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Allocate APAC spoke to Neil Eastwood, international speaker on care worker recruitment and retention, Founder and CEO at Care Friends and author of ‘Saving Social Care’, plus Ross Bell – Director at Care Advantage and Care Friends ANZ on the strategies aged care providers can implement to help improve their staff retention.

Neil Eastwood Head ShotNeil Eastwood

Ross Bell Head Shot

Ross Bell

In the last blog Neil and Ross shared with us the common challenges faced by the aged care and social care sector internationally. In this discussion they are going to share some of the learnings and strategies that have proven to be effective in improving staff retention in aged care.

Neil and Ross pointed out that there are three phases of retention – the first one starts when you offer the candidates the job; the second phase which is also the most challenging one, is the first 90 days when someone started working at the facility; and finally, the ongoing retention which largely depends on your workplace culture and leadership.

1st phase of retention starts with the job offer

The first phase of retention actually starts when you offer the job to the new hire, before they even start working with you. “During this phase providers in the UK can lose up to 40% of new hires and it is probably one of the times most overlooked,” Neil explained. “One of the things you can do, and it is becoming very popular here in the UK, is to send your new hires a welcome card immediately after they accepted your job offer. This way you show them they are being valued as part of the team and establish an expectation that they will be joining you.” 

Active and constant engagement with the new hires while they are in training is also important. The joining process due to regulatory requirements in social care and aged care is longer than those in the supermarket for instance, so there will be times when people feel like dropping out because they are just sitting there and not actually earning money. “It is essential that you keep engaging your new hires who are in training to check in with them,” Neil stressed. “But also to let them know what is going on and where they are heading to, so they feel they are progressing towards starting and feel like they are part of the team.”

2nd phase is the biggest challenge on retention – the first 90 days

Once someone has started working for you, your biggest challenge on retention also starts. “If we actually plot when does people leave, it usually is the first 90 days, so it is really crucial that you do things right in the first three months in order to keep your staff.” Neil said.

“The way you welcome and onboard your new hires hold the key here,” Neil explained. ”Are your new hires being introduced to the team and made special on day one? Or are they being inducted during a busy shift and were told to sit at the back and be quiet, and therefore left feeling useless and unwanted? If you’ve hired the right people, they are often quite sensitive about people and are very relationship centric and this will make them feel rejected.“

Grow people’s capacity if they are new to the sector

How their shifts are being presented can also impact if they are staying or not, and that differs from whether your new hires have already worked in aged care before. For someone who is already in the sector, they probably just want to get their hours back up to what they were, and are often more prepared for the job.

But if you have someone who is new to care, straightaway presenting them a 50-hours shift for the week can be overwhelming. The same goes for the tasks they need to perform. “Especially if you have been shy about telling them the unpleasant tasks involved in their role during the recruitment process, and on their first day at work they are presented with the inconvenient truth of what their job actually involves, people will feel they’ve made a mistake even they didn’t act on it right away. That’s how you lose people.”

“And don’t forget, only 1/3 of people we are bringing in are new to the sector, the rest are already care workers moving from one facility to another.” Added Ross. “So it is critical that we grow people’s capacity within the job if they are new to the sector as they are the people that you really want to retain so that we are growing the workforce instead of just seeing staff churn between facilities.”

Buddy up your new hire with an existing staff

Neil said that one of the things that has proven successful among providers in the UK during the first three months is to run a peer mentoring scheme. Buddying your new hire with an existing member of staff is a great way to ensure they have the support they need. Also ensure that the managers are available to answer questions. “One of the big weaknesses we’ve seen in training and onboarding new starters is that people do not feel they’ve got somewhere to ask questions, and that’s going to impact their retention.” Neil added. ”We know that staff hired via employee referrals have the best retention rate in the first 90 days period. That’s because they know someone who is already working at the facility, so they know what it is like to be working there and they have someone to talk to and to ask questions. Running a buddy program is essentially creating that bond and environment so that your new hires feel that they are being looked after.”

Phase 3 – Appreciation is key to long term retention

After the first three months, a few things come into play in the longer term – appreciations, career development and job variety. “Appreciation really is the key here,” said Neil. “Remember we said that people aren’t doing this for the money, and if you’ve hired the right people, they are relationship centric and sensitive about other people. So it is important for them to feel valued and recognized. If the managers, for instance, are too busy filling out shifts themselves then it is hard for them to recognize a job well done from their team or to provide the support the team needs. If people feel unsupported and unloved they are likely to leave.”

As Neil and Ross discussed, retention is very much driven by culture and leadership. But a poor workplace culture doesn’t only affect staff retention, it also has a role to play at recruitment. Join us in our next blog as we explore recruitment with Neil and Ross. 

Have you tried any of the retention strategies? Did you find anything that work for you and your staff? Share you experience with us by emailing [email protected] . We’d love to learn from your experience too.