Opinion Wellbeing workforce

Batteries not included

Oonagh Smyth, CEO, Skills for Care

Social care providers have an opportunity to attract and keep excellent people with the right skills and values to work in adult social care. Oonagh Smyth, Chief Executive at Skills for Care discusses factors that can influence better staff retention by supporting staff wellbeing and culture and reducing burnout.

We know that keeping the right staff is a top priority for care providers right now. The vacancy rate across the social care sector remains high at 9.9% as at 2022/23, while the latest turnover rate is 28.3%.

We can’t recruit our way out of retention issues, and so while attracting more people to work in social care is vital our attention must also be focused on keeping new and existing staff long-term. We want our excellent colleagues to remain in social care.

Care providers with lower turnover rates have higher Care Quality Commission (CQC) scores, as do care homes with more staff in post per bed.

This is because when we have the right number of staff in the right place at the right time we can deliver the highest quality of care. When staffing levels are right our teams are less stretched and able to focus on the task at hand and delivering the best care to the people they’re supporting. When this is the case staff are also more likely to feel happier in their roles, and less likely to experience burnout.

So, we can see this is an ongoing cycle where having high levels of workforce capacity and low turnover rates means staff will be happier in their roles and less likely to leave, and so the cycle continues.

But what can employers do to reduce staff turnover and in turn increase capacity?

In our latest ‘State of the adult social care sector and workforce in England’ report, we identified five key factors which can support better staff retention. These are:

  • being paid more than the minimum wage
  • not being on a zero-hours contract
  • being able to work full-time
  • being able to access training
  • having a relevant qualification.

Where none of these factors apply, care workers are more than twice as likely to leave their jobs than when all five factors apply – a 48.7% turnover rate compared with 20.6%. Implementing these factors should make it easier for the people who love what they do to stay, by improving terms and conditions and investing in their career development.

We also know from our further research and our connections with care providers across the country that developing and maintaining a positive workplace culture has a hugely positive impact on retention.

In our ‘Recruitment and retention in adult social care: secrets of success’[1] report, employers with a turnover rate of less than 10% were asked to consider what they believe contributed to their success in relation to recruitment and retention. The results included:

  • investing in learning and development (94%)
  • embedding the values of the organisation (92%)
  • celebrating the achievements of both the organisation and the individual (86%)
  • involving colleagues in decision-making (81%).

All these factors feed into creating a positive workplace culture.

A positive workplace culture supports staff to feel happy and confident at work.

Culture is the character and personality of your organisation and what makes your organisation unique. It’s made up of the shared characteristics of people in your organisation including values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviours, workplace norms, and attitudes.

We have a positive culture toolkit [2] which helps explain what a positive workplace culture is and how you can develop, maintain, and where needed, change an existing culture.

Providing ongoing learning and development is also part of a positive workplace culture and supports greater staff retention. We know from our data that average turnover rates decreased from 37% among staff who had no qualifications to 26.5% among those that had a qualification. The average turnover rate was also 9.0 percentage points lower amongst care workers who had received some form of training (31.6%), compared to those who had not (40.6%).

It’s also important that managers aim to support staff wellbeing when working in a sector as complex, fast-paced and emotionally invested as social care.

We have a range of resources available on our website to support with teams’ wellbeing. You can use our wellbeing resource finder [3]on our website to discover useful resources from Skills for Care and other organisations.

Find more information and support about retention with the latest spotlight campaign on our website.



[1] www.skillsforcare.org.uk/resources/documents/Recruitment-support/Retaining-your-staff/Secrets-of-Success/Recruitment-and-retention-secrets-of-success-report.pdf

[2] www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Support-for-leaders-and-managers/Managing-a-service/Positive-workplace-culture/A-positive-culture-toolkit-for-adult-social-care.aspx

[3] www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Support-for-leaders-and-managers/Managing-people/Wellbeing/Workforce-wellbeing-finder/Wellbeing-resource-finder.aspx


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