Finding and keeping talent in the Aged Care sector
Over the past several months, the aged care sector has been a critical topic in the collective Australian conversation. Having been declared a national crisis, and with frequent reports that our most vulnerable are suffering from inadequate care, neglect and even abuse, aged care employers are under increasing pressure to have a laser focus on their employees. However, as many aged care executives will be aware, this is often easier said than done, with the sector plagued by understaffing and insufficient investment.
There has never been a more important time to ensure the right people are selected to care for our nation’s elderly. The Productivity Commission’s 2011 report into caring for older Australians found that by 2050 over 3.5 million Australians are expected to use aged care services, with a projected need for 1 million workers in the sector alone. A sizeable portion of these new employees will need to be recruited from outside the sector. Once these individuals have been attracted and hired, they need to be appropriately engaged, rewarded and nurtured with the right organisational culture, to ensure top talent is retained in this critical sector of our society.
As a complex sector requiring specific, considered tactics to attract, reward and retain the best talent, hiring managers and leaders in the aged care sector need to be supported in their talent management through every stage of the employee lifecycle.
Attracting the right candidates to a role can be a challenge for hiring leaders across all industries, however this is increasingly important in the aged care sector, where organisations will be employing individuals across a range of roles – not just those on the front line. Aged care facilities employ a wide range of roles and skill sets from commercial executives, property managers, and administration staff, as well as the critical, client facing healthcare professionals. What’s more is that the aged care delivery model is shifting to include home-based care as the government attempts to reduce reliance on residential care.
Employers need to think creatively when it comes to identifying potential talent pools and candidate profiles. Traditional recruiting from within the sector will continue but it will pay to consider alternative options. For example, a university undergraduate looking for part-time work may also be a future candidate for a more senior position upon graduation with an existing strong engagement with their employer.
Interviewing and hiring
Once applications have been received, the employer needs to work towards securing the most appropriate talent for a position. It can be tempting to create a laundry list of desired skills upon which to assess a candidate, however the current climate has shown that it is equally important to identify traits that are not desirable for the role. This approach can help to focus in on the reality of your positions, and to assess applicants accordingly.
When it comes to assessments, a personality test is equally – if not more – important than an ability test, as it will sift out candidates with the wrong traits early on in your process. This should accompany standard police checks, to address both risk and compliance.
Once these processes are complete, a structured interview with behavioural questioning is an essential next step. With these combined tactics, leaders will be able to determine whether candidates have ethical decision-making abilities, whilst also predicting how well they will fit the organisation’s culture.
While these steps may seem arduous or time consuming, they are critical in ensuring a long-term return on investment. When people with the right competencies and abilities are hired, they are more likely to be successful in their role and will bring more revenue into the organisation. Most importantly, the right candidate can also ensure an organisation’s reputation is maintained, minimising risk concerns in these volatile times.
Rewarding and retaining
Once those perfect candidates have been hired, the focus changes to rewarding and retaining them. Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as a standard salary and regular annual leave. Rather, when looking at benefits, employers should consider their overall employee value proposition. A key part of this proposition will be their motivation to choose your organisation over another and ensuring they can continue to have a positive impact on their clients and their families.
Aon partners with a myriad of aged care providers across the talent, reward and performance space. Recently, we worked closely with the CEO and HR team of a not-for-profit aged care provider to benchmark remuneration for their people. This involved referencing market data from the property, commercial and not-for-profit sectors for different roles within the organisation and then using benchmarking and job evaluation to ensure we had a market reference point for every salaried role. Next step was to analyse current employees’ remuneration, testing for internal and external relativity and modelling the application of reward principles (gender equity, performance, high potentials) across different salary budget scenarios. The team now have a robust program and a great foundation to plan remuneration review and communicate the reward principles to employees.
It is worth remembering that individuals working in the front line of aged care have made a proactive decision to train and work in this industry. Therefore, employers need to recognise and appeal to the unique motivations behind their employment, which can be highly challenging, yet deeply rewarding. To address this, benefits should be focused on maintaining strong mental and financial wellbeing, as well as psychological resilience. Options may include a strong employee assistance program, or an allowance to buy extra leave.
As for salaries, in setting remuneration employers should consider the unique skillsets required by their team members and the external market drivers. In recent years there has been a trend for overall increases in remuneration for roles in aged care and social services to outstrip the broader commercial market and we expect this to continue. Specifically, in 2018, we have seen increased demand and a corresponding spike in remuneration for experienced registered nurses and nursing home managers.
Start a conversation
Those working in the aged care industry – regardless of their role – are among some of the most important individuals in our society, and today’s climate calls for a pointed focus on selecting the right staff. Therefore, a strong focus on recruiting and retaining the best talent should be critical, and employers should not hesitate to ask for help in getting it right.
If you require support in attracting and retaining the right talent in the aged care sector, please reach out to us to start a conversation.