Carers are the critical to the success of any homecare business. The care provider stands or falls by its reputation for delivering high-quality services from compassionate, professional carers. Poor care can put clients at risk, as well as threatening the overall business.
Great care starts right at the beginning, with carer recruitment – and carer recruitment has never been more challenging. There are 100,000 vacancies in the care sector at any one time, and providers reported that the average vacancy rate for carers was 12% in February 2022, up 5% on the March 2021 figure (see Skills for Care).
But a candidate shortage is no reason to recruit just anyone. What can care franchisors do to recruit and retain the right candidates?
First, change the image of the care career
Care is about putting smiles on faces and transforming lives, whether that means cooking a favourite dinner for a client, taking them to the cinema, enabling them to continue hobbies such as fishing or swimming, or accompanying them on trips to coffee shops. Carers do all these things and more – fun for the client and fun for them.
It’s essential that care franchises emphasise this and portray care as the uplifting career it can be, for the care team and the owner too.
Review your recruitment. The best recruiters can be your own staff (provided that you treat them well). Network-based recruiting, where existing carers suggest friends or relatives as new team members, tends to bring in better candidates. Existing carers understand what’s really involved and are unlikely to put their own reputation on the line by suggesting someone unsuitable.
Consider introducing a scheme that rewards existing team members for introducing new ones who get taken on.
Make ads for carers stand out
Repeating the same old advert on online recruitment sites is unlikely to work well. Look at the adverts – most of them are much the same. Recruitment ads can stand out by emphasising the benefits of a care career, and the particular benefits that you offer, to help attract the best candidates.
Recruit for values
Look for care team recruits whose values are in alignment with those of your organisation, rather than focusing solely on previous experience or qualifications. Ask candidates in interviews for examples (not necessarily from their jobs) of instances where they have demonstrated the values that your organisation upholds. Take up references and ask referees about this. It takes longer – but recruiting a carer with the wrong values can be costly in the long run, in terms of business reputation and the cost of replacement.
Retaining good carers
Many providers report that keeping staff is now more difficult than before the pandemic – even though the keys to good retention are already known. A report on retention by the Homecare Association and Talent For Care found that the main personal factors impacting care worker retention were:
- an inability to manage anxiety and stress,
- lack of personal resilience,
- motivation, and
- poor communication skills.
The good news is that these are all factors that providers can address.
Actions that providers reported as working well included flexible working hours (80% of respondents) and regular feedback from line managers (79%). These both appeared to be more effective than increasing pay (69%).
Time to do a good job
The best carers want to deliver high quality care – so they gravitate to companies that give them time to do that. That means care visits of at least an hour. Shorter visits lead to dissatisfaction with the work and lower levels of reward, which can lead to carers becoming disillusioned and leaving.
Good, engaged, enthusiastic carers want to develop their skills, so make it possible for them to do this. Offer courses that build on their existing qualifications, give them time for study, and if possible fund further studies.
Fair pay rates
Retention also stems from paying fair rates – at least the living wage or London living wage, rather the minimum wage. Paying a fair wage shows that providers respect their carers’ needs, and demonstrates the provider’s values.