The Australian aged care workforce is in crisis and one of the biggest challenges facing the sector is a lack of talent entering the workforce.
According to data from the National Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey (NACWCS), the median age for residential direct care workers is 46. This rises to 52 for home and support care workers. Couple an aging workforce with an aging population and it becomes clear that we need to plan for the future now, to be sure that there are enough workers to keep up with an increasing demand for aged care services.
But it’s not just the aged care industry that’s struggling. We recently hosted a roundtable lunch to discuss some of the major hiring challenges for organisations across the care sector today. We invited a number of HR and recruitment professionals to weigh in on this important topic. Throughout the conversation, our guests identified some of the key roadblocks that may be responsible for a talent shortage and offered up some ideas and solutions that organisations could try to help overcome them.
Here, we share four major challenges along with our attendees’ insights on each and tips for overcoming them.
1. Shortage of clinical staff with the required skills
One of the biggest issues the care sector is facing is a shortage of clinical staff with the skills and vocational training required to fill certain roles. Even if care providers start to tackle this problem now, it’s likely we won’t see the rewards for five to 10 years. So what can be done in the meantime?
It’s important to look at how your organisation can differentiate within the market and identify what you can offer candidates that others can’t. Are there certain incentives or allowances that you could highlight to attract clinical staff? Are there ways you can create clear career paths that account for candidates’ long-term goals?
To help encourage students into the required fields of study, consider forming relationships with High Schools, Tafes and Universities. Create informative resources that educate students on how they can navigate different career options in the sector. Get in front of students, using tools like Explore Careers, to show where there is a need for skills and offer them confidence that there will be great jobs available for them once they finish their studies.
“Fundamentally, not enough people are being trained with the clinical skills needed to fill roles in the care industry. There is a lot of competition across allied health and educational institutions aren't promoting a career in aged care as a first preference. Society’s current perception of the industry is unfortunately quite negative and it is going to take the sector coming together to flip that perception.
A good starting point would be to run more targeted campaigns that shine a light on how important roles in the care sector are and how many valuable and sustainable career paths are available to those with the right skill set.”
- Garth Quinn, Recruitment Lead, Uniting
2. The challenging reality of care sector work
There’s no denying it, working in the care industry means there will be some challenging work involved. So, it’s important not to sugarcoat the day-to-day realities of the role while also highlighting the value and difference a person can make.
Manage candidates’ expectations right from the very start of the process, don’t just sell them the dream. One suggestion was to create videos for certain roles, showing candidates what a day in the job might look like. Be sure these videos show the positive impact a person can make, while showing some of the challenging tasks that will be expected of them. This also presents a good opportunity to show candidates how they can access further support or educational resources.
Ideally, you want to create a hiring process that allows candidates who are not suitable for the work involved to self-select out as early during the process as possible and encourage those who are excited by both the challenges and rewards to put themselves forward
3. Society’s perception of the care sector
Another challenge that was discussed, is how the general public perceives the care sector. Unfortunately, there are many factors that are painting a negative picture and currently detering ideal candidates (which is only perpetuated further by negative media coverage).
It is important to continue to challenge society's current perception. One suggestion included marketing to specific demographics to counter certain views and attract candidates who might not usually consider a career in care. For example, there is a misconception that care work is better suited to women. So, a recruitment marketing campaign targeting male teenagers to show them clearly how they could pave a valuable career in the sector, would be a great way of reaching a potentially untapped audience.
“The employees who work in the care sector are extremely misunderstood, societies perception of being a support worker is as a low end, low socio economic role for those who are lower educated or seen as a last resort occupation.
The sector is far from this, being a disability support worker in 2020 is a challenging, continuously changing role that is governed by compliance where the worker is expected to be flexible and multi skilled.
It is no longer ‘caring’ for our clients, it is empowering our clients on a daily basis through active behaviour support and community access and participation. The market is now competitive so clients can change providers at any time, the disability support worker is now the gold of every organisation. Without them there is no service.”
- Alison Dews, Senior HR Business Partner, Sylvanval
4. Challenges with recruitment technology
Great technology can be a helpful way to automate and fast-track admin-heavy tasks throughout the recruitment process yet it came up as a challenge for some in the sector. Many of the hiring managers currently in the care industry have come from a hands-on background and are less familiar with using a lot of computer software in their work environment.
A way to help overcome this challenge is by offering training and help educate people in the benefits of using tech to help save time and add consistency, security and data-driven insights to a process.
Additionally, before implementing new tech into the hiring journey, carefully consider what challenges you’re facing throughout the current recruitment process and find the right tech to help solve those issues.