Aged care providers need to implement flexible working arrangements to boost staff morale and retention, delegates at a national industry congress have heard.
Jessica Fisher, a partner with employment law firm FCB Workplace Law, told the LASA National Congress that it was important for the sector to be more practical towards work schedules to better support the lifestyle needs of staff.
“The most important thing for employees is that they can balance meaningful work with the choices they need for their individual lives,” Ms Fisher told Australian Ageing Agenda at the Adelaide conference.
Leave arrangements, time off in lieu of overtime, work location, adjustments in start and finish times, split shifts, voluntary or self-managed rosters approved by managers and adjustable breaks, training and meeting hours are among the areas aged care providers can become more flexible in, Ms Fisher said.
Ms Fisher said flexible work arrangements could help providers attract and retain the staff they needed across skill levels and ultimately reduce recruiting needs.
“If flexible work arrangements can be deployed and deployed well in meeting the needs of the organisation and individuals, it should improve retention and lower absenteeism,” Ms Fisher said.
Flexible working arrangements can also increase productivity, reduce staffing costs and minimise disputes within facilities, Ms Fisher said.
Having work arrangement that suits staff needs can also lead to better care for residents, Ms Fisher said.
Staff are more likely to feel like what they do makes a difference to residents if they are have a good work-life balance, she said.
Having inflexible work schedules can negatively impact staff, Ms Fisher said.
“Some of the lifestyle choices that go with working shift work can be difficult and have downsides on people’s physical and mental wellbeing,” she said.
Building the right workforce
Elsewhere at the conference, UK-based international speaker Neil Eastwood addressed aged care staffing shortages and how to successfully keep and build the workforce.
Poor staff retention comes from a lack of motivation and engagement issues among staff, said Mr Eastwood, the founder of recruitment tool Sticky People and author of Saving Social Care.
“Staff are leaving early because they are not happy when they’re there,” Mr Eastwood said.
He said welcoming staff and making them feel valued when they begin their employment will reduce staff turnover in the long-term.
“The early period of a care worker’s life in an aged care organisation is the most important period to improve long-term retention,” Mr Eastwood said.
Sending welcome cards when a person accepts the job, ensuring the facility is a friendly environment and that staff are smiling at work are among the strategies providers can implement to ensure staff feel valued, he said.
Mr Eastwood said hiring staff through word of mouth and employee referrals can also help retain care workers long term.
Employee referrals come from staff who know “the values of your organisation and they know exactly who is a caring person,” Mr Eastwood said.
He said valuing connections and making efforts to find the right staff are more effective than quick and convenient recruitment processes.
The LASA National Congress takes place in Adelaide from October 28-30.
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