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Tackling the care worker shortage: 5 effective strategies for retention 

Care worker helping the elderly

The care worker shortage and high turnover rates in the home care industry are a constant struggle for organisations. Currently, the turnover rate is about 30%, and replacing an employee can cost over $11,000 AUD in resources. So, the big question is, why is the turnover rate so high in this industry? How have other home care organisations tackled this problem successfully?     

Actionable tips for care worker retention and fostering a better work environment

1. Create a culture of trust with effective communication 

 “Care workers will go where they are most supported, most heard, and have the tools to do their work.”  

Jennifer Maxwell, CEO and Co-Founder at Maxwell Healthcare Associates, episode 6 of the Home Health 360 Podcast

Effective communication between care workers, staff, and management is pivotal to this. By actively listening to their concerns and demonstrating that their opinions matter, you create a supportive culture. This promotes loyalty and reduces turnover rates. A responsive and attentive approach fosters trust and belonging within your team. Therefore, empowering care workers to deliver exceptional care, while forging strong bonds within your organisation.   

Here are some helpful tips managers can use to ensure effective communication with their care workers: 

  1. Establish a care worker mentor program: Pairing new care workers with experienced ones can foster a supportive environment. Thereby, improve skill sharing, and boost confidence among staff.  
  2. Communicate to build relationships, not just for work logistics: While logistical conversations are necessary, it’s important to also engage in dialogues that build relationships and show genuine concern for your care workers.    
  3. Embrace mobile communication tools: Using modern communication tools, like secure messaging on care worker mobile apps, can simplify and enhance interactions. Making it easier to stay connected and address issues promptly.  
  4. Schedule time blocks for communication: Regularly scheduled times for emails, texts, and calls can help manage workload and ensure consistent communication from the managers to care workers.   
  5. Be present: Managers showing empathy and attentiveness during conversations can foster trust and stronger relationships. 

2. Utilise a better scheduling process to improve visits and commuting time 

Effective scheduling and manageable commuting are critical components in care worker retention. A well-structured schedule respects the care worker’s time, reduces burnout, and allows for a healthy work-life balance. On the other hand, reasonable commuting is vital. Extensive travel times can lead to fatigue, decreased job satisfaction, and ultimately, higher turnover rates.   

The most effective solution to better scheduling and commuting is investing in a software platform that can streamline scheduling and commuting. Home care software with automated scheduling accompanied by advanced algorithm capabilities can save schedulers hours compared to manual methods. It can also ensure every care worker gets consistent hours.   

When it comes to commuting time, software with visit optimisation tools can configure the scheduling workflow to minimise travel time, saving hours of driving. With manual methods and guesswork, as VHA Home HealthCare’s Director of IT, Drew Wesley, points out, “care workers can travel up to four hours to complete eight hours of actual care delivery.” But with the right tools, you can reduce travel time for your care workers by assigning them visits that are closer in proximity to them. This is especially helpful for care workers who rely on public transportation to get to each visit.   

With improved scheduling and commuting, care workers can focus more on delivering care and less on administrative tasks.  

Scheduling optimisation for home and disability care

A closer look at AlayaCare

3. Invest in training and career development to boost confidence and job performance 

Training and development play a significant role in care worker retention. Comprehensive training equips care workers with the necessary skills and boosts their confidence and job performance. Ongoing professional development fosters a sense of growth and progression, strengthening their loyalty to the organisation and reducing turnover.   

For example, according to Home care  Pulse (HCP), better training can increase care worker retention. They found that care workers who have 6 or more hours of orientation had a higher retention rate than those who had lower, and those who had 8 hours or more of on-going training had a higher retention rate than those who had less than 8 hours of training. 

“In some states, caregivers can provide care after just a few weeks of training. As a result, they’re thrust into the ‘real world’ to care for real people with real illnesses and they are NOT prepared.  They can quickly feel overwhelmed. And an overwhelmed caregiver is much more likely to quit.”

Home Care Pulse 

Therefore, investing in efficient care worker training is crucial to creating a supportive and empowering environment that enhances retention.  

Here are some tips: 

  • Train and upskill your care workers: Regular training sessions not only enhance care workers’ skills, but also show them that they are valued and their professional development matters.  
  • Invest in a robust onboarding program: A comprehensive onboarding process can equip new hires with the necessary tools and knowledge to succeed, boosting their confidence and job satisfaction.  
  • Consider investing in care worker training programs: There are companies that exist specifically to help with care worker training, which is incredibly helpful for organisations that don’t have the time or resources to set up training modules.  
  • Regular tech training: Care workers should fully use their daily work software. Proper training can boost work speed and happiness. Many tech companies offer training to help users get the most from their tools.  

4. Recognise your employees for their hard work and reward them for it 

By recognising and appreciating the unwavering dedication of your care workers in delivering exceptional services to clients, you cultivate a sense of value and purpose within your team.   

According to a survey by Achievers, “Lack of recognition” (19%) is a top three reason why employees are looking for or considering leaving their jobs, after compensation (52%) and career growth (43%). Empowering your care workers through recognition not only enhances their job satisfaction but also supercharges their performance, leading to improved outcomes for both clients and your organisation.  

Home Health 360, Episode 30

How an incentive program can be the key to increase care worker retention and recruitment for your organisation

How an incentive program can be the key to increase caregiver retention and recruitment for your agency

5. Empower care workers with mobile apps and better task management 

Innovative home care systems and software solutions have revolutionised how care workers manage their tasks. To ensure the highest quality of care, providers must equip their care workers with the necessary tools to excel.  These advanced technologies provide care workers with access to real-time information, enabling them to be better informed and prepared for client visits.  

For example, a well-designed mobile app can revolutionise how care workers manage their time and tasks. GPS-based mobile care management systems can streamline client care, while record-keeping eliminating hours of manual work.  

Technology presents everything a care worker needs to know about each client, including medical information and notes on potential issues prior to an appointment. Real-time communication between care workers and office staff also ensures accurate, fast data collection and reporting —transparency that helps build trust between care workers and their employer. 

5 emerging AI trends in home care in 2024

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