Keir Lynch, Chief Executive Officer, ECL
The impact of the rise in the cost of living coupled with the staff shortages in the wake of the pandemic are causing a recruitment crisis like we’ve never seen before in the care sector. Increased demand for our services while the industry is still trying to recruit to pre-pandemic levels, plus the fact that many care workers are jumping ship to seek better paid work elsewhere, are making a difficult time even more challenging.
Research by the Homecare Association has revealed that home care workers are leaving in droves for better paid jobs with more secure income, unable to cope with the escalating cost of living. According to this research, the vacancy rate in home care is now 13.5% – the highest ever recorded. Nearly 50% of home care providers have reported their staff seeking alternative jobs due to loss of pay while isolating due to Covid-19, and the financial strain of soaring fuel costs.
These statistics highlight why retention is becoming such a struggle and why we need to revise our approach to recruitment to overcome this crisis. What is clear, is that it’s more important now than ever to look after your existing staff. Treat your staff well and they’ll not only stay, but they’ll also advocate for you to their peers.
We’ve tried it and it works. We have high staff engagement even after two years of pandemic working, our retention is better than the rest of the sector, and we now have more frontline staff than at the start of the pandemic. Yes we still need more to meet the growing demand for our services, but we haven’t seen the huge exodus that many other providers have. Our ‘refer a friend’ scheme has been really effective in driving our recruitment – people don’t refer friends to a company that they don’t rate themselves.
The discussion so far around both the cost of living crisis and the recruitment challenges the sector is facing has focused mostly on hourly rates. Yes what you pay is important, but equally so are non-salary related benefits. The complete package is what makes you an attractive employer.
Pay should be reflective of the skilled, wonderful work our carers do. Having a strong, efficient network of home care and community services takes the pressure off an already over stretched health system and what we pay in the care sector needs to recognise that social care workforces are just as valuable as their NHS colleagues. It’s why average salaries for our frontline staff are now almost as high as a newly qualified nurse/paramedic.
The ‘package’ you offer should have it all, a competitive hourly rate that recognises the value of the work, flexible working options, training and progression opportunities and a health and wellbeing scheme.
One aspect that is sometimes forgotten is having brilliant managers. People generally leave managers not their company. Investment in developing your management team will be well rewarded with higher levels of staff retention.
New employees struggle when they join a team that has high turnover. This lack of stability adds to the induction crisis that many people experience a short while into a new job. We’ve reduced our short service turnover in the last two years as a result of this broader focus. Indeed, at our last survey 91% of our staff said that they still intend to work with us in 12 months’ time.
This feedback reiterated to me that making employees feel valued, providing a flexible and supportive working environment, and offering opportunities for growth will keep your workforce with you for longer and will be your best asset when it comes to attracting new talent.