If you don’t want carers to leave, give them a reason to stay

26 September 2019

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by Andrew McKechnie Partner

Email +44 (0)7799 602349

The social-care sector is experiencing one of its greatest challenges to date. Facing an estimated staffing shortage of 290,000 by 2030, the industry urgently needs to boost recruitment and reduce staff turnover. To dig deeper into the sector’s challenges, we conducted research in which we spoke with 2,000 carers and care-home managers from across the UK. In this blog we explore how to cut staff attrition rates by demonstrating career progression.

The perception of care presents a huge obstacle to employee retention. In our research, many carers told us that they see their jobs as a temporary stop-gap rather than a viable, fulfilling, long term career. Many think that if they stay in the job, they will continue to do the same things each day earning the same wage. One participant told us that they had never had a conversation with their line manager about where they wanted to go. Because people don’t see opportunities for future progression, they leave.

The problem is particularly acute among younger carers. The overall turnover rate for carers is 31 percent, rising to 37 percent for those aged 20-29 and a staggering 42 percent for those under 20. The exodus of younger carers is reflected by an increasing average age of social-care workers – from 40.6 years in 2013 to 43.3 years in 2018. To make a real dent in employee turnover, care organisations urgently need to stop losing younger workers.

One of the biggest problems is the lack of a career plan. Organisations need to map out a clear, lineated structure showing different levels of seniority, what those roles entail and how to move up the ladder. Once that structure is in place, managers need to work with carers to identify opportunities for progression and develop a plan with a timeline for how to get there.

Hand in hand with this career structure, care homes need to implement meaningful performance appraisals. Currently, many carers don’t have clear objectives or know what skills they should develop. (As one respondent put it: “I don’t really know what I’m expected to do or if I’m any good or what I need to do to be promoted. Or if that’s even an option.”) Care organisations need to set tangible benchmarks for good care, measure staff against those objectives, and provide clear feedback about what each carer is doing well and how they can improve.

In addition, carers need role models. One participant explained: “There are no examples of a great career story. There’s no one to aspire to.” In reality, there are plenty of people who have worked their way up to become care-home managers or even CEOs of care operators. But because their success isn’t publicised within the business, carers don’t realise that progression is an attainable goal. By communicating examples of these career paths, operators can drive engagement and give carers a meaningful reason to stay.

Of course, to progress in their careers, staff require training. Carers were eager to give us their feedback on this area. With only 53 percent of carers saying their job has given them opportunities for training and learning, it’s clearly an area where the sector needs to improve.

Over the past few years, many operators have replaced face-to-face training with e-learning. This shift has been unpopular in some areas, and many carers told us that e-learning is nowhere near as useful because they can’t ask questions if they don’t understand something.

Our view? E-learning has its place, but care is a very hands-on job, and carers need face-to-face training to learn specific skills and move on to providing more complex types of care. What’s more, care organisations need to establish and disseminate best practices. Proper training is a worthwhile investment – as well as boosting retention, it reduces risk and improves quality of life for service users.

by Andrew McKechnie Partner

Email +44 (0)7799 602349