Care Home Staff Retention: Issues and Solutions

We don’t need to tell you how important relationships are in your care home. The interaction between your employees and your residents is a key indicator of quality care. When members of staff leave, it breaks continuity of care.

This is one reason why when the CQC inspects, it examines staffing levels in care homes as an indicator of quality of leadership. But do you now how much poor staff retention really costs you? What strategies should you employ to boost your staff retention rates and stop your workers quitting from your care home?

The quality cost of poor staffing levels in care homes – why the CQC is concerned

Study after study has shown that quality of care is adversely affected when staff turnover is high. This research concludes that:

  • Poor staff retention can cause an inadequate mix of skills in care homes (RCGP, 2012)
  • High employee turnover rates impact negatively on the quality of care in care homes (Low et al, 2015)
  • Poor staff retention is directly linked to poor quality of care in nursing homes (Eaton. 2000)

What does losing an employee cost your care home?

It’s not easy to work out how much losing a member of staff might cost you. Most businesses don’t attempt the calculation, because of this complexity.

Recruitment and HR experts have calculated the average cost as being around half the employee’s annual earnings. Some put it even higher, at as much as two years’ wages. If this sounds ridiculous, consider the factors involved in replacing an employee:

  • Advertising the position
  • Interviewing
  • Hiring
  • Training
  • Management time
  • The cost of covering current vacancies
  • Resident dissatisfaction
  • Administrative costs
  • Lost expertise

Then there’s the ‘knock-on’ effect: when someone leaves, it’s more likely that others will follow. All this is before counting the cost of high staff turnover on the quality of care provided as measured by the CQC at inspection time.

Five steps to improving staffing levels in care homes

Step #1: Get your recruitment right

Identify who is your ideal employee. Look at your long-serving, loyal employees. What character traits do they have in common? Consider, too, your business strategy, and how you expect new recruits to fit in and grow with your business.

Good characteristics for care home employees may include longevity in a previous role, a team player (team sports), and social conscience (a volunteer at a charity or community club, perhaps).

Step #2: Provide a career path

Let people know that you value their contribution (and them) by offering a career path. Training your staff for a career in care is key to staff retention. Reinforce the value of training by promoting from within whenever possible.

Step #3: Make sure that benefits are commensurate with your goals

When you understand how much employee turnover really costs, you may start to understand the value of paying staff what they are really worth. Research by Knight Frank (Is there a link between care home trading performance and CQC rating?) published at the end of 2017 concluded that:

“Operators that invest heavily within staff training programmes, improve staff retention by creating a good working environment and provide competitive remuneration packages, will be more successful in improving the quality of care.”

The research found that:

  • Staff costs per bed were highest at those care homes rated inadequate by the CQC
  • Agency costs as a percentage of staff costs were highest at those care homes rated inadequate by the CQC (approximately six times more)
  • Outstanding care homes paid their care workers an average rate 10.6% higher than inadequate care homes paid theirs (£8.34/hour vs. £7.54/hour)

If you want your staff to stay longer, and the costs of poor staffing levels and high staff turnover fall, pay your employees well, without paying them excessively.

Step #4: Engage your employees in the business

People who are valued as an integral part of the business stay longer. Get your employees engaged. Ask them for their ideas, and encourage them to be open and honest with you. Keep them in the loop with your business plans. Help them decide their educational and development needs to advance their career to benefit both them and you.

Step #5: Be prepared for staff turnover

It is inevitable that employees will leave. Be prepared for when an employee does decide to move on. Head back to step #1, and hire your next care worker who will bring renewed enthusiasm and dedication, and repay your investment in their recruitment.

The longer an employee stays with you, the more productive they will become. Engage the right people. Engage them with the business. Give them a career path. Pay them their true worth. Do these things, and see your CQC rating respond positively as your leadership results in outstanding staffing in your care home.

Do you have a question you want answered? Have you got any tips or advice that would help other care home managers? Contact StriveCare today, and we’ll do our best to pass on the benefit of your care home management experience.

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