A new mobile app that ‘gameifies’ the employee referral process has the potential to solve the UK’s social care recruitment crisis, according to its founder.
It is hoped that the Care Friends app, which has recently received EU funding, will help attract and retain a quality workforce in a sector known for its high turnover rate.
Launched by Neil Eastwood, CEO of social care recruitment specialist Sticky People and adviser to the government’s national social care recruitment campaign, the app allows care workers to share a job with their contact list in exchange for a point, which equates to £1.
If someone responds to that referral and applies, they receive more points, decided by the employer, and additional points if they turn up to an interview and start in the role.
Eastwood has recently piloted the app with a home care provider and the concept took off.
“Usually, less than 8% of staff refer their friends. When we put the app in, a third of the workforce started to refer people,” he told delegates at the LaingBuisson Social Care conference in London yesterday.
“If you extrapolate that more widely across the workforce, our 110,000 vacancies in social care would be gone in a few months. So the potential to tap into the community connections of caring people in the workforce I think is potentially very exciting.
“There’s lots more to do, but I’m very optimistic that we have potentially nailed something here that could be transformational in terms of a workforce.”
Social care workers also receive bonus points for ‘good behaviour’, such as completing training, receiving a compliment from a client and standing in for a shift, as well as sharing a job with someone who is new to care.
“What we find from employee referral schemes, and what we know from Skills for Care data, is that there is a lot of churn in the sector,” said Eastwood.
“People are moving from one local provider to another and my fear was that we can’t put in a scheme that is going to fast track churn, so what we’ve added is a bonus of 25% points for care staff who find someone who is new to care. So what we are trying to do is get people to reach out to those people working in supermarkets, as well as beauticians and teaching assistants, and bring those people with the right values into the sector. So we think this will create a multiplier effect.”
Eastwood believes that employee referrals are the number one source of quality recruitment and that internet job boards have “destroyed” the quality of social care.
“If you dig into data, we see that employee referral is the most successful source. What it involves is existing staff, who understand the values of that organisation, going out into the community and approaching people that they know would make a great frontline care worker,” he said.
“What they also do is they manage the negative aspects of care. So we know the public perceive it as emotionally and physically exhausting. They manage personal care and they manage the challenging behavioral issues, so that means their contacts are far less likely to drop out early on than those people clicking ‘apply’ on an internet job board.
“Employee referrals turn up to interviews almost 90% of the time, compared to around 50% of those applying through internet job boards.”
The problem with many employee referral schemes is they are “fiendishly hard to operate”, according to Eastwood, which is why he decided to ‘gameify’ the process.
“You have a dispersed workforce and you have to keep asking them if they know anybody and remind them not to forget to tell them to apply. That’s a problem; it’s not fun for the member of staff and it’s a paper trail for the provider. So I decided to do something about it,” he said.
The EU funding will be used to pilot the Care Friends app with various care providers across Cornwall this summer.
Caption: Neil Eastwood speaking at the LaingBuisson social care conference.