If you’re a care home manager, owner or provider and the word ‘recruitment’ sends shivers down your spine, you’re not alone. Care homes across the UK are struggling with staff shortages, amplified by a lack of new workers entering social care. This has created a difficult environment for care recruitment, especially when it comes to more challenging roles.
We approached a social care recruiter for advice on how to improve your care home’s chances of building an enthusiastic workforce.
The care recruitment market
Social care recruitment has never been easy — and especially so when it comes to lasting staff retention. The latest data from Skills for Care shows that the adult social care sector has a turnover rate of 34.4%, which can make the search for care workers feel like an endless cycle. But if you’ve found it especially challenging recently, it’s not just you. In fact, it’s not just the social care sector that’s facing this problem; for the first time on record, job vacancies outnumber the number of unemployed people in England, making it a job-seekers market.
Dani Matthews, Headhunter and Recruitment Director at RM Resourcing Limited, explains why: “In the UK, issues such as Brexit and Covid have placed restrictions on the amount of free movement for new workers entering the country. This poses a particular challenge for sectors such as health, care and agriculture, where a large share of the workforce has typically come from the EU. As recruiters, we’re finding that a lot of international workers have either left the country during lockdown or are being dissuaded by new immigration challenges. The UK depends on immigration for its recruitment in many key sectors, but these factors are having a critical impact on the number of new people entering key worker positions.
“A secondary problem is dissatisfaction with traditional working roles. A lot of people now prefer to work from home or hybrid work and are actively seeking jobs that can offer them the flexibility and choice. This has made many office-based roles look less attractive to workers across every sector – but it’s unavoidable for social care, which requires a direct commitment to residents. There are lots of benefits to working in an office environment, like job satisfaction, socially and gaining experience through osmosis and gaining other people’s knowledge. This is the same for social care, where regular training, communication and experience is key to providing a quality care service.
“Finally, recruitment is struggling in general due to the cost-of-living crisis. There’s a shortage of employees and they’re demanding higher salaries to keep up with rising costs. This has put a lot of pressure on employers to offer more than the market average – or be discounted.”
Difficulties in care recruitment
Whilst most sectors are finding it difficult to recruit, the care sector is especially at risk. Care work is typically viewed as being low-paid, unsociable hours and challenging. In fact, a recent report found health and social care to be the second most stressful industry in the UK.
“Of course, carers are very appreciated within care homes by the residents they help look after, but this often isn’t the case in wider society,” explains Dani. “I think there needs to be a shift in the way we view care workers and the responsibility they have to demonstrate how vital the role is and attract more people to the sector.”
Care recruitment issues are particularly stark in rural areas, where workers can be much more reliant on public or private transport to make their way to work. The cost to fuel an average car surpassed £100 for the first time in June and is still rising, creating an expensive barrier for many carers who rely on driving in locations where public transport is unreliable.
Attracting workers to your care home
Despite these difficulties, it’s not all doom and gloom! Dani believes there are a few crucial steps that care home owners and providers can take to become more desirable as an employer. There is a wide range of creative and innovative ways that care homes can present themselves, as well as incentivise new recruitment, so finding the right – or wrong — solutions for a care service can take some initial thought.
“One thing to look at is your shift pattern and flexibility of hours,” says Dani. “Caring roles can sometimes look more favourable if you have more staff doing shorter hours. This is especially true for workers with family or personal commitments, who need to know they have some control over their schedule, such as day or night shifts.
“Some businesses are also beginning to offer a starting salary bonus as an incentive, which can help if you’re doing a recruitment drive that requires urgency. However, we tend to see better success for long term staff retention if there’s an increase in pay after a probation period instead.
“Training and mentoring is another effective offer for care work, as it provides development and a real career path. This can not only help a care service stand out against its competitors, but brings added value for the provider as well, by having experienced carers who are skilled and knowledgeable.”
“To tackle worries around rising costs, care home employers can consider paying for staff transport and parking costs, or even offering free meals at work. Difficult to reach care homes may even benefit from organising a minibus service for regular staff. As a recruiter, perks like these really help to attract candidates.”
Ideally, it’d be great to be able to offer all staff higher wages and job perks, but the reality is that employers are also feeling the strain. That’s why finding recruitment solutions that don’t cost a fortune can be key for small or independent care home groups.
“It’s a tough economy for businesses, so sometimes a small gesture can go a long way. If you own a care home that doesn’t have the budget to offer higher wage incentives, there are other cost-efficient ways to still make your care service attractive.
“Consider holding recruitment open days, where interested applicants can meet the care management team and get a better idea of the workplace culture. Or perhaps ask care residents’ families for new testimonials you can use, to demonstrate the support and confidence in your service. The simplest things can really make a difference in standing out.”
Care home staff retention
It’s one thing to recruit, but ensuring workers remain with a care service can be a different challenge entirely.
“I really thing retention comes down to valuing your staff,” says Dani. “I think that clear and visible appreciation from employers is important and valuing the work staff do. This all comes down to creating a positive work environment, where people feel part of the business – not just an asset of it.
Try setting up an internal reward system, or even just offering free cake and coffee meetings once a week – ideas like this won’t cost the earth, but still makes staff feel appreciated and valued in the long term.
“Carers are really dedicated and loyal, not only to their employers, but to their residents and they’re colleagues. They must become a close-knit family that can rely on each other. So, if employers do something that highlights new achievements each week and applauds staff efforts, loyalty and longevity is soon to follow.”
If you need help with personnel in your care homes, or any other aspect of social care, please get in touch.