While the United States’ economy continues to add jobs, the unemployment rate still rose to 4% in January 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. As a rule, job seekers usually explore opportunities that they believe are available to them—and they may be unaware that the homecare industry can provide them with job security and ongoing support, such as continued education. Home health has more projected job opportunities than any other occupation because of the rapidly aging population, 77% of whom want to age in place, and because of a dramatic caregiver shortage that impacts how the industry can support this choice. With more than 800,000 families already on wait lists for care, this sector has significant opportunities available to job seekers.
Homecare agencies typically focus on potential employees who are already familiar with caregiving and have the required licensing—but this pool of talent is very limited and can’t begin to meet the nation’s need for in-home care. By engaging workers beyond those with direct experience in homecare or a related field, agencies can expand their candidate pools and overcome the caregiver shortage while decreasing turnover and unemployment. By recruiting nontraditional workers and providing them with the resources they need, agency owners will be more successful in filling vital roles and better suited to focus on ensuring quality care for patients.
Recognizing Transferable Skills
A key component to revising recruiting strategies is to understand that as long as the individual possesses the right skills, they can be trained on specifics for the role, such as how to provide hands-on care to patients. A transfer of skills—management capabilities, responsibility, dependability and more—can be much more valuable than a transfer of experience, especially with the right training. Recruiting for the skills needed to succeed in homecare provides access to wider pools of applicants and individuals who are open to learning how to apply their existing skills to a new line of work.
For example, when looking for a scheduler, agencies need someone who is familiar with working in a fast-paced environment, even if their background is not in health care or homecare. Instead, the front-running candidate may come from a fast-food environment and be familiar with working efficiently with high callout rates.
Recognizing these transferable skills and providing tailored educational opportunities and certification is vital to developing strong recruiting practices. Still, learning should not stop there, and staff should also receive on-the-job training from other direct care workers at the agency whom they can shadow during onboarding.
Optimizing Onboarding & Ongoing Support
Recruiting alone is not enough. Many agencies don’t have reliable onboarding and training processes, which are critical to building a strong and competent workforce. Training standards for direct care workers vary widely by job title, care setting and even state; seven states currently have no training requirements for personal care aides. Yet it’s vital to implement high-quality, competency-based training programs to enable workers to deliver the highest quality of care across the board, and that training should be integrated right into the onboarding process.
Advertising your training program in your job posting tells an incoming caregiver that the agency they are joining will be helpful throughout the onboarding process and beyond. In just one example, the Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas instituted this practice—and saw its applications double year over year. Agencies should set a goal to provide a better and more supportive onboarding experience to maintain a competitive edge and explore ways to improve processes that are already in place.
By determining what is most important to caregivers who have recently been onboarded, employers may learn that flexibility in the process is very important to their new employees. For example, while some may have challenges with scheduling multiple calls, they might be more receptive to receiving texts throughout the day, which allows the agency to keep in close contact with them. This information can allow an agency to identify new ways to provide greater flexibility.
To be an employer of choice in this labor market—to both compete for talent within the industry and attract workers from other fields—employers must offer job benefits that are meaningful to caregivers, including education and upskilling pathways. It’s important to go beyond initial or compliance training to offer ongoing skill development classes and tuition reimbursement for certified nursing assistant (CNA) programs, nursing certificates or higher education to allow caregivers to stay engaged and invested in their own professional development.
Education’s Impact on Retention
Once agencies have established their workforce, they must actively engage in retention efforts for new and existing caregivers alike. Given historically high levels of turnover within the industry, it’s safe to say that past retention efforts haven’t proven to be enough, making it important to both understand and support what matters to caregivers in order to keep top talent. In CareAcademy’s recent study, “Education Pathways for Caregivers: an Untapped Opportunity for Employers,” 94% of caregivers who responded said access to further education is an important consideration in accepting a job offer, and 85% stated that they were more likely to stay with their current employer if offered resources to further their education.
Offering educational benefits is an untapped opportunity for agencies to materially impact their recruiting and retention efforts. It can also help maximize caregivers’ value and improve satisfaction in their careers.
For example, after implementing many of these tactics, Right at Home in Gainesville, Georgia, has seen an increase in the retention of highly engaged caregivers. With revenue up 67% in 2021 and a continued focus on improving retention, 90-day turnover has improved by over 30% and the agency has demonstrated significant growth in an increasingly difficult environment, demonstrating that attracting the right talent is achievable.
Education and support go hand in hand when recruiting nontraditional workers in a volatile labor market. By expanding who’s being recruited, listening to staff and figuring out how to best support them from the first point of contact, homecare agencies can work to attract new talent that can provide exceptional patient care while meeting the nation’s growing homecare needs.