Harneet Gill, Recruitment Partner, PJ Care
Care providers have an uphill task in recruiting – and keeping – good quality staff following the COVID pandemic, the current cost of living crisis and vacancies in the sector of more than 160,000. While many, PJ Care included, are committed to the Real Living Wage and are working on ways to increase the basic salary of care staff, it’s vital to look beyond pay to develop a strong and stable workforce.
Recruitment is where the initial impression of care as a career is formed. Care is an incredibly diverse sector so it is key potential applicants see themselves reflected. Advertising vacancies is also where providers give applicants an impression of the environment on offer, of how the company will support them in their role and what sits beyond the hourly rate.
Employers need to then deliver on that promise of support and that’s something we’re very much focused on at PJ Care. We have a long-established Joy and Wellbeing department that staff are introduced to from day one, which is there to meet their emotional needs. Our residents live with progressive neurological conditions so the roles can be more demanding than in other adult social care settings.
Support is offered at every level to try to make sure staff can access what’s right for them; they talk to or email one of our ‘Wellbeing Angel’ colleagues as a listening ear or access free external mental health counselling.
The cost living crisis has made financial support more important than ever. We’ve long offered discounts on shopping through our employee benefits system but we’ve now introduced a wage drawn-down app to help cover unexpected costs. We also have access to independent and confidential financial advice in place.
Creating wellbeing among staff is about anticipating the need, whether it be practical support or the need to feel valued, both in a role and as an individual. Our Wellbeing programme has developed considerably in recent months to offer a range of support depending on what people most identify with. We have a menopause committee, an LGBTQI+ group and we are award-winning for our equality, diversity and inclusion activity.
Wellbeing is also about communication. Keeping staff informed adds to their sense of being a valued member of the team. To this aim, we have an internal newsletter but, less formally, we have a very flat structure which means colleagues can easily contact senior management – even our chairman. This ‘open door’ policy means they can share ideas, offer feedback and feel that their role has value not only to the residents they care for but in the wider context of PJ Care.
Staff surveys also help us to stay informed about what is working well, what could be improved and says to staff that we are listening and are interested in what they have to say.
As a recruiter, we position care as a career rather than a job as that enhances how care is viewed. It’s important we highlight the potential for development, training opportunities and the roles an entry level care assistant could aim for.
We’ve recently launched an enhanced skills programme for our care staff. The seven week study and competency course gives care assistants the chance to take on greater responsibility, work towards additional qualifications and increase their earning potential.
And then there’s the fun stuff, the ‘joy’ part of employee wellbeing, like our annual internal ‘Star Awards’. These give colleagues the chance to nominate each other, with the winners being presented at a big family fun day we provide.
If staff do leave, our exit interviews help us to understand what we as recruiters and employers can improve upon, where the gaps in our wellbeing provision might lie. We’re by no means perfect but we currently have the lowest number of vacancies we’ve had for three years.