How To Retain Your Carers And Support Workers

Cécile Caminade

Written on 13 April, 2022
happy home carer though recruitment and retention
Retaining carers and support workers is getting harder than ever. These 6 strategies will help build your reputation as a great place to work.

With a growing number of carers and support workers leaving the industry, you might be wondering what you can do to reduce churn in your team and keep your most dedicated staff.

There’s a formula for retaining essential workers like these, and getting it right can help your business to benefit from greater staff productivity, loyalty and retention.

We’ll describe the steps you can take to retain staff during COVID and beyond. But first, we’ll briefly discuss current issues with carer recruitment and retention. Knowing more about these can help you better understand the strategies we discuss.

Why is it so hard to attract and retain carers and support workers?

If you feel like attracting and retaining care and support workers is harder than ever, you may be right. Over the last few years, several forces have impacted the care and support workforce. Firstly, COVID-19 caused severe disruption to the sector. Issues like facility lockdowns, vaccine mandates and changing close contact rules left many employers grappling to maintain adequate staffing levels.

COVID-19 also accelerated the so-called Great Resignation – the trend seeing an unprecedented number of people quitting their jobs. Australian treasury figures show people are taking up new roles at an almost 10% higher rate than was average before the pandemic. In the quarter to November 2021, over a million workers started new jobs, with around 300,000 saying they left a job to find better opportunities.

Business experts have also attributed the Great Resignation partly to job dissatisfaction. Research reported in MIT Sloan Management Review showed a toxic corporate culture was the top predictor of employee turnover. Also on the list were job insecurity and failure to recognise employee performance.

Professor Anthony Klotz, who predicted the trend and coined the term ‘Great Resignation’, told the BBC people are increasingly seeking “jobs that give them the right pay, benefits and work arrangements in the longer term.” Workers are on a quest to gain a better work-life balance. Organisations who can meet this need are positioned to attract and retain staff.

This is especially important considering National Skills Commission figures predict the number of jobs in healthcare and social assistance to grow by 301,000 to November 2026. This will make attracting and retaining care and support workers even more competitive, highlighting the need for effective strategies.

6 ways to retain your support workers and care staff

The upside of this trend is that organisations who look after their people are ideally placed to attract and retain quality talent. Here are six ways to do it.

1. Have a clear employee value proposition suited to frontline workers

Your employee value proposition (EVP) is the unique set of benefits your employees receive in return for the skills, capabilities, and experience they bring to you. Your EVP should embody the essence of your company, covering what you stand for and why people choose to work for you.

Your EVP needs to be compelling and aligned to the needs of shift-based, deskless workers. Consider your business’s key selling points and how they benefit your staff. For example, do you pay above award rates or offer flexible working arrangements?

2. Foster a great company culture

As already noted, a toxic culture was a key driver of staff turnover during the Great Resignation. The same research found companies with a reputation for a healthy culture had lower-than-average turnover during its first six months. Furthermore, Australian research found that 50% of millennials say a strong culture and good reputation are the top factors when choosing an employer.

Some ways to establish a thriving culture include:

Recognising and rewarding great work

Care workers play a vital role supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. They mostly do this for relatively low wages and without any expectation of fanfare. Regularly recognising and rewarding the wonderful work of your staff can be a powerful point of difference. You could do this by:

  • Publicly recognising great work at staff meetings or through business-wide messaging

  • Providing gifts or bonuses, such as team lunches or gift vouchers

  • Taking the time to thank staff personally

  • Giving staff extra time off or early marks

  • Offering promotions or salary increases.

Being open to ideas

Your workplace culture is more likely to flourish when staff know they are seen and heard. As they go about their daily tasks, your care and support workers may think of ways to do things better. Welcome their suggestions, including any criticisms about your business. Constructive criticism can provide great insights into how to improve your operations, helping you establish a reputation as a top place to work.

Getting social

Getting to know each other as people is a great way to grow connections and build a healthy workplace culture. The analysis reported in MIT Sloan Management Review found that sponsoring social events was a key action managers could take to reduce worker attrition. Ideas include:

  • Team lunches or happy hours – either in person or online

  • Participation in team events, such as sports or fun runs

  • Team-building exercises, such as outdoor or online trainings.

3. Provide opportunities for staff to flourish

High achievers tend to be lifelong learners, so providing opportunities for growth and advancement are key to hanging onto your top performers. This may be in the form of promotions or paying for staff to attend professional development courses.

The MIT Sloan report also found that giving workers the opportunity to take on fresh challenges or different roles (without a promotion) meant they were less likely to quit. You could ask your staff whether they would like to lead a project, take on additional responsibility (with commensurate remuneration), or move to a different area of your business.

4. Prioritise worker wellbeing

Workplace stress is incredibly common and has been accelerated by COVID-19, with an Ipsos survey revealing that 51% of Australians feel stressed due to changed work routines. Care and support workers perform work that can be physically and emotionally demanding and therefore may be particularly vulnerable to stress and burnout.

Looking after the health and wellbeing of your workers can help ensure they stay fit enough to do their jobs, while establishing your reputation as a leading employer. In fact, global research has shown that organisations who look after the health and wellness of their staff are 2.5 times more likely to be seen as a best performer and three times more likely to be highly productive. Ways to foster worker wellbeing include:

  • Encouraging access to employee assistance programs when needed

  • Paying for gym memberships, massages, or Pilates or yoga classes

  • Providing healthy snacks.

5. Communicate with your employees

Open and honest communication goes a long way towards building trust and establishing positive workplace relationships. However, research shows 84% of deskless employees such as care and support workers believe they don’t get enough direct communication from top management. You can stand out by being different.

In addition to encouraging new ideas, check in regularly with your care and support workers about things like whether their workloads are appropriate. Ask them what you could do to make their working lives better.

6. Give your staff quality digital tools

Empowering your staff involves giving them the necessary tools to do their jobs effectively. Care and support workers who are doing different shifts, often at various locations, need quality digital technology to support the mobile, flexible nature of their work.

ShiftCare has been purpose-built to enable frontline workers to do their jobs successfully. It enables your staff to manage their shifts, record their notes and co-ordinate their clients – all from the convenience of an app on their mobile device.

At the same time, it helps you provide a better experience by facilitating communication and correct staff payments.

Try ShiftCare for free today to see how it can help you provide a great employee experience and deliver high-quality care.


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