To create a better working environment for carers, rethink your organisational structure
28 June 2019
The social-care sector is facing an estimated staffing shortage of 290,000 by 2030. To plug the gap, care homes are under pressure to boost recruitment and reduce staff turnover. Building on our research in which we spoke with 2,000 carers and care-home managers from across the UK, we came up with five recommendations to help homes boost employee retention, which we are discussing in a series of blogs.
In this second instalment, we demonstrate why having the right organisational structure is key to creating a better working environment for carers.
Our research revealed that a care home’s ability to engage and retain staff is determined largely by its manager. We uncovered a clear correlation: the less time a manager had spent in the profession, the higher the carer turnover.
Managers carry a heavy burden on their shoulders. They drive the operation of the home and are the ones to whom carers report. They face constant demands from carers, service users, families, investors, local authorities and care commissioners.
Because of the key role that managers play, it’s vital that care-home operators invest in recruiting the best people. That’s easier said than done. With an average of 2,800 unfilled care-home-manager vacancies at any given time, it’s hardly surprising that many operators end up recruiting personnel from other industries, such as hospitality or retail. But that approach can have negative impacts. Managers who haven’t worked as carers don’t understand the job, how long tasks take or how challenging they are. Many carers we spoke with echoed this frustration, saying “They just don’t get it” or “They have no idea what or how much we do.” If out-of-touch managers set unrealistic expectations that carers can’t fulfil, it could create a very difficult environment.
A better option?
If there’s an experienced carer doing well, give them management training and an internal promotion. Not only will your new manager truly understand carers’ needs and the challenges they face, they also act as a role model and demonstrate career progression to other carers.
It’s not just manager recruitment that needs a rethink – home operators also want to look carefully at the role managers are tasked with. With so many stakeholders to please, managers find themselves constantly fire-fighting, leaving them little or no time to spend with front-line staff. Without contact and attention from their managers, carers soon feel overlooked and decide to seek alternative work.
So, what’s the solution?
Revisit the distribution of work not just within the individual home, but across the operator’s business. Identify tasks currently handled by home managers that you can offload to regional managers or to central functions such as HR or back office. By using central functions to lighten the admin burden on individual homes, you give managers more time to spend with carers – helping them build stronger relationships, a greater understanding of carers’ needs and a happier working environment.
If you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog or in the research study, please get in touch.