Why do care providers need to focus on recruitment and retention of staff?

Recruiting and retaining a sizable workforce to care for the nation’s ageing population is one of the biggest challenges for care providers. Failing to do so can prevent care businesses from providing a high quality of care, and even in some circumstances, from fulfilling their contractual obligations. 

 

What is the threat to care businesses?

It is clear that recruitment and retention in the care sector pose very real threats to the on-going operations of businesses in the industry. Skills for Care estimates that 8.0% of roles in the adult care sector are vacant, which is equal to approximately 110,000 vacancies at one time1.  

The rate of vacancies within the sector has risen by 2.5 percentage points between 2012/2013 and 2017/20181, suggesting the workforce has grown at a slower rate than needed and is struggling to keep up as the population ages. 

If the adult social care workforce continues to grow proportionally to the projected number of people aged 65 and over in the population, by 2035 580,000 more jobs will be required2. This could have potentially devastating effects on the quality of care provided in the UK.

 

How has the Government responded?

The UK government has recognised this need for a drive on recruitment in the care sector. The national recruitment campaign designed for this purpose, ‘Every Day is Different’, has had its funding approved for a second national wave starting in autumn 2019. The objective of the campaign is to drive a new generation of people to work in adult social care and has been designed to appeal primarily to 20-39-year-olds in England3

Currently, within the care sector workforce, the average worker is 43 years old, with one quarter being over 55 who will be retiring within the next 10 years1. By targeting the younger generation, the government are encouraging workers to the industry who have their whole career in the care sector ahead of them, which starts to fill the thousands of potential vacancies arising over the next 15 years. 

However, te 2018 Skills for Care study found that workers in the industry under 20 had the highest turnover rates1. This goes to show that focusing solely on a recruitment drive will not solve the on-going crisis, and attention needs to also be focussed on addressing the ever-growing issue of staff retention. 

The staff turnover rate of directly employed staff working in the adult social care sector was 30.7%, equating to approximately 390,000 people leaving jobs over the course of a year1. In a time of much uncertainty, employers need to do everything possible to keep hold of their best staff.

 

What can companies do to improve staff retention?

At the core of any successful business is a clear ‘Employee Value Proposition’ which defines what the company stands for and gives a reason for staff to join and stay within the business. Developing a meaningful and relevant benefits programme not only helps to retain employees, but also helps care providers perform their duty of care to staff by ensuring they stay happy and healthy within the workplace. 

Whilst developing this benefits programme, it is important for providers to understand what good benefits look like in the care industry and what is important to their staff. Alongside other initiatives such as training and development programmes, flexible working hours and a positive working environment, supporting the wellbeing of staff and building their resilience is critical for the care industry. 

The mental health of employees is an important issue at the moment. Often care workers have to cope with extremely challenging circumstances, including serious illness and death on a regular basis. This can lead to a variety of stress-related conditions which has an enormous impact on their health and ability to come into work. 

According to Skills for Care, the average number of sick days per worker in the 12 months of the study was 5.1 days, which is high above the average of other industries1. It has been shown that workers with a higher sickness rate are more likely to leave their jobs and therefore has an impact on the current workforce shortage in the sector at the moment. 

A well thought through, relevant employee benefits programme offering mental health and wellbeing support, training and development programmes and other benefits that promote a good work-life balance could help to alleviate these problems and encourage staff to stay within the business.  

After all, healthy employees make for a healthy business. 

[1] Skills for Care, Size and Structure Report 2018
[2] Skills for Care, Size and Structure Report 2019 
[3] Skills for Care, National Recruitment Campaign Evaluation 
 

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David Taylor

Divisional Director, Care

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