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How can we address the adult social care recruitment crisis?

Article by Leah-Marie Smith, Chief HR Officer - Berkley Care Group.

With unfilled vacancies at a record high, technological innovation is helping to drive recruitment in sectors that have in the past struggled to attract new workers, including adult social care.

From virtual reality office tours for prospective candidates to AI-driven online CV tools, technological innovation is playing an increasingly important role in helping to facilitate the connection and recruitment of candidates across industries. Adult social care is no exception.

 According to the latest Skills for Care data published in July, there were 165,000 vacancies in the UK adult social care sector in 2021/22, an increase of 55 per cent on the previous year. The sector as a whole has been heavily impacted by COVID-19 with many care staff exiting the industry to take up jobs in other sectors, such as hospitality and retail. In the latter, more than half of English care workers could expect to be paid on average 6.3 per cent more than the industry average, according to the King’s Fund think tank. Despite some care providers, such as Berkley Care Group, paying above average industry rates, the perception of the sector as one of low pay and high pressure has, to some, made it an unattractive prospect for potential new hires.

But, a new mobile app, Care Friends, has been developed to help alleviate the sector’s recruitment crisis by facilitating the recruitment of new carers both from within and outside the sector. The app works by incentivising a care provider’s existing staff to share job vacancies listed on the app, which works like a job board. In return for sharing the vacancies within their personal network, staff receive points which can then be exchanged for money, with one point equal to £1. Any expressions of interest resulting from their shares of the advert earn them two points. Candidates’ progression through the various stages of the recruitment process earns staff further points, with the potential to earn up to 250 points if their referral results in a new joiner who stays for six months.

At Berkley Care Group we’ve embraced the app. As part of our broader effort to be at the forefront of technological innovation and improvement, we believe that online referrals by our staff are the perfect way to attract high quality candidates. It’s well known within the social care sector that the highest quality applicants come from word of mouth. Evidence suggests that personal referrals not only deliver higher quality applicants, but that those recruited also stay for longer. The system was initially implemented in two of our care homes: Blenheim House in Wiltshire and Fernhill House in Worcester. We have gradually rolled the app out across our 700 employees since May and passed the 250 sign-ups mark at the end of August 2022.

So far, the system has resulted in over 100 applications to roles across Berkley Care Group. Six new staff have joined as a result of the app, with more than 20 interviews currently pending and five more successful applicants waiting to start work with the group.

At a time when many organisations and industries such as the social care sector are struggling to recruit new workers, innovation in hiring strategies is essential. The implementation of the Care Friends app alongside other technological innovation can help to alleviate the challenges the industry faces. Rather than allocating significant budgetary spend to agency recruitment, the industry should look instead for long-term sustainable solutions to their recruitment challenges.

    "Leah-Marie Smith is Chief HR Officer at industry-leading luxury residential care provider, Berkley Care Group. With nearly two decades experience, she is an expert in her field. "Dedicated to challenging the traditional HR approach, she is a specialist in developing people and organisations alongside commercial growth strategies, with experience in M&A and post-merger implementation activities. "She is also a value-focused collaborative leader with an operational mindset and a strong vision linked to business objectives. "Her passions are developing leadership capabilities, evolving culture and values, creating and leading organisational change, and constantly striving to deliver the best employee experience."

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