Care providers are facing a challenge to recruit and retain the staff to meet the growing demand for their services. Recruitment expert Neil Eastwood suggests the best actions to take.

The labour market for frontline care staff is changing rapidly. One of the major risks social care employers face is not responding to these changes quickly enough.

It wasn’t so long ago that the care sector could pick and choose from large volumes of applicants but those days have gone. In the current market we have to work even harder to attract new staff. This is including those who had previously never considered a paid care role. At the same time we have to ensure we take steps to prevent the unnecessary loss of existing workers.

Registered Managers already have a full workload and little time to dedicate to researching the best approaches. This is, in essence, is a problem that filters down the hierarchy of care homes, from top to bottom.

Here are my five recommendations for improving both recruitment and retention:

1. Ensure you have a culture that people want to work for

Too often office staff can treat their frontline colleagues with a lack of respect. Prospective employees can be dealt with brusquely or go for days without any communication. It is essential that all employees understand the value of care workers and work to create a family-like and supportive environment. Without this finding and keeping staff is incredibly hard.

2. Free up time, maximise efficiency

Never has there been a time when the opportunities afforded by technology to a typical care employer are so great and so accessible. The regulatory, scheduling and workforce admin burden can now be significantly reduced, freeing up managers and office staff to focus on community recruitment and supporting their front-line staff. Here are a few examples of technologies that are available to Care organisations – Mobile Care Worker, Business Manager, Electronic Medication Management, Care & Clinical

3. Make sure someone in your organisation wakes up every day focused on recruitment

A successful social care recruitment operation relies on multiple channels, not just Internet job board advertising. Often the best candidates have to be found in the community, which requires coordination and planning. Sustaining the flow of quality applicants cannot be undertaken as an afterthought, or when a busy Registered Manager can spare time. The best care providers around the world assign someone to own and oversee the process.

4. Make sure care work is more about care, less about work

We know from research that naturally caring people get frustrated and disillusioned when they don’t have time to genuinely care. Feeling rushed or spending time on dull repetitive tasks puts them at higher risk of leaving. In order to maximise quality face-to-face time with clients, consider implementing mobile technology to streamline boring tasks.

5. It’s not about the money, it’s about feeling valued

Good care workers are emotionally connected to their job and the service they provide. If staff feel they are appreciated at work, they will more likely stay. Verbal appreciation, for instance when a carer has covered a shift or gone beyond their duty, as well as written appreciation in the form of a letter to their home, go a long way in retaining staff – above offering a pay rise.

There are certainly enough caring and compassionate people to meet the demands of our ageing population, the trick is to reach out into the community to make them aware of the value of a paid care role, make them feel welcome and then enable them to do what they love to do.

Neil Eastwood is founder of Sticky People, provider of PeopleClues candidate screening technology and an international speaker on care worker recruitment and retention.