The care sector struggled to recruit and retain staff well before the pandemic. Shortfalls in planned staffing levels has been attributed to a number of factors, including:
- Restrictive immigration policies exacerbated by Brexit
- High levels of turnover
- An aging workforce
- Fewer nursing applications
- Less investment in healthcare.
The pandemic rapidly forced many changes on social care employers, and the sector had to drastically adapt the way it operates.
In a recent CMM survey, employers reported approximately 25% of their workforce was unable to work due to the impact of coronavirus. Reasons for frontline workers being unable to work included childcare, self-isolation, social distancing and shielding. On a positive note, almost three quarters of care workers with school or pre-school aged children were successful seeking key worker exemption, which kept their children in childcare.
These workforce shortages have intensified pressures on recruitment, with a third of respondents describing their need for more staff as ‘urgent and immediate’.
By way of some compensation, there has been a reported increase in job enquiries, with 39% of employers reporting more applications than usual, and 17% reporting fewer – a net change of +22% than would be typical for this time of year1.
Technology has stepped in offering a contactless end-to-end recruitment process.
Care home provider Sunrise Senior Living UK and Gracewell Healthcare has had to ramp up the hiring process to fill more than 1,000 roles in recent weeks, according to HR director Sharon Benson. As well as recruiting for nurses, carers, chefs and housekeeping assistants, the organisation has had to ensure generous staff cover at all times in case employees need to self-isolate. In terms of the hiring process, there has been an initial screening via telephone followed by a virtual video interview on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. On boarding has simply moved online, Benson explains:
“We have fully adapted our induction programme by introducing a virtual classroom day, delivered by our experienced and knowledgeable training officers. This must be completed before any new team members step into one of our care homes.”
Videos are used to show how certain activities should be carried out in practice, and employees can also access additional e-learning modules. A further step is a detailed risk assessment to find out whether candidates have had to self-isolate previously, and whether they have come into contact with anyone who has tested positive2.
The most cost-effective way to ensure the healthcare sector maintains high quality levels of service and care is to hold onto those staff already in employment. Reducing turnover and investing in employees should remain a priority. Some of the most effective actions your business could take to help improve staff retention are:
- Introducing flexible working
It’s important to define what flexibility means within your organisation. Avoid treating flexibility as a problem to be accommodated on a request-response model and instead introduce flexibility as a way to meet the non-work needs of all staff. In healthcare, this means redesigning jobs and work practices taking into account the specific clinical and operational constraints in each role. This innovative approach was recommended to the NHS by Timewise as a way to create role-specific flexible options for staff at all levels3.
- Internal training
Delivering effective staff training, even on a small budget, can benefit your employees and your business4. Investing in your staff shows your appreciation and willingness to help them to improve their skills. Training doesn’t need to be work-related, financial education can help staff deal with financial pressure at home keeping them present and productive at work.
- Employee wellbeing
A concern front of mind for many healthcare managers across the UK in the wake of the pandemic. By investing in your employees, you can mitigate risks, reduce costs and help to ensure a healthier, happier and more productive workforce. Develop a wellbeing strategy that maximises the physical, mental, social and financial fitness of your team.