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Secrets of recruiting and keeping social care staff

Research from Skills for Care reveals that quality training, positive working conditions, flexibility and competitive pay rates are the key to finding and keeping the right staff to deliver quality care and support. Annette Baines looks into how providers with low staff turnover recruit and retain their workforce.

Skills for Care collected evidence from 140 adult social care organisations who have staff turnover rates of less than 10%, to look at what they do to keep their staff after they’ve successfully recruited them.

The Recruitment and retention in adult social care: secrets of success report found common themes amongst organisations with staff turnover rates well below the national average of 27.3%.

Planning your workforce

Almost two thirds of these organisations use workforce planning tools to ensure they have the right mix and numbers of staff to deliver the care and support needed.

Having a recruitment plan enables them to act strategically rather than reactively, so they can consistently target people with the right skills and values and build on recruitment methods that they know work well.

Crimson Hill Support told us, ‘[Having a recruitment and retention plan] helps you keep focused on what you need as an organisation. It clearly highlights how and why you’re recruiting.’

Attracting more people

In their efforts to attract more people to work for their organisation, employers said that investing in staff development, having a positive workplace culture, offering flexible working patterns, competitive pay rates and using a values-based approach to recruitment work well for them.

Some also use local events, volunteering opportunities and apprenticeships to attract more people to their vacancies.

All of these help them to develop a strong reputation, which employers said was ‘priceless’ in successfully recruiting and retaining staff.

Highfield House is a residential care provider which benefits from a strong reputation as a good employer and care provider. It told us, ‘We stress the importance of providing an excellent service which is caring, respectful, enabling and appropriate for individuals’ requirements and how rewarding the work can be.
‘We pay well, compared with many places, and offer plenty of training, development and qualifications as well as hands-on, daily support from management. We do not employ agency staff so our team are genuinely close and trusting of each other.

‘Our work environment is friendly and encouraging. Our excellent reputation has been built over 30 years with the same owners of the business in place and daily available.’

When advertising their job vacancies, organisations find that the best ways to promote them are through ‘refer a friend’ initiatives, adverts on their website and social media, in local papers and on posters in the local community.

They particularly highlighted the importance of using word-of-mouth through existing employees, which can be a valuable avenue to pursue. As well as being low or no cost, there’s a greater potential of attracting people with the right values and behaviours because existing staff know the organisation’s core values and can share these with the people they know.

Taking on the right people

Claxton House, which is part of Atlanta Healthcare shared their experience of recruiting the right people, ‘Don’t just fill vacancies, fill them with the right people.’

Investing in ‘raw talent’ ranked higher than taking on people based on prior work experience or qualifications.

These organisations place a high emphasis on the candidate’s values and behaviours in recruitment, like kindness, compassion, reliability, life experiences and a willingness to learn.

To support this approach, they’re effective in ensuring that values and behaviours are communicated to potential candidates in promotional materials, such as their website and social media, job adverts and descriptions and during pre-interview opportunities, such as taster days.

These organisations use a range of recruitment methods, including application forms, CV’s and supporting statements. Lots also use work experience or taster days, pre-interview assessments, pre-employment training and apprenticeships to find out if candidates are the right fit for their organisation.

Embrace Quality Care shared its recruitment process, which includes:

  • Pre-interview visits to ensure candidates understand the values, attitudes and behaviours required for the role.
  • Interview questions that explore attitudes, values and beliefs as well as critical-thinking skills.
  • Consideration of how the candidate will integrate into an established team.

Developing talent and skills

To develop their talent and skills, these organisations invest in successful candidates by delivering quality inductions, accessing funding like the Workforce Development Fund to meet their learning and development needs, having mentoring schemes in place, and creating open and positive environments where everyone understands and embodies the organisation’s values.

Nine out of 10 employers referred to providing learning and qualifications to develop the skills and knowledge of their employees. They talk to them about their development needs through induction, regular supervision, performance appraisals and reflection on practice.
Induction, supervision and reflection were also used to ensure that staff understand and continue to uphold values and behaviours in everything they do.

They recognise that effective staff development needs to be supported by a positive working environment, where employers listen to staff and follow up on their ideas and positively reinforce and recognise good practice.

Old Hastings House suggests that providers should, ‘Know your staff, what motivates and makes them tick. Above all, reinforce to staff that they are your most important asset by nurturing them and celebrating their achievement, so they know their key value to the overall team. After all, the best leaders are home-grown.’

Keeping your people

Retaining good staff is vital to the success of any organisation.

These organisations meet the challenge of keeping people by investing in learning and development, respecting and valuing their staff, paying above the local minimum pay rates, creating flexible work patterns and understanding staff have responsibilities outside of work.

One community care provider highlighted the importance of offering progression opportunities as a way of keeping staff. They said, ‘Provide an ongoing and structured personal and career development plan which is reviewed on a regular basis. Ensure that training and development opportunities are available to support their ongoing needs.’

Others placed emphasis on making your staff feel valued. Linton Support explained, ‘We believe in valuing our staff…our staff know that their voices are heard and that all individuals in the organisation are striving to offer the best possible support for our clients. This pride in our clients, our achievements and our team promotes better staff engagement and more opportunities for the individuals we support.’

Other recommendations

The report also offers recommendations to help organisations drive down their staff turnover rates, including the importance of using quality data like the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC) to plan recruitment activities, the collective need to improve the image of the sector as a great place to work, the clear benefits of values-based recruitment, investing in staff learning needs and a positive working culture that values and listens to staff.

Annette Baines is Recruitment and Retention Programme Head at Skills for Care. Email: Twitter: @SkillsforCare

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