Mar 17

There's more than one way to recruit and retain your workforce

Posted: 14 March 2017

Jim-ThomasJim Thomas, Programme Head for Workforce Innovation reflects on his innovative approaches to recruiting and retaining workers workshop at the Skills for Care Annual Conference 2017.

Running a workshop at Skills for Care's Annual Conference on the theme of innovative approaches to recruiting and retaining workers in adult social care, demonstrated to me how creative social care employers are.

Whether it's a rolling programme of recruitment days giving potential workers a chance to 'ask and try' before they commit to applying, to simplifying the initial application down to an exploration of the applicants values (ie. not doing the full application until applicants have been through the interview process), social care employers are masters at making the resources they have for recruitment and retention go as far as they can.

Those at the workshop made it clear that what they're (as employers) looking for are workers who are strong on common sense and practical intelligence, have great rapport and who are honest and trustworthy; workers who enable the people they support to love life, to hope, to dream and to live. To help this happen, social care workers need employers who invest in them and empower them to realise their own potential, just as those workers have a role in supporting people to do the same.

This all sounds so easy! However if it was, wouldn't recruitment and retention be a non-issue? Lots of social care employers face daily recruitment and retention challenges for example when in some parts of the country low unemployment can hinder recruiting and retaining good workers; when working in the local DIY store can be seen as more aspirational than supporting and empowering people to live independent lives; when public myths that social care must be a place with 'poor working conditions,' that involves working with 'dangerous' people or doing 'unpleasant' personal support; when the recruitment process takes so long that it can be six months from application to interview to appointment to starting work; or when task based commissioning can hinder innovation and impede recruitment and retention. Maybe a few more innovative ways of recruiting and retaining workers might be useful.

So what other kinds of innovative practice got mentioned?

  • If your workforce feel valued they will recommend you as an employer to other people.
  • Using 'refer a friend' incentives is a great way to bring new people into your workforce.
  • Hold open days for your local community. If your service is 'place-based' then bring the community to you. Show them what an important part of their community you are and don't be surprised when some community members come back as volunteers and potential employees.
  • Talk to local groups, schools or colleges to show how great working in social care can be. 

No matter how small or big your organisation is, find ways to show people how working for you can enhance their opportunities for career progression.

  • Use coaching to help workers understand different roles and help them to prepare for their next role even if that might mean losing them to another local social care employers.
  • Be open to working with local colleges to support student placements as those students are your workforce of the future.
  • Use one page worker profiles to help new workers explore what they have to offer beyond their care, and help them to develop their knowledge and skills. Ensure that the people they support and colleagues get to know new workers quickly. Revise, share and use one page worker profiles to continually explore and challenge what workers do.
  • Find ways to use social media, in particular videos, to showcase what you do and what working with you and the people you support can offer.
  • Don't just write your values down. Be your values in everything you do and listen to what your workforce and people they support see as their values too.

Technology can have a wider role in retaining workers too.

Using technology wisely to enable people to spend more time engaging and enabling people rather then managing process and reporting on progress can be very valuable.

Innovation is a multi-headed thing. One employers innovation is another employers long established practice, is another's radical unimaginable leap of faith. All of these perspectives are valid. What matters is that employers continue to experiment, to find out what works for them, to recognise that what works in one place might not work, or need tweaking, somewhere else. That what matters most of all is valuing, celebrating, supporting and believing in the many talents of our existing and new workers and how believing in them and supporting them will go a long way to making the support they offer to people the best they possibly can.

Download the graphic facilitation from the conference workshop.