With staff turnover skyrocketing, recruitment and retention have never been more challenging for care providers. Not only are people leaving at an alarming rate, the impact of Brexit is compounding issues too. With a decreasing pool of carers to choose from and non-existent retention strategies, providers find themselves in constant firefighting mode.
In Skills for Care’s ‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England’ it estimated a staff turnover rate in adult social care of 27.8% with around 90,000 vacancies at any one point in time. With so much effort put into recruitment drives, the high turnover of staff causes untold pressure on the sector.
In fact, it affects every aspect of social care. Existing staff are mentally and physically stressed as they try to cope with heavy workloads. It’s a vicious cycle as the nurses and carers left behind may also look to leave. The discontinuity of care, something as simple as seeing familiar faces every day, affects client wellbeing too.
Lack of staff has even caused the closure of residential and nursing homes. The Guardian reported that a care home in Leeds had to close its nursing section and a home in Whitby shut for similar reasons. If that wasn’t bad enough, a care home in Derbyshire saw residents caring for each other because it was so understaffed. This not only impacts the quality of care but also raises questions about client safety too.
Every provider should have a retention strategy in place – it’s essential to hold on to the best staff, both experienced and those that show potential. Whilst there is a myriad of reasons that people choose to leave an employer, they often come down to culture, work environment and pay.
Part of any retention strategy starts with good leadership – leading by example and creating an environment where people feel nurtured, respected and valued. Ask staff what they like and dislike about working in the organisation; make it anonymous if necessary. Be prepared for some home truths but above all be open to change.
By all means look for ‘quick wins’ – there may be issues that people are raising that can be rectified immediately. This shows carers that they’re being listened to and action is being taken. However, also make sure that you focus on those areas that would have a bigger and longer lasting impact – no matter how difficult it might be to implement. The only way to win at retention is to face the problems head-on.
No article from me would be complete without a look at how technology can help to support retention strategies, plans and implementation. If a paper- or spreadsheet-based approach is used, it’ll quickly become inefficient at best and unmanageable at worst. Web-based recruitment and HR software can help providers manage the whole process much more efficiently, supporting the decision-making process too.
For instance, managing an employee’s career pathway and e-training is an important part of most retention strategies, including integrating with training providers so everything is monitored and managed online. It can also support the appraisal process throughout the year so nothing gets forgotten, alongside personal goals, ambitions or discussions along the way.
Make sure that staff have the best tools for their job such as mobile devices that give them direct access to rotas, expense management and client care plans. In the domiciliary environment, it means no unnecessary visits to the office and instant access to data relevant to them and their clients. The latter point is key for care home staff too. Make it easier for people to do their jobs and clear away the frustrations.
Whilst technology won’t directly solve retention issues, it’ll help to keep plans on track with all documentation safely kept in one place where it’s easily accessible. This provides the space to focus on making retention plans work. That’s not only good for both business and staff, but also the clients too.