Can technology rescue us from the homecare worker recruitment crisis?

Picture of Neil Eastwood, Founder & CEO at Care Friends
Posted by Neil Eastwood, Founder & CEO at Care Friends

Innovation, particularly made possible by new technology, is really coming of age in the homecare sector. Most progress right now is being made in the areas of operational efficiency and care quality with widespread take up of the latest affordable and user-friendly digital tools by homecare providers.

However, in my world of recruiting care staff, things have been much less rosy. Firstly, because the challenge of finding quality applicants and converting them into employees is getting harder by the day and secondly, because technology has really not been the homecare recruiter’s friend so far. In fact, in some cases it has made things much worse. Let’s look at what’s been happening and consider if there is better news coming.

Digital disconnection

From my research into homecare worker recruitment around the world, a consistent theme has emerged: the better quality applicants come from a personal connection with the company, with family caring or with giving and volunteering. The less connection with one of those factors, the far less chance of a successful hire who stays more than a few months.

This explains some of the reasons why internet job boards are such a poor source of caring staff. There is often no motivation, no relationship and no commitment amongst job board applicants towards caring. Homecare recruiters have developed a dependency on this channel because it delivers volumes of applications fast. Instead, we need to change our core measure to the quality of each applicant and who stays in the role longest.

Facebook is an interesting example to bring in here. There is a strong element of connection in this social media platform and that explains why many homecare recruiters are finding more success from this platform than from internet job boards. In addition, of course, each applicant is not being chased by other care providers who have also just received their CV.

Technology and workforce displacement

If we look into wider society not only in the UK, Ireland and Finland but globally, then technology is set to displace large sections of the labour force. One example in the news now is the loss of ‘High Street’ retail jobs due to the growth of online shopping (as well as rising rents and other economic factors). This could create an opportunity for savvy homecare employers, who can sell the benefits of a job in care effectively in their local community, to convert some of these displaced workers.

Further into the future, it is expected that many manual, repetitive and commercial driving jobs could be superceded by automation. Of course, this may impact men more than women and means care providers need to reframe their offer to appeal to this demographic group who up until now have been under-represented.

Meeting the expectations of Millenials and Generation Z

I recently wrote an article on LinkedIn about how care employers need to change the way they recruit to attract younger job seekers. One of the recent technology adoptions gathering pace in the care sector is the use of Applicant Tracking Systems (‘ATS’s). This is software that helps a recruiter process attract and large numbers of applicants. At the last count, there are 332 ATS products available on the market but many make the online application form far too off-putting for the average candidate for a care role.

Being asked to create an account, to upload a CV when applying on their mobile phone as many choose to, or completing pages of dense forms without any person to person connection beforehand, will see a high percentage of drop-outs and bounces. Recruiters should prioritise those ATS’s that offer a great user experience, particularly when applying on a mobile phone. It is also important that a personal relationship can be built with prospective employees early in the process and that we source selectively to prioritise those recruitment channels, such as employee referral and word of mouth, that reliably deliver a high potential applicant pool.

What's around the corner?

Technology’s contribution to solving the recruitment crisis has been decidedly patchy so far. Homecare recruiters should expect more from digital innovation. Given my well-known interest in this area, I have been privileged to have entrepreneurs share their upcoming social care recruitment innovations with me and I am excited by the potential impact of what I have seen. Not to be left out, I am also soon to launch an app called Care Friends, which focuses on maximising employee referrals, the source most commonly ranked by homecare managers as their best source of quality candidates.

So, maybe the tech cavalry is finally riding over the hill to help homecare providers in their hour of need as they attempt to address the impending global workforce shortage? Stay tuned to find out!

Neil Eastwood is the author of the book Saving Social Care, the founder and CEO of Care Friends, Founder of Sticky People Ltd., and a well-known public speaker.

Neil is dedicated to helping social care find solutions to the many crises it faces as his many projects prove. His book Saving Social Care finds ways to solve how to provide enough quality care for an ageing society, Sticky People helps employers pre-screen to select the highest potential care and nursing staff, while his newest start-up Care Friends empowers the social care workforce to encourage more of their friends and contacts to join them.