from one facility to another,” added Ross. “So it is critical that we grow people’s capacity within the job if they are new to the sector as they are the people that you really want to retain so that we are growing the workforce instead of just seeing staff churn between facilities.”
Buddy up your new hire with an existing staff
Neil said that one of the things that has proven successful among providers in the UK during the first three months is to run a peer mentoring scheme. Buddying your new hire with an existing member of staff is a great way to ensure they have the support they need. Also ensure that the managers are available to answer questions.
“One of the big weaknesses we’ve seen in training and onboarding new starters is that people do not feel they’ve got somewhere to ask questions, and that’s going to impact their retention.” Neil added. ”We know that staff hired via employee referrals have the best retention rate in the first 90-day period. That’s because they know someone who is already working at the facility, so they know what it is like to be working there and they have someone to talk to and to ask questions. Running a buddy program is essentially creating that bond and environment so that your new hires feel that they are being looked after.”
Phase three: appreciation is key to long-term retention
During the pandemic, we rely even more on the already strained workforce to fight on the frontline and look after the most vulnerable; they are emotionally and physically strained. The workforce is exhausted and burnt-out; many suffer from PTSD and goodwill has taken an impact. Some staff will look to their managers, who are often also under additional pressure at present due to higher workforce absences; visiting service users to cover calls; completing the additional COVID-19 reports and ensuring that people who are at risk are not left vulnerable. The younger workers who are thinking about their career may be looking towards their manager, thinking ’is that a role I want?’. Providers are confronted with retention rates dropping rapidly and the job seekers pool shrinking to a level they have never seen before. And all it does is add more pressure for the existing staff. When managers are being pulled to the floor to fill a shift themselves, they’re unable to provide the ongoing staff support.
“The pressure is really getting to a level we have never seen before,” Neil said. “But there are things providers can do on improving their retention to prevent voluntary staff loss, as well as increasing their pipeline to help with recruitment. We’ve seen some successful strategies here in the UK and are happy to share them with our Australian colleagues.”
Stay tuned to our next blog where Neil and Ross will be sharing some of the learnings and strategies that have proven to be effective in improving staff retention in social care. Meanwhile, if you have an experience to share or a particular question you would like to ask, please send them to [email protected].