Attracting and Retaining Good Care Staff

The American department store tycoon, JC Penny once commented, ‘every great business is built on friendship’.

That sentiment does not exclusively apply to your customers, it also extends to the people within your business, the ones who make it tick.

All of us want to be appreciated for our contribution to the business we work in.  Receiving a pay packet at the end of the month is not enough, we need to feel that what we do is worthwhile and that our efforts will lead to something better in the long term.

From an employer perspective, making care staff feel valued not only benefits the care home residents, it also has a direct impact on the profitability of the business.

Just consider how much time a care manager spends searching for agency staff to provide cover for sickness and the loss of carers each month?  Of course, this is over and above the often eye-watering agency staff rates.

In 2019 the Guardian newspaper reported that one London based healthcare agency tried to charge £2700 for a staff member for a single shift!  This is an extreme case but in some areas of the UK, agency nurse rates are routinely over £500 per shift.

Of course, there is also the time and resources spent on training new staff in order to achieve regulatory compliance.  Again, not an insignificant sum when the costs of training materials and certification are added up.

Every care home has a clear business plan to keep bed occupancy as high as possible but how many have a strategy for recruiting and then retaining the best carers?

According to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s Public Sector 2025 whitepaper, 77 percent of specialist health and social care recruiters expect significant staffing shortages over the next five years.  The reasons behind this expectation are many and varied, including the effects of Brexit, a decreasing number of jobseekers applying for care positions and a rapidly aging population.

With this in mind, it is more important than ever to retain quality carers or face staff shortages and spiralling agency costs.  The question, of course, is how?

A 2018 survey of care workers in the UK found that over 80 percent of respondents said that ‘enjoying their job’ was a greater measure of career success than a high wage (just over 40 percent).

Most of us have had the feeling of waking up and flirting with the idea of ‘throwing a sickie’ because the thought of going into work was so depressing.  Yet most of us have also had periods in our careers when we couldn’t wait for the working day to start because we were excited at the prospect of achieving something meaningful, something that we could be proud of being a part of.

Working in a care environment can be a hugely rewarding career, one of very few where your work is immediately appreciated by those you are helping on a daily basis.  However, much of the work done by a care staff is behind closed doors and is not always fully recognised by managers and proprietors.

So many carers go ‘above and beyond’ for the residents and their satisfaction should not just come in the form of a smile or thanks from the client.  Recognition of their efforts goes a long way along the road to enjoying their job, in most cases, far more than another pound or two on their hourly rate.

Of course, the question is, how can care managers and proprietors be made aware of the quality of care that certain individuals provide?

The answer comes from a surprising source – care compliance data.

Over recent years, increasingly tighter regulations within the care industry has driven the need for recording care compliance.  Initially this took the form of handwritten forms but, with the need for increasingly greater detail and the necessity to ensure the data is unambiguous, most successful care facilities are turning to software solutions.

These software applications generally require input by the carers on the floor who use smart devices to record the tasks they have completed which is subsequently downloaded into the care plans.

As useful, and in fact essential as this software is in compliance evidencing, its consequential benefits can be just as important to the business.  For the first time in professional care, an individual care workers shift can be viewed in close detail.

It is now possible to see how long they spent with an individual resident, what care they provided, how quickly they responded to a nurse-call alarm, how many proactive and reactive visits they made to clients and the software even allows them to make their own notes and observations on the care plans.

This information is not difficult to retrieve, in fact if the software being used is of a good standard, it should take just a few seconds.  Those few seconds can mean all the difference between a happy employee who has their conscientiousness acknowledged or an unmotivated one who will be scanning the ‘situations vacant’ adverts during their tea-break.

From a managerial point of view, the data trail is invaluable in seeing how a team member performs over a period of time and it can highlight areas where additional training is needed.

Depending on the way they are implemented, the use of these compliance apps can make care staff either feel that ‘Big Brother’ is watching or it can be used to make them feel more a part of the ‘team’, allowing them a greater input in continuously improving the care being given to the people in their charge.  This is a powerful motivational tool for the management of a care home and the reciprocal benefits are obvious.

Motivated care staff create a good atmosphere which benefits the residents, and a happy resident produces the greatest marketing tool of them all – a good reputation.  That reputation isn’t only useful for increasing bed occupancy, it’s also extremely useful for attracting good new carers, who maybe are not being fully appreciated in their current employment.


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