Aged care is complex. Policy and clinical contexts keep morphing. Labor shortages persist. One fact the sector knows is, we need a genuine rethink on how to meet the challenges facing aged care providers.
Leading aged care experts such as Professor Fran McInerney from Mercy Heath are conducting ‘root and branch’ research. Recently Ellis Jones was fortunate to attend a presentation by Professor McInerney which reported on the latest findings of her work. The presentation explored numerous issues but one dominated: the need for sophisticated, long term planning for an aged care workforce.
Workforce issues remain an ongoing issue for the aged care sector. Employing highly trained staff to meet the complex issues of older people is extremely difficult. This issue will only worsen as the demand for staff escalates. We need 20,000 extra workers over the next decade or so. Where will they come from?
For the past four years, Ellis Jones has recognised the same concerns expressed in Professor Fran McInerney’s report and the need to work closer with providers in order to establish a stable, well trained workforce. The challenges lie in righting misconceptions of aged care careers, strategic recruitment to attract candidates whose culture and expectations are aligned with those of the workforce, establishing peer support networks and fostering vertical communication within the business so managers and staff do not feel isolated at the facility level.
Three years ago, Rhod Ellis-Jones and Erica Edmands presented on workforce resilience at a Tristsate conference, identifying facility managers as critical pressure points within a residential provider business. Legal and finance businesses have long worked to protect key roles, aware of the pressure that forms around them. Aged care providers can adopt similar approaches.
Social recruiting is an emerging practice that combines the disciplines of marketing and human resources. Unlike traditional ‘head hunting’, practitioners link a careers microsite, designed for a particular candidate segment, to peer and industry networks through social media. The company is able to appeal directly to candidates, provide a window into the real-world experience of the workplace using stories, imagery and video from existing staff. This last point is the most important because we trust the word of our peers more than we trust a company marketing message.
It is predicted that 89% of companies will use social media in their recruitment activities this year. Yet, for many it will be an expensive and risky exercise delivering negligible results.
Strategy is essential.
A well executed social recruiting strategy supports staff engagement and retention and provides rich data to improve business models. Community based seniors’ lifestyle and aged care provider, IRT Group, recently launched a social recruitment campaign, Work Life (www.irtworklife.org.au), targeting nurses and carers to meet the rising demand for its services.
The ability to challenge negative stereotypes about aged care as a career is a key thread in story of the campaign’s content strategy. An upcoming Facebook quiz will reveal misconceptions to participants and gather data that, combined with social media and site analytics, will support not only HR and marketing activity but business strategy.
The Work Life campaign enables IRT employees to tell their peers, via their social networks, authentic stories about how both work and life can be rewarding in aged care. In turn, the company is able to obtain candidates who are suited to the role and workplace culture.
Understanding the context
The ‘global war’ for the best talent is being fought out among 10% of active job seekers. By focusing recruitment spend on traditional head hunting, job boards and advertising, the 90% non-active segment is ignored, often leaving the best people for the job overlooked. Social recruitment enables aged care employers to target the larger non-active segment (as well as those actively seeking a role), ensuring there is a level of trust and awareness about the organisation when a candidate is ready to make a move.
Providers that embrace social recruitment and peer-to-peer networking, like IRT, are noticing a difference. Staff are sharing of work experiences and forging better relationships. Most importantly, providers are finding the right staff.