Skills for Care

How we reduced turnover from 92% to 3% in two years

28 Sep 2023

5 min read

Barry O'Driscoll

  • Retention
  • Recruitment

Barry O'Driscoll, Registered Manager, Sycamore Lodge, shares how they drastically reduced turnover rates by focusing on a positive culture and values-based recruitment.

I've been registered manager of Sycamore Lodge for coming up to two years now. I'm a mental health nurse by background and my career until now has been in in psychiatry.

I started out working in social care after leaving school but then I went to nursing school and moved into psychiatric care, and I did that for 20 years.

Then I decided I would like a challenge in social care and so I moved back into the social care sector, and I've not regretted it for a second.

When I first started here at Sycamore Lodge, there were some issues with recruitment and retention and a lot of that centred around a lack of cohesive management. Which is what I aimed to improve.

It was a big challenge, and now two years into the journey I feel we’ve done a really good job.

We had well over 700 hours of vacancies when I started and the turnover rate for the previous 12 months was 92%, and it had been like that for an extended period of time.

I don’t think you can look at recruitment and retention without looking at quality, and vice versa. So, we had to tackle both.

I quickly turned my attention to building relationships with the team, to hear from them what was causing the issues.

I tried to utilise some of the qualities and experience I've learned over the years – having an open door policy, getting to know individuals, making sure people understood that the management team were there to support them to provide a quality service, .

The next step was ensuring that we have the correct numbers of staff to allow people do their jobs effectively. While it’s not a long-term solution, to support numbers in the short-term, we employed good agency staff to make sure we had the right number of staff in place to work safely.

That’s so important, as if you’re understaffed it not only impacts quality of care but also staff morale.

I also noted that when I started there wasn’t clearly defined team leader expectations although the roles were in place, so that was something which I changed quickly. We had a reorganisation of the team and provided the team leaders with the learning and support they needed to be able to take on more responsibility, and we communicated clearly the expectations of their roles and responsibilities as team leader.

These changes took place over a period of six to nine months, it wasn’t an immediate change.

Over time we started to see that turnover rates had lowered and things seemed to be running smoother. That made people feel happier and safer in the roles.

We had a greater focus on staff engagement. Previously there was no regular team meetings, but we made sure to put these in place and have the staff lead the topics of discussion. We also introduced the role of employee engagement lead, who was the go-to person staff could speak to about any issues if they didn’t want to come to me directly.

This provided more routes of communication for staff than there had been before, and ensured everyone felt their voice was heard.

We also have a monthly staff breakfast, where the managers come in early to serve breakfast to the night shift staff as they’re leaving and to the day staff as they start their shifts.

It’s an informal opportunity for open conversations and building relationships.

We’ve really focused on driving forward positivity and part of this is letting staff know that if they’re feeling negative about any aspect of work they need to be open and let us know so that we can find a solution. We all have a part to play in ensuring that negative culture doesn’t evolve, and so these open conversations are key to tackling any issues quickly before negative feelings spread and become embedded.

We also focus on celebrating success. In recent times we’ve had lots of success to celebrate - we've got a good CQC report, our compliments have massively increased over the past 12 months and our complaints have reduced. We also have had really positive survey results from relatives, residents and staff. So, I try to use this data to help staff understand that they've all played an important part in this.

We also have a segment at the staff meeting focused on sharing achievements.

I’d say it’s impossible to pick just one or two things that have made the difference it’s all these tiny little things that have come together to create an improved culture, increased morale, improvement in quality, and a happier staff team.

And because of this our turnover rate dropped dramatically down to just 3% and we are fully recruited to support workers roles.

When we're asking people what’s changed they say it’s because they feel happier, they feel they're doing a good job, and they feel proud. And what happens now is the new-starters only know the positive culture.

We take a values-based approach to hiring new recruits who will fit in with this positive culture that we’ve established and that definitely has a positive impact on retention. The vast majority of people we've appointed in the last 18 months have stayed with us.

In interviews we encourage people to talk about their life experiences and how they would act in specific scenarios in a way that allows us to get an insight into what type of individual they are, and we have a massive focus on making sure their values fit the values of the organisation.

I think values-based recruitment is so important in many fields, but certainly in health and social care, because the job is all about you as a person being the right person and having the right values; if you don't have them, then this isn't the career for you.

When we think about recruitment, it's about us trying to get the right people for the job, but the other side of it is the right people trying to find the right jobs.

That’s why it’s important to find those people who match your organisation’s values and to have those values instilled for applicants and new-starters to see, so that the right people want to join you and want to stay with you.


Find out more about values-based recruitment with the Skills for Care toolkit.

Find more information and support with our #RecruitRight spotlight.

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