In 2021, COVID continues to impact the work of home health this year, but other trends are coming into focus. The demand for home care services continues to grow. This means the workforce (direct care and office workers) needed to staff it continues to grow too. In fact, direct care continues to be one of the fastest-growing occupations.
No one ever knows what the future holds, and 2020 added new resonance to this statement. It might seem foolish to try to predict the future of the industry (home care) and its implications for staffing needs. Nonetheless, we can make educated guesses and drive outcomes to influence the future.
Keep up with rapidly increasing direct care wages
Home Care Pulse (HCP), the analytics company focused on our industry, indicates that caregiver wages have gone up by 15% on average. At the local level, increases impacting your agency may be a little different. However, there is no denying that wage increases are happening. Wage is a critical component in caregiver recruitment and retention. The recommendation is to pay at the 75th percentile for your market to maintain lower turnover. Here is the nationwide data from Home Care Pulse:
Acknowledge what you are doing well and raise caregiver satisfaction
The pandemic has certainly raised the profile of home health and home care in our country. Caregivers are now labeled as “heroes” and the importance of the work they do is now recognized. Those factors contribute to an increase in caregiver satisfaction as measured by HCP in recent months.
Since the start of the pandemic, HCP is measuring increased satisfaction from caregivers. Feeling appreciated by their agency and society in general. The profile of HHA has risen in the general public, and this helps them feel more appreciated as well.
Caregivers feel not only more appreciated, but they also report satisfaction with the support from the office, the training received, and the recognition. Those are all great trends. Agencies need to keep doing those with excellence, even when the threat of COVID fades.
Strengthen caregiver recruitment by focusing on your unique culture
Beyond wages, agencies need to attract caregivers based on a differentiation strategy. What makes you different from other agencies in your market? What makes you a better employer of direct care workers?
Focus on your culture. It’s the great differentiator! Few agencies use culture as a selling point. One way to sell your culture is in your job ads. If this is true of your agency, use terms like “kind and caring office staff,” “supporting our caregivers so they can give the best care to our clients,” or “we care for our caregivers so they can take care of our clients.”
Implement Caregiver Mentoring to reduce early turnover of direct care workers
Caregiver mentoring provides much-needed support to new hires. The launch of a mentoring pilot program by a New York-based professional association shows that the early turnover of caregivers enrolled in a mentoring program is significantly lower. It’s a worthwhile investment.
Provide career development for direct care workers
Beyond wages, training is a great selling point in this very competitive recruitment market.
The pool of applicants has shrunk during the pandemic. Many come to home care from other industries with little to no experience of direct care work. Training is more critical than ever for agencies. Having a structured approach to training, packaged around a career ladder, is also a great selling point.
Training is valuable to caregivers who want to grow in their knowledge of the profession. Having a career ladder for direct care workers indicates that your agency offers professional work, not just just dead-end jobs. Most caregivers will be pleasantly surprised that your agency offers opportunities for advancement and invest in the skills of its workforce.
A career ladder also provides a clear path for wage progression. It spells out what it takes to reach each rung of the ladder, and what pay increase comes with each level. Training embedded in a career ladder with a win-win: the agency gets better care professionals and caregivers get better income opportunities.
A career ladder can be created based on career ladders found in nursing, from Novice to Expert.
Office Staff Matters More Than Ever
The main complaints from direct care workers are often impacted (or created!) by the office staff.
Data from HCP shows that for every staff member who leaves, agencies also lose 5 additional caregivers. The connection between direct care workers and office staff is what keeps the fabric of the agency together… or pulls it apart. Caregivers leave rather than make new connections with yet another office person.
The quality of orientation and training for new office staff impacts turnover, just like it does for caregivers. Make sure the office staff is trained and satisfied with their job. That way they can relay a positive message and upbeat attitude to support caregivers.
Final thought: don’t try to eat the elephant all at once. Take a few bites at a time. Choose a couple of strategies and implement them with excellence.