Retaining your aged care staff: it’s not personal

It probably won’t surprise you to find this out: research shows that when staff leave, job satisfaction and working conditions are usually far more important than personal reasons.

Research coming out of Griffith University shows that only 12 per cent of people’s intentions to leave were due to their own health, age or looming retirement. The other 88 per cent was actually due to things the organisation did (or didn’t do).

But what does this really mean for my organisation?

Aged care is no different to any other sector. You need to invest in you staff, to attract and retain the best employees. Following are a few ideas that we’ve seen work to retain and engage good staff in community services:

  • Training and development
  • Manageable workloads
  • Flexibility (such as letting staff choose their start and finish times)
  • Financial incentives

It’s worth zeroing in on rewards and incentives, as this tactic is often seen as the go-to solution for engaging staff. So often we assume that money matters most: people will always choose the job with the most pay.

However, Griffith University’s research shows that a positive work environment and high staff morale are far more important.

This is great news for the aged care sector. You may not be able to compete with big end of town when it comes to salary and financial benefits. But culture and flexibility — that is within your reach.

Counting the cost of flexible work

At this point you may be thinking to yourself, “We can’t afford to offer flexibility, leave conversion and give time off work for training”. But what you need to consider is whether you can afford not to.

A paper from the Center for American Progress shows the average cost to replace an employee:

  • 16% of annual salary for high-turnover, low-paying jobs
  • 20% of annual salary for mid-range positions
  • Up to 213% of annual salary for highly-educated executive positions.

We’d expect the Australian figures to be very similar.

And that doesn’t even begin to take into account other costs such as:

  • advertising, interviewing, screening, and hiring
  • training a new staff member
  • lost productivity
  • lower morale as other staff members see colleagues leave.

What about the NDIS?

With the NDIS rolling out across Australia, we expect to see further strain on the aged care sector.

Unfortunately, people who acquire a disability past the age of 65 are the responsibility of the aged-care sector; they’re not eligible for assistance under the NDIS. And you’ve no doubt seen the strain this puts on your workforce.

Your operations are geared towards end-of-life care, and may not be prepared to deal with patients who are severely disabled.

That can place enormous stress on staff, who may feel ill-equipped to care for people with complex disabilities.

That’s why you need to offer training and up-skilling, so good people stay with you, and help your business navigate the changes.

What can you do right now?

With your staff under pressure, it’s important to have a release valve. That’s where flexibility around leave comes into play. Griffith University’s paper suggested converting leave as one way to give staff time off, without a big cost to your business. Their idea was allowing staff to convert sick leave to recreation leave, or to take an extra weeks’ annual leave on top of the legislated four weeks.

This is a pretty easy fix that you can implement almost immediately, with minimal changes to your payroll systems.

When you’re expecting more from your staff, this is one way you can show them that it’s worth staying with you.