One of the greatest challenges many of our clients face within the community and NFP sector is hiring front-line staff in what is an extremely tight market. This is a feat made more challenging by the need to increase service delivery standards and comply with a raft of policy reforms stemming from the likes of the Aged Care Royal Commission and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Some clients are starting to recognise that the key to attracting talent is being seen in the marketplace as an employer of choice.
Front-line staff, such as support workers in the community aged care space, have a tough gig and they are truly amazing people. They head into an ever-changing environment on a daily basis, providing a range of varied services to aged care clients. There are a raft of tasks that this can include from delivering personal care services, domestic tasks, grocery runs, preparing meals perhaps even keeping gardens and lawns tidy. Support workers enter client homes, often never knowing what to expect; in a role that is both physically and mentally demanding. Moreover, with significant growth continuing in both the aged care and disability sector, there are simply not enough support workers to cater for the demand.
So, what is the answer?
There is no magic one sized fit all answer here. But something we have seen yield real time results, is organisations striving to become an employer of choice. For the success we have seen in this area, and with the organisations we have worked with, this is more than simply popping the aspirational wording of employer of choice onto the career page of a website. It is about looking at what you can offer an employee throughout their employee lifecycle and making this a truly compelling offering. You’ll be glad to hear, that it’s not all about the salary here either (phew!). Here are some of things that we have seen make a difference:
- Genuine, top-down commitment from management to think outside of the box by investing in the process, being creative and going the ‘extra mile’ to become an employer of choice;
- Invest in your employees. Attraction of talent is one thing, keeping them with you is quite another. Investing in additional education and training for key staff is a clear articulation of the value you place on them e.g., offer targeted training around dementia – a great capability and confidence booster, but a win for the customer too.
- Embed career progression mechanisms that recognises the talent within your organisation. Part of the top-down commitment from management, also needs to include having robust career conversations with employees who are looking to be developed and grow their career. Where possible, organisations should look internally for secondment opportunities, and develop clear pathways for how an employee can progress.
Developing talent from within, signals the value you place on the team you already have.
- Engage with your employees. Implement team bonding events like ‘sundowners’ on a monthly basis. Again, this is an inexpensive initiative but one that clearly articulates a ‘thank you’ to hard-working front-line staff. Where you can, invite employees from across the organisation (e.g., admin staff, managers etc) to promote team building.
- Review your employee benefits package to consider what you can add that will make a real difference. A client we recently worked with added, RAC roadside assist membership for community support workers. This was a relatively inexpensive initiative, which sent a clear message to the employees that their wellbeing was a priority in addition to addressing the known concerns for workers traveling to remote areas later in the day and into the evening.
- For those with a strong volunteer base, include them as well. A number of NFPs would struggle without their dedicated volunteer base. Thank them constantly and include them in any team building / bonding initiatives.
A recent WA Chamber of Commerce report suggested WA was short something like 60,000 employees across the economy. These are staggering numbers.
The aged care sector specifically is growing, and we know that some of the larger residential aged care providers in major capital cities simply cannot employ enough staff.
In summary when the market tightens employers need to think outside of the box. It doesn’t matter what sector, the roles or responsibilities; hiring and keeping quality staff takes genuine commitment, especially when the pool of workers is tight. Simply saying you are an employer of choice, is a statement of words. In our experience, it is the demonstration of behaviours by an organisation that can make ‘employer of choice’ a reality.
At ANSON we are driven towards the solution and empowered by innovation. If you would like to explore how we can help you recruit staff and / or design innovative solutions to hiring and retaining quality people, we would love to hear from you. Our only advice is to not leave it too late. The community and NFP sectors are catching up – some are really starting to tackle this problem head on, realising that staff will get harder to recruit.
My advice therefore is to act sooner rather than later and genuinely commit to being an employer of choice.
Dean Logan, Executive Director