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12th December 2014

Come unto me you jobless……

key figureFinding the right staff will always be a challenge in care services. However, these days it’s not just a question of choosing the talented from a wide pool of eager applicants.

My service currently has a shortage of 20 per cent of its required care workforce. No matter how you phrase it, this means we are in desperate straits. At no time in our recent history have we been so in demand, in terms of referrals and enquiries, yet we are contemplating the unthinkable. Unless we can recruit new staff, we will have to decline new admissions.

A couple of years ago we found that attracting the right calibre of people to join our excellent service was taking a lot of our managment time, since the application process would net us dozens of candidates for jobs. Moreover, it would take us a great deal of reading and sieving to identify those who were worth interviewing from the deluge of chronically unsuitable people. I’m not being unfair here; there were some truly awful applications.

Tweaking the process

We decided to effect a two pronged attack on our recruitment process. Firstly, we changed where we advertised. We withdrew from the reassuringly cheap (well, free) JobCentre and went instead to more targeted media advertising. We also attended a number of job fairs, the premise being we would be able to actually meet and assess hopefuls before any of us wasted time on an application form.

Secondly, we adapted our application form itself. In order to ensure the candidate provided us with exactly the type and level of information we needed to shortlist, we simplified the style and made the process highly structured. We virtually held their hand and walked them through the application.

These steps did initially help our cause. We found the pool of applicants reduced from hundreds to dozens and the time taken to filter and shortlist was also reduced, as we were able to see clearly the people whose experience and attitude matched our specification.

That was then; this is now.

No more people

As the economy has grown from the slump of 2008, more and more people have been able to find work. Many companies are struggling to attract new recruits to their vacancies, notably in the growth area of care services. From the pool of available workers, fewer and fewer are interested in a job that gives you only one weekend off in three, means getting up very early or getting home very late and could see you getting the occasional thump or spit in the face for your trouble.

We invest over £1,800 to each new care applicant just in terms of the mandatory training they need to ensure we are compliant with regulation. We also pay over the industry norm, offer considerable employee benefits and have an enviably low staff turnover. Our vacancies are due to internal promotion and growth of the service. Being short of people is a horribly expensive business; agency staff is transient and lacks commitment when we need permanence and passion.

The people are just not out there. I hear this from other colleagues across the UK, so I know it’s not just our over-fussy high standards. And I don’t know what to do. For once this blog is not about sharing knowledge and information; its about asking for advice. If you have found the key to successful recruitment and want to share your wisdom, I’m all ears!

Ginny Tyler – QCS Learning Disability Expert Contributor

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