I have a problem with something the social care sector says and does (or doesn’t do for that matter).
“The problem is we just don’t attract enough people to care work. When we do get them, they are the wrong type of people. When they do join us many don’t last beyond the first week. Services are operating at critical levels so whether we like it or not, we are often forced to take whoever walks through the door”.
The challenge with social care
I’ve lost count of the number of times a HR or Operational manager has said this to me. Worse still, despite this being deemed wholly unacceptable, fresh ideas on how to improve the situation are far from forthcoming. If as predicted there will be 16.1 million over 65s in the UK by 2035 (an increase from 10 million in 2012) then this is incredibly alarming.
Granted the sector does contend with some serious and significant issues – how you can deliver an increasingly personalised agenda whilst competing with low pay, challenging day to day work, negative PR in the press, an over-reliance on a migrant workforce and high turnover is not something that is easily achieved.
If therefore the breadth and complexity of political, social and economic factors is making it incredibly difficult to recruit the right people in sufficient numbers, why is such a key strategic issue taking so long to be tackled at Board-level?
OK, so the Board might talk about it. They might accept that they have a problem. But where that problem lies in respect to a multitude of other problems is very telling.
You can often tell right away how important social care recruitment is viewed:
- It’s largely devolved to a junior member of the HR team or an Operational Manager;
- The variety and understanding of available recruitment tools is thin on the ground;
- There is a complete lack of recruitment data. Nobody knows where the last recruit came from let alone how long it took;
- When you ask about the recruitment budget you are met with a vacant look;
- The recruitment process itself is a minefield of red tape and there is a trend to make it harder to recruit, rather than easier!
If a social care organisation’s growth relies on delivering exceptional care and support, surely recruitment sits at the heart of this.
This means Board-level support to enable a senior HR figurehead to build and deliver a compelling employer brand, plan the future workforce, create exciting career pathways and rethink the approach to reward.
This means the Finance Director questioning temporary staffing spend, seeking opportunities to reduce this and reinvest the savings in HR and recruitment initiatives.
Recognising and investing in your social care recruitment
It means recognising and investing in a professional recruitment resource – internal or external – who understands that attraction is actually selling and requires much more than job boards and open days. They take responsibility for retention and recognise that the best support workers are not necessarily those who have previous experience, so they recruit against values. They question the ROI on every activity and pound they spend, understand what works and scale it up to deliver efficiencies. They deliver processes which enable candidate attraction rather than make it more difficult.
You don’t have to look far to see some examples of where providers are investing time and resources – Care UK have built an internal resourcing team and a new careers site, Bromford took a different approach to building their brand and now have an enviable social media strategy and online presence.
Is social care changing?
Thankfully it seems the message is getting through. I’m having more conversations with providers where recruitment is on the radar at Board-level. However it is still largely perceived as a cost rather than an investment and this needs to change. Professionalised, commercial recruitment teams are integral to the future success and growth of providers. After all, without enough of the right people, how can you deliver those exceptional care services that give you your competitive edge?