How to recruit, train and retain great care home staff

  • It’s all about attitude. Don’t get me wrong, knowledge, qualifications and experience are vital to staff recruitment especially in specialist roles but in my experience they’re not the be all and end all. We know it’s becoming increasingly hard to recruit not least because of the competition, challenges with pay and the fact that many people who really wanted to work in health and social care already have roles. But there are lots of job seekers looking for an enjoyable role, with hours to suit them they just don’t know what that job is.

That’s where attitude comes in. I know that someone with the right attitude, who is keen to learn and can communicate with people effectively can be trained to do many roles. I look beyond their experience. Some of my best team members had worked in supermarkets or hospitality before, never in the care sector. There are many transferrable skills so don’t dismiss someone who isn’t the best on paper.

  • Start them at the bottom. Whilst starting a care home manager in a care home assistant role might not be the best example, I think there’s a lot to be said for employing someone at any level and getting them to spend some time doing a more junior role. Not only does this prove their character and show if they have a good attitude but it fundamentally has a massive impact on their understanding of the home. Hierarchy and structure is important, but a good candidate won’t mind getting stuck in and will become a team player with a great working knowledge.
  • Ask them how they’re getting on. We all know the care sector isn’t for everyone and one of the most high-risk periods for loosing staff is in those first two months after you’ve spent the time and money recruiting and training them. Don’t just sit back and think job done until their three-month review. It’s vital you check in with them informally and ask them how they’re getting on. Is it what they expected? Are they enjoying it? Before I get people handing their notice in after a few weeks I make sure I call them and ask them these questions. Sometimes for example personal care isn’t for everyone so I’ve moved people into housekeeping or kitchen roles within the same home which has worked out perfectly. Happy staff deliver the best care so don’t be afraid to hear that new starters aren’t happy, just try and offer alternatives. And keep asking regularly.
  • Recognition and progression. Everyone likes to feel recognised so it’s important staff feel valued and seen by those around them including managers. Small incentives like staff member of the month or additional benefits or events can help staff feel part of a team. Regular appraisals that reward (and encourage) hard work and results work well as do informal catchups to try and connect on a more personal health and wellbeing level. There are very few people who want to stay in one role their entire life so talk to them about their ambitions and possible progression. Retaining staff isn’t always about money, although that helps. Being able to try new things and learn new skills formally and informally to keep staff advancing their career and experience will help keep them longer.


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