The 7 ways to improve staff retention

After another challenging year in care, ‘tis the season… to show how much we regard and appreciate each other.

You’ll be well aware that care workers have never felt so stressed and close to burnout. A Nuffield Trust article published last week described the ‘unseen crisis in homecare’.

And according to a UNISON survey published two weeks ago, two-thirds of care workers are thinking of leaving social care.

So as you write your cards and perhaps even arrange a modest, well ventilated get together, now’s the time to double down on improving staff retention.

When client satisfaction, livelihoods and CQC ratings depend on low staff turnover, how do we persuade our awesome people to stay?

1. Let’s look in the mirror first

Responsibility starts with the owner and/or Registered Manager. According to the Skills for Care Report published in October, inexperienced Registered Managers tend to experience higher staff turnover than Registered Managers who have been in post for some time.  This may be because they’re not yet fully equipped with the ‘soft skills’ needed for the role.

Our own study of senior managers in one of our ‘very good’ multi-site care home client companies (‘Project Retention’), identified motivation levels much lower than the typical UK business.  This was primarily due to a lack of the managerial skills and procedures that support a ‘high performance’ business and optimise employee engagement.

Before they start, make sure new Registered Managers have the nurturing leadership mindset to complement the managerial skills they’ll need. Build their leadership development plan together.

2. Your purpose and values

Is everyone who works in your business really clear about its values and how they make your business special?  Do your managers ‘walk the talk’ too?

When teams have a strong sense of identity and are clear on what you (and your clients) expect, this helps bind people to the company’s purpose.

Involve your team in building or reviewing your purpose and values, and fixing any communication issues together.

3. Reward and recognition

How do your team members know they’re listened to, appreciated, respected and valued?

Our own ‘Project Retention’ study showed that managers who regularly connected with team members on a personal level, taking every opportunity to praise when care workers are doing things well, or above and beyond, had a big impact. It shows respect for the individual, which in some studies, counts for more than pay.

Recognition and appreciation is best given ‘little and often’, rather than saving it up for an annual grand gesture. It does have to be ‘genuine’ though.

All these initiatives are appreciated, particularly when the specific reasons for the gesture are detailed:

  • personalised ‘thank you’s or gift vouchers,
  • handwritten cards / telephone calls,
  • ‘employee of the month’ email / WhatsApp group message

You’ll need to build these initiatives transparently into your day to day business processes, to be equitable and record them.

4. Job fulfilment

If you really know the care worker, you’ll know their strengths. Playing to strengths boosts job satisfaction and optimises productivity.

Involving colleagues in decisions that impact them improves the impact of any changes and helps people feel valued too. Just asking for an opinion is appreciated, even if the final call isn’t theirs to make.

Are your care workers well enough connected to the genuine impact they’re having on their clients and their families lives? Clients and their families may appreciate an opportunity to say thank you to the people who care for their loved one. Perhaps together you can think of a way.

5. Learning and Development

Creating a culture of ‘continuous improvement’ through ongoing learning is valued by care teams too. Evidence is that the more learning, development and qualifications care workers receive, the less likely they are to leave. This may mean they feel more secure and supported in their role or appreciative of the investment in them.

Investment needn’t be in professional growth, it could be in performance improvement or personal growth. Doesn’t have to be a cash investment on formal training either. There are many on-the-job ‘no-cost’ learning techniques available nowadays. However, managers must check in with individuals to ensure the learning is effective, and adapted to the job if necessary.  Regular, constructive feedback from managers is essential, as always.

Sorry to say that I’ve seen newly employed care workers sat in a room on their own, leafing through an A4 ring binder looking despondent. Is this training? Is your training inspirational or energy sapping.

6. Practical support

Being paid more is always great, but it doesn’t compensate for poor working conditions. Have you thoroughly investigated the potential of:

  • health and wellbeing initiatives to prevent burn-out,
  • guaranteed working hours,
  • flexible hours,
  • staff break rooms,
  • help with childcare costs or childcare vouchers,
  • seeking team help with rota building,
  • keeping mileage down by re-matching carers to geographies.

7. Fill staff vacancies fast

Last but not least, you demonstrate respect and your duty of care to your team by filling any vacancies fast. The extra pressure from being short staffed directly contributes to care worker burn-out.

Find help here, but if you’ve tried everything and are still struggling to fill vacancies, get in touch. We’ll help you find the care workers you need.

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