Beyond the salary: The recruitment and retention crisis in social care

28 August 2023

Social care is a key part in a functioning society. Without some of the many crucial services provided by the sector, we’d have large volumes of people in unthinkable situations. Despite the importance of the work being carried out, the sector is still facing a massive challenge with the recruitment and retention of critical frontline care professionals.  

Despite a recent upturn in vacancy rates, as shown in the latest data from Skills for Care, we are still a long way from the heydays of 2012 when vacancies were down at 3.8%. According to Government reports, 95% of care providers struggle to recruit staff, and 75% struggle to retain their existing talent. These stats are hugely alarming, especially considering that The World Health Organisation reports that, between 2015 and 2050, the world’s population of people of 60 years and above is set to almost double.

Considering their value to society, care workers often feel underpaid and undervalued, and without drastic changes, careers in social care will continue to have limited attraction.

Increasing pay may seem like the obvious solution for retaining talent, but is it the only solution? Does better remuneration address the underlying issues driving care workers away?

To effectively tackle the recruitment and retention crisis, we need to explore the psychological contract between care workers and employers, which encompasses factors like flexibility, progression, well-being and an inclusive and supportive culture. Additionally, we need to look at adequate support with technology implementation and training to ensure healthcare professionals feel empowered and competent in their roles.

Let’s explore how addressing these factors can be instrumental in resolving the challenges facing our workforce.

Are remuneration increases enough? 

With workers across the UK struggling to deal with the soaring cost of energy, petrol, food and other basic commodities, and care workers seeing some of the lowest salary growth in the last decade, increasing salaries will undoubtedly assist individuals in the sector. Still, it is unlikely to guarantee long-term commitment and retention.

Salary enhancements generally only serve as temporary incentives, as the appeal of higher pay diminishes over time – especially when working conditions are challenging. Social workers see declining resources and colleagues leaving en-masse as their biggest challenge. And the lack of work-life balance of individuals is exacerbated by staff shortages. It is a perpetual problem, and the cycle needs breaking!

Here at Ranaissance Care, we employ only the best quality carers. This means that they slot well into existing teams and are highly reliable. By taking on our staff to cover your shortfall in personnel, be it short, medium or long-term, we can afford you the time to improve other areas within your care business. Allowing you to move to a culture which helps you keep the right staff.

Flexibility

In a sector as mentally and physically demanding as social care, balancing work-life responsibilities is particularly crucial in improving job satisfaction. Flexible work arrangements can decrease burnout, increase productivity, and generally reduced stress for carers. Ultimately, enhancing levels of patient care, and creating a better work culture. The result is that care professionals enjoy higher levels of job satisfaction.

The reality, however, is that often, companies do not plan their rotas far enough in advance, creating challenging situations for workers. At first glance, work flexibility may not be as simple in the care sector as it is in the business sector, but there are ways in which it could be offered.

For patient- or client-facing employees, flexible schedules where shift swapping is allowed and even encouraged should be considered. Software products for care planning and rota scheduling may assist with creating these schedules. Alternate shift lengths and job sharing are also good options.

Of course, things do go wrong – care workers get sick or have family emergencies. This is a challenge in a sector where missing a shift may put patients in danger; in such cases, short notice cover is necessary. For these situations, companies like Ranaissance Care can assist in covering short notice shift changes.

Learning and development

Employers need to honestly evaluate whether they value the growth of their staff. Are they invested in their future through clear career pathways, ongoing professional development, and mentorship programs?

Most people want opportunities to develop themselves. Research has shown that workers are more likely to remain committed to their professions if they see career progression and development opportunities.

Ranaissance Care works with a trusted training partner. If you need carers with specific training, we will ensure they have the correct credentials before they arrive with you.

Is well-being considered?

Undoubtedly, the nature of health and social care work is highly stressful, emotionally challenging, and physically demanding. The result is that burnout and mental health issues abound among individuals working in the sector.

Employers can assist their team members by prioritising well-being. Support services, counselling, stress management programs, and regular check-ins to address concerns and challenges will go a long way to helping care workers deal with the stresses that are, by nature, part of their jobs.

Is there an open-door policy?

All workers want to feel that their voices are heard, and that their opinions are valued, especially in environments as challenging as the health and social care sector.

Organisations that encourage an open-door policy create a culture of safety and transparency. When employees trust that they can share their feedback and concerns without fear of retaliation, major issues can be avoided. Employees also feel a sense of belonging when encouraged to bring fresh ideas to the table. An environment where trust exists between staff and management results in higher job satisfaction and increased loyalty.

On the other hand, a lack of open communication leaves team members feeling discouraged. Aside from the lack of productivity that results, these people are more likely to take their skills elsewhere.

Creating an inclusive and supportive culture

Diversity and inclusion are important issues for any workplace, and they go beyond simply hiring people of different nationalities, races, genders and sexual orientations.

A diverse and inclusive culture ensures everyone feels safe and free to be themselves. Aside from the benefits of listening to people from different backgrounds, a diverse and inclusive workplace fosters a sense of belonging and acceptance and boosts productivity and talent retention. By actively embracing diversity and eliminating discriminatory practices, organisations can create a supportive environment that encourages employees to remain committed to their roles.

Avoiding a “blame” culture

A blame culture refers to an environment where individuals are singled out for errors, lower-level employees are targeted, and there is a lack of accountability on the part of the organisation.  This results in a toxic work environment where healthcare workers have low morale, fail to report errors and ultimately look for other, safer work opportunities. In contrast, a learning culture, where errors are analysed and used as opportunities for improvement, can help maintain a committed and engaged workforce.

In a sector which is tightly regulated, it is hugely important to encourage feedback so that issues and challenges, which may not be surfaced to managers otherwise, can be dealt with effectively. There is nothing worse than a problem you were unaware of being uncovered during an inspection.

Embracing technology

We live in a world where the technological landscape is constantly evolving. If used correctly, technology can streamline processes, enhance patient care, and improve efficiency. Unfortunately, many employees find embracing new technology intimidating. With the proper training and support, carers who use technology proficiently to support their work will have higher job satisfaction. In turn, patients will receive better care.

Conclusion

Increasing pay is a vital factor in attracting and retaining healthcare professionals in the long term, but it is certainly not the only solution for the recruitment and retention crisis that the UK is currently experiencing. A holistic approach that recognises and addresses the financial needs, as well as the psychological needs of their employees is the only practical solution to creating a sustainable and committed workforce.

By addressing factors such as flexibility, career progression, employee well-being, open communication, diversity and inclusivity, a nurturing a learning culture, and embracing technology, employers can create a work environment that motivates professionals to stay engaged and dedicated.

Ranaissance Care supplies high quality carers to support you. Our staff are carefully selected, and we ensure that they are trained to your requirements. Because of this, our customers find that our staff fit well into their teams and are highly reliable.