Blog | Angela Gifford

What Makes A Good Care Worker And Why Care Providers Must Recruit And Retain Them?

A good care worker can be defined as one with skills and experience appropriates to the person he/she is providing care to. This comes with caveats however that care workers like the person they care for and the cared for are happy with the care worker. This is a simple but true, human definition."

For any care provider, care workers are the day to day face of the organisation. Your care workers can lose or retain existing clients and gain or lose you new ones. It is the client who pays the wages of every staff member and ensures a profitable or non-profitable annual result. Clients are customers buying your services. Happy customers recommend your organisation and customers want reliable, regular care workers fulfilling their needs. Customers want care workers happy with the organisation they work for.

Consumer Directed Care which gives power to people to choose their care provider is a major wake up call to all care providers announcing the 'status quo' of many years standing is disappearing. In countries, such as the UK where CDC has been absorbed into the culture, customers have buying power and choice. If one care provider cannot fulfill their needs, another provider will and many decisions to change care providers are based on what care recipients see as unsatisfactory care worker situations.

The older population is on the increase and more people will require care. How is that care to be provided and how can a care provider tackle the problems of care worker recruitment and then retain those care workers?

Many people are of the opinion that an increase in pay rates would go a long way to help solve the recruitment problem. Reality is, in the short term this is unlikely to happen. It is also a simple fact that rates of pay are known when a person seeks to become a care worker and accepted.

Just as in all professions, care worker recruitment begins with HR Departments which have the responsibility from first base. I would suggest that if HR staff have no care experience or have not visited customers of the organisation they are recruiting for they are not in a position to successfully process care worker vacancies.

Potential care workers who are unable to speak, read or write English, except for specific circumstances, should not be deemed as suitable for care work: health and safety grounds, unable to understand or communicate with the person who needs their care, record keep, etc. (In the future care providers may need to provide training in basic English communication skills to service their market).

Selection processes for applicants without professional care experience should be based on a care provider's ability to offer responsible training either in house or externally. Care providers should induct new care workers into what their organisation represents, how they are expected to be part of the mission statement and how optimum outcomes are to be achieved for each customer.

There is no magic solution available. Each care provider needs to work on their recruitment strategies. Re-visit their selection processes with the paying customer in mind. Audit current methods, can they be done better?

Knowing customers want regular care workers, retention processes for care staff have to be an inherent part of any care organisation. Apart from giving customer satisfaction, the process of staff rostering becomes much easier and financially efficient when regular rosters operate.

What can be done to increase retention and by definition, increase the number of applicants who come to your organisation? Care workers who have confidence in their ability to carry out the work they are given are more likely to remain with their employer. This means knowing exactly what the skills of any care worker are and to offer opportunities to enhance those skills by further training.

The recipients of care require a wide range of care skills and experience but this is not the only factor that needs to be taken into consideration when placing a care worker. Empathy from a carer to client and client to a carer is fundamental. Staff will not be retained if they are working with a person with whom they cannot empathise, do not like and with a person from whom they derive no job satisfaction.

Care workers who are not happy with their employer will demonstrate this. They will seek an alternative employer and may take their client with them. Loyalty is a dynamic part of care worker retention. If care staff are loyal to their employer they will give extra. Employers have to earn that loyalty. Not only with reference to job selection but in giving support to each and every worker. Support can be given in many areas:

  1. By giving full details of a client who requires care to the care worker before they cross over the person's threshold.

  2. By Care Managers having regular verbal communication with the care workers with reference to their client's care package. The care worker is the front line; ask for their views and suggestions on their client's care. Treat their role with the respect it deserves.

  3. Know your care worker, acknowledge training achievements, personal milestones, five years, ten years, a wedding, 25th anniversary, becoming a grandparent, a personal sadness, a card if they are in hospital and a thank you card or flowers whenever they go the extra mile.

  4. Allow and encourage Care Managers to build up relationships with care workers. Give individual direct telephone lines/email addresses. Build up inter-dependent professional relationships, it pays dividends.

  5. Many organisations have a format for asking staff when they leave, why? This is too late. Ask your workers on a regular basis why they like working for your organisation, what suggestions they have for better services. Take responses seriously.

  6. Pay wages on time.

  7. Operate your own 'in house' on call system. Out of hours support should be given by a person who knows both the care worker and the customer, not an unrelated call centre response system.

  8. Staff appraisals gives guidance as to how individuals would like to see their career pattern progress. If it is to gain skills to care for different client groups then facilitate this. If it is a request for refresher training, or to add skills to assist their current clients, facilitate this.

  9. Have a weekly email communication about current care news, new work that has come in, news re clients who have sadly passed on, successes/news of the organisation, achievements and individual milestones of care workers, etc. This is all part of 'belonging', a powerful retention tool.

Happy workers will recommend the organisation they work for and will encourage others to request application forms. Happy care workers are an important advertising tool, an effective recruitment resource and the key to all other provider activity.

By:  Angela E Gifford
Posted:  18 Oct 2013

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