Boosting Recruitment is Only Half the Battle - Why We Can’t Lose Sight of RetentionSarah Bullock, Head of Leadership & Organisational Development and Buffy Sparks, Head of Operational Learning & Development at HC-One

As the UK’s population ages, more of us will have complex care needs that require specialist support, not least those relating to dementia, which now affects over 70% of all care home Residents. Against this backdrop, the social care workforce shortages are well documented, and ever growing.

However, our focus as a sector is on attracting more people to a career in care should not mean that we lose sight of the abundance of skills, passion, and commitment to learning that exists in our current workforce.
Investing in the skills and training of the care workforce supports meaningful personal development and career pathways for carers which is an attractive offer to those considering a move into the sector. It is also critically essential for society more broadly that the sector has both the capacity and expertise to support people in later life as dementia care needs become increasingly complex and require more specialist support. 
It therefore matters more than ever that care providers have an open-minded approach to ways they can support staff in developing and diversifying their skills – whether that be carers, chefs, managers or housekeepers.

Across the sector we practice values-based recruitment, but this approach shouldn’t stop once you get in the front door: values-based learning, growth and development is also really important when it comes to readying Colleagues for leadership roles. We have seen through our Aspiring Home Managers Programme how much giving somebody the confidence in their skills and abilities can develop them into great leaders. The training is open to anybody working at HC-One who share our core values, current participants have come from a range of backgrounds including nursing, administration, care, and deputy management. We have seen some great success stories with several of our alumni going on to secure permanent leadership roles within our homes.
By opening up development pathways to a wider, more diverse, audience, we are moving away from traditional career trajectories and discovering fantastic new talent amongst our existing workforce. Providing a demonstrable, clear progression opportunity helps not only to attract new starters but also retain existing Colleagues. Moreover, it builds sustainability as it dials up a level of readiness in our aspiring Home Manager community which supports with succession planning and can expediate filling vacancies more quickly– a positive move for the sector which struggles to attract and retain people with the right skillset for this complex role. 

Widening access to learning and development opportunities does not need to be limited to those looking to become Managers and people leaders. We are proud to be able to offer non-registered care Colleagues the chance to gain a Registered Nursing Associate (RNA) qualification via the apprenticeship route. The two-year programme combines theoretical and practical learning, enabling individuals to perform more complex tasks than a non-registered Colleague, and diversifying their skillset.

This is not just training for training’s sake. The most important factor in any learning and development offer is that it has a meaningful impact in equipping the care workforce to best meet the needs of people using social care services. That means that across the sector there is no more time to delay the upskilling of care staff, at all levels, in specialist dementia care. Our new dementia care Learning & Development offer is rolling out to all our homes this year. Having the right people with the right skills in the right place is crucial for delivering person-centred care. The tiered training approach takes Colleagues on a journey of increased learning as they progress with HC-One, but always has Residents at its heart: seeing them for who they are, not their condition.
Those of us working in the sector know all too well the misrepresentation that care is an unskilled profession, with little opportunity for development. It is up to us as providers and sector leaders to counter this myth, and to foster a culture of learning and professional advancement however we can. Investing in such a culture pays out – it supports succession planning and workforce development, not to mention ultimately reducing high recruitment and productivity costs.

More importantly, when we focus on valuing and developing the skills that already exist in the care sector, we better equip individuals and organisations to meet the increasingly complex needs of those we care for. This will raise parity of esteem with other sectors, and help to future-proof ourselves against being faced with the same, or worsening, workforce pressures again and again in the next few years.
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