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Aged Care employees are reported to be leaving in droves on the precipice of a bigger-than-ever demand for staff. How should we react?

Aged Care workers are leaving in droves – dam the exodus!

It’s recently been reported (HESTA – ‘Transforming Aged Care’) 23% of current aged care workers intend to leave the industry in the next 1-5 years. That’s an estimated outflow of 80,000 employees in the next 5 years.

How do we respond to this?

By fashioning a human dam to contain the wave of exiting staff? As much as that may work in theory, it’s probably not within any industry code.

Turning the heat up is the suggestion we’re going to require 1million strong workforce in by the year 2050. This news has the industry in a panic, and wondering where this new wave is going to come from. How are we going to attract them?

Aged Care providers are being required to think like marketing experts, and short of setting up Instagram pages (not a bad idea) they’re digging deep to create ways to attract staff (good staff) into centres.

However, the appropriate marketing strategy may not require too much thinking out of the box at all, rather in the box.

Could it be our most appealing products are already working for us? Think about it. Nothing says, “this job is great” like a bunch of happy employees that have stayed on in an organisation long beyond the training period.

The simple answer is to rebuild the appeal of the industry from within the industry. Our incentive should be not in just attracting staff to the industry but in keeping them –and keeping them engaged and, ultimately, happy.

First let’s look at why they’re leaving, or ‘intending’ on leaving the sector. We can deliberate, but we really don’t have to. The report has a pretty good handle on that.

Of those surveyed, the reasons for leaving the sector were narrowed down to the following:

  • 22% Aren’t being paid enough
  • 30% Have a problem with their manager
  • 30% Felt they weren’t given enough training
  • 29% Are unhappy with the organisation they work for
  • 25% desire, but aren’t being offered new skills development

While we naturally tend to focus attentions on the fundamental, and seemingly uncontrollable issues, like pay, we can, instead, steer efforts toward the factors we indeed have control over.

And, it’s not actually wages that’s having the biggest effect on job satisfaction within the industry, according to Dr Katrina Radford of Griffith University, who completed her PhD – “Personal care workers in Australian aged care: retention and turnover intentions”, in 2013.

According to Dr Radford whether staff stay or go is “overwhelmingly” under the control of the organisation.

In an interview for Griffith News Radford states,

My research highlighted that, while aged care employees are amongst the lowest paid workers in health care, pay was not a major influence in their intentions to stay and leave.”

“When I looked at personal factors against organisational factors, while around 12 per cent of people’s intentions to leave were impacted by their health, age or intention to retire, the vast majority of turnover intentions were influenced by things the organisation does.”

So, pay aside, what can be done by an organisation to combat the exodus?

When broken down, you’ll see many of the issues noted by the HESTA survey stem from one core matter – employee support. When employees feel supported, the other issues can seem a lot less dooming.

So let’s put a positive spin on this and look at 3 simple focus points for retaining our best marketable assets – our staff.

How to make your staff (want to) stay:

1. Culture is a plan, not an accident

 Workplace culture isn’t an organic ambiance that just appears. Neither is it one that disappears, or goes unnoticed if it’s bad. Communication within the organisation, access to information for employees, a general vibe in the centre – these values should be well thought out and even better guarded. Staff that feel proud of the culture of their workplace become the best ambassadors for your organisation.

2. Development

Recognise thirst and talent in your employees, see them as individuals, and develop their strengths. Think in terms of vertical or horizontal development. Vertical; pathways to the top, if an individual shows management qualities or interests mentor them, train them, open up opportunities for senior roles. Horizontal; think laterally. Are they an expert or show interest in a key area? Impart responsibilities in areas they’re keen on. Look closely and tailor their job functions to include their specialties.

3. Recognise & Reward

Beyond earning a buck, most people stay in jobs because it makes them feel useful and proud. Feed that. If an employee feels respected it will be returned. Recognise each staff member on individual merits with incentives and regular appraisal. Reward motivates workers and in the long run will raise standards. However, latest studies reveal financial rewards are not the best way to create a good culture. (Read: via HRGurus)

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