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How to attract and retain high-quality staff to work in Children's Homes

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How to attract and retain high-quality staff to work in Children's Homes

Professionals in the children’s homes sector do some of the most important social care work in the UK. Children's homes face a complex set of issues that make the task of attracting and retaining skilled professionals a less-than-straightforward undertaking.

Our in-depth research, available in Charles Hunter Associates’ 2024 Salary and Workforce Insights: Children’s Homes report, explores these issues in detail, with important implications for employers.

So, how can children’s homes build an effective strategy to recruit dedicated and loyal staff – and keep them over the long-term? Here, we aim to equip employers with actionable insights for developing a stable workforce. This, we believe, helps ensure that every child receives the nurturing and support they deserve to thrive.

Emphasise Non-Salary Benefits

Whilst pay is a perennial concern for workers in the sector, it’s clear that non-salary factors have attained almost equal importance. Consider the aspects of work that are less tangible – such as commuting times, company values and workplace culture – these are all just as important as the pay on offer for a specific role.

For employers finding it difficult to attract candidates, emphasising the benefits of the role beyond remuneration can make all the difference. Even for positions that are perhaps lower-paid relative to the market, we find employers can attract more candidates when they can highlight benefits such as manageable workloads and hands-on management support, access to learning and career development resources, flexible hours, and a convenient location.

It's also worth highlighting aspects of your organisation that demonstrate its commitment to a shared vision and quality of care. This could involve showcasing initiatives that differentiate your organisation’s work from others in the sector and recognition you have received from industry peers, such as awards.

Don’t Overlook Mental Health

Employee mental health emerged as a significant factor in our survey, influenced by specific elements of workplace conditions. Let's expand on the three major factors highlighted.

Excessive Work Hours: 42% of our survey respondents said long work hours were negatively impacting their mental health – creating potentially high risks for employee burnout in the sector. Addressing this issue requires a concerted effort to promote work-life balance and setting realistic expectations for workloads, which may be supported by additional staff resourcing.

Negative Company Culture: A toxic or unsupportive company culture can potentially create feelings of disengagement and mistrust, which are highly detrimental to employee retention. In environments where there is a lack of transparency, inadequate communication amongst teams, or high tolerance for inappropriate behaviour, employees are more likely to experience heightened stress and anxiety. Cultivating a positive company culture is possible with mutual respect, open communication, and inclusivity.

Poor Interpersonal Relationships at Work: Negative relationships with colleagues or supervisors can quickly strain employee’s mental health and wellbeing and create feelings of isolation. Managers should be on the lookout for conflicts and hostilities and address them quickly. Further – as noted in survey responses we received – managers’ ability to show empathy is an important part of the equation.

Prioritise Flexibility

Flexible working arrangements do have certain practical limits in children’s home environments, but our research findings suggest that job and shift flexibility could be more widely adopted for the purpose of attracting and retaining employees.

Approximately 17% of employers said a lack of flexible working was a top reason for skills shortages, whilst a further 50% identified shift patterns as a factor; fewer than half (44%) of organisations offer some form of flexible working.

Flexibility in children’s homes jobs comes in all shapes and sizes – from remote working to job sharing, to flexible shift patterns such as split shifts or self-scheduling. Incorporating these policies where practicable can play a huge role in attracting and retaining employees with caring responsibilities outside of work and other personal obligations.

Build a Solid Career Ladder

Lack of staff support and development (beyond compulsory training) were cited by employees in our survey as underlying factors in why people leave their jobs and the industry.

Offering support for career development planning and goal-setting helps team members envision their future within the organisation and cultivates a sense of loyalty.

Ultimately, developing career pathways for employees is a long-term investment, one that can help your organisation stabilise its recruitment costs. When hiring externally, whether directly or through a social care recruitment agency, your organisation can use career development policies as a distinct drawcard for open roles.

A Word from our Associate Director, Mark Beaver

Children’s home organisations face numerous operational challenges, including recruitment, which necessitate access to tailored support from service providers who intimately understand the nuances of the sector.

Here at Charles Hunter Associates, we understand that employers are experiencing growing difficulties stemming from public policy decisions, including the increase to the National Minimum Wage.

Compounding these concerns is the government's apparent inertia in providing adequate funding or promoting the care industry as a viable career path. As a result, the sector is fighting to keep employees from leaving for sectors that are more lucrative and have less intense workloads.

We encourage you to tap into the insights we’ve gathered for our report and use them as a yardstick for developing effective recruitment and retention strategies for your teams. Together, we can all work towards building a more sustainable and rewarding future for the care industry and its dedicated workforce.

Get Dedicated Support from a Social care Recruitment Agency

The risk of losing experienced staff or the inability to entice younger professionals into children’s homes jobs is significant for employers. To mitigate it, more than one approach is needed – and those outlined here can help build a workforce that provides consistently excellent care.

To explore our findings in detail, access and download the report here.

At Charles Hunter Associates, a social care recruitment agency established in 2009, we’ve supported over 50,000 professionals with finding roles in Children’s Homes and other social care specialisations. Providing staffing and training services to more than 100 children’s homes, we are versed in assisting employers build dedicated teams, no matter how complex the requirements. Contact us today to find vetted and qualified staff who are ready to make a difference in children's lives.