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Guest column: How can the care sector overcome the retention crisis post COVID-19?

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By Abhishek Agrawal, health and social care technology specialist The Access Group

Having been at the heart of the current global public health crisis, it is vital that health and social care providers are able retain their staff, whilst ensuring services aren’t compromised. Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on care providers across the country, and as the vaccination is rolled out nationwide, employers need to be flexible to utilise existing staff whilst continuing to protect the health of employees and residents. 

We are familiar with the stories about staff working flat-out to deliver high standards of care. Carers have moved in with residents and clients to prevent the infection spreading further, found inventive ways to keep spirits high and keep families connected with their loved ones. As we hopefully see a sense of normality begin to return this year, it is key that these staff still feel valued by their employers. 

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High turnover rates

Staff turnover in the care sector was already stretched before the pandemic, without considering the added pressure caused by self-isolating, quarantined or unwell carers. 

Skills For Care research showed that the average turnover rate is around 30.8%. The research also estimates that nearly 8% of roles in adult social care are vacant – equal to around 122,000 vacancies at any one time. Prior to Covid-19, sick days were already high, at an average of 4.8 days a year per person.

Reassuringly, instead of turning their back on the industry, many carers who leave their jobs turn to new opportunities within the sector, moving laterally to other care providers or care homes. Approximately 67% of recruitment in social care is from other roles within the sector.

Technology improving productivity 

The majority of people working in the care sector do so in order to provide vital care to those who need it most. Now more than ever ensuring that barriers to the effective delivery of care are minimised is vital to save lives and lower the pressure on carers.

Reducing the amount of admin and office work required from carers invariably results in a boost to productivity – something which is crucial during this staff shortage. Employers can invest in technology that reduces admin to allow employees to spend more time offering the valuable face-to-face care that most staff entered the sector to provide.

This technology could be as straightforward as replacing paper MAR charts with eMAR, and paper care records with digital ones, to reduce miscommunication and extra paperwork. Alternatively by utilising people management software that creates dynamic rotas to accurately match care workers with people who they know and are most local to them – limiting the risk of spreading infections more widely. 

Additionally, tools like e-learning can also help, for example by using virtual environments (such as eCompetency) to test a prospective carer’s suitability for care work itself, both in terms of their values and how they handle common scenarios in social care. eLearning systems specifically designed for social care can help to get new staff trained and on-boarded faster and with less manual work on the part of managers. 

Through speeding up and simplifying processes it enables staff to dedicate more time to do more of what is most important to them; providing care. By removing the additional time pressures, such as filling out paperwork, or resolving issues of miscommunication, it will increase job satisfaction and remove added stress resulting in higher levels of retention. 

The benefits of flexible pay

Current challenges mean that it is vital employers can be flexible with pay at a time when many households are facing reduced income and increased living costs. Some care providers have turned to apps enabling staff to access their earnings before payday.

These solutions enable employees to instantly withdraw their earned income, up to a percentage of total available earned income set by their employer. In sectors where staff are paid hourly, including social care, this provides a more flexible method of payment for a highly flexible workforce. 

Unfortunately, care providers are unlikely to be able to pay more, even if they want to, but they can support staff to choose when they get paid – providing a safety net which can help to improve mental and financial wellbeing and of course, the trust needed for job retention.

This means that employees who pick up overtime to care for the vulnerable can access their funds early, making the role more attractive to staff members who are living in households where family members have been furloughed or lost their job over recent weeks.

The care sector is under strain like never before, so it is vital that providers support their staff as much as possible. Carers need to deliver care at a critical time, responding to Covid-19; and technology can play a major role in protecting and maximising the returns from the existing workforce.   

To find out more about The Access Group, visit www.theaccessgroup.com

Tags : Abhishek AgrawalAccess GroupGuest Columnretentiontechnology
Sarah Clarke

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