Ben Ashton, director at Good Oaks Home Care, a provider of visiting and live-in care, discusses the surge in applications for home care roles he has seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the opportunities and challenges this has brought.
It’s no secret in the home care industry that recruitment is one of the biggest challenges that we have faced in recent months and years. It was a serious challenge; one that limited the growth of care providers who were unable to take on new clients until they could recruit and train the members of staff to care for them. A big challenge, that is, until the outbreak of COVID-19 and the beginning of a new normal.
The changes that the home care industry has experienced during the COVID-19 outbreak have been huge and far-reaching. Some of them have been positive, despite the terrible circumstances. How fantastic to see members of the public out on their doorsteps every Thursday night at 8pm, clapping and banging on saucepans out of appreciation for the key workers that were keeping the country running. Among those recognised, our brilliant home carers, who continued to care for our vulnerable clients in the community. Along with this came a new respect for care as a profession, a new-found pride in working as a home carer.
Applicants who wouldn’t normally apply for a care role were applying for our home care roles. We were finally able to recruit in numbers that we have been looking to do so for years.
At the same time, more and more people began to face job insecurity as a result of the outbreak. Workers in the hospitality sector faced losing their jobs. Many workers were furloughed or made redundant. Small business owners faced financial difficulty. The care industry was one of the few sectors that was still recruiting.
We saw a sharp increase in the number of applications for our care role vacancies. In the week that lockdown began, we launched a Fast Track for Retail and Hospitality staff job listing. This received 900% more applications than our average over the preceding 12 weeks. This translated into more than double the number of people starting in April than had started in the previous three months combined. In the end, we actually had to regretfully turn applicants away. This had never happened to us before.
Employing compassionate, kind and friendly carers who truly believe in the work they do is essential to providing high quality care in the community.
Applicants who wouldn’t normally apply for a care role were applying for our home care roles. On the one hand, this was fantastic. We were finally able to recruit in numbers that we have been looking to do so for years.
It brought challenges, however. Employing compassionate, kind and friendly carers who truly believe in the work they do is essential to providing high quality care in the community. The recruitment process becomes more important than ever before. Namely: how do you choose the applicants who are well-suited to the job and will thrive in the role? How do you spot applicants who don’t fully appreciate what the job involves? How do you find the applicants who will stay with us as a company and be a credit to our values?
What’s more, many of our elderly clients were – and still are – anxious about the pandemic and felt more vulnerable than they did previously. They put their trust in us to offer a next-level approach to high quality care: providing care in their homes that also protected them from becoming infected with the virus. We’ve made lots of changes to the ways that we provide care with this in mind. Dedication from our carers and an understanding of the responsibility for their clients’ safety has never been more important. Our staff are everything.
We relied on a rigorous recruitment and interview process – and have made changes to improve this further during the pandemic. We ask applicants to complete an online questionnaire that indicates how suited they are to working as a home carer, for example. The questionnaire also highlights practical elements of the job: such as the need to work on weekends and outlining the typical timings of the calls. That way, these elements of the role don’t come as a surprise in the interview.
It is our hope that as a society, we come out of this crisis with a renewed respect and appreciation for our carers.
We’ve been conducting all interviews over the phone and have worked hard to make sure that the questions we ask help us to understand an applicant, their motivation and experience. Our interview questions are situational and assess how applicants’ decision-making, outlook and behaviour is aligned to our values. Maintaining our focus on our values – Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Dedication and Empathy – is essential to protecting the ethos that is central to how we operate as a home care provider.
Overall, we’ve met some brilliant new people who have backgrounds that we don’t typically see. Training people with no prior care experience isn’t an issue for us. We have a comprehensive training programme, and a shadowing and mentoring system, that makes this possible. But making sure that applicants have an understanding of what the role involves is crucial. Our recruitment process has had to become even more rigorous as a result.
The pandemic has tested all of us, as businesses, as care providers, and as individuals. It is our hope that as a society, we come out of this crisis with a renewed respect and appreciation for our carers and the invaluable service that they provide for elderly people.