To meet the increasing and diverse demands for aged care, our approach to recruiting a workforce needs to evolve, writes Faye Spiteri.
The aged care sector in Australia has been under intense scrutiny in recent years, particularly with the royal commission’s findings exposing significant gaps in a skilled workforce, leading to neglect in the care provided to our elders.
But I am not surprised that the sector cannot attract the right people due to low pay, staff shortages leading to excessive workloads and poor reputation of the sector.
Appointed Fronditha Care CEO in February 2021, during the global pandemic and facing a multimillion-dollar deficit, I witnessed the many challenges facing the sector and the urgent need for a strong and invested aged care workforce.
To meet the increasing and diverse demands for care, our approach to building an aged care workforce to cater for the future needs to evolve.
Transformation to attract the right workforce requires effective management of complex situations, involving a delicate balance between implementing reforms, regulatory requirements and the preferences and decisions of the individuals who may wish to join the sector.
Remaining competitive and relevant to attract and retain the right workforce demands that we step beyond entrenched positions in relation to the structure of our workforce. It demands that we break down the silos and collaborate across all business functions of our organisation and that we listen more carefully to our people. To do this successfully, organisations must focus on their Employee Value Proposition.
An EVP represents the value that is offered to the workforce. It is an environment that fosters professional development and long-term dedication through financial benefits, employment opportunities through a labour agreement, and learning and development pathways.
At Fronditha Care, our EVP speaks to the intangible aspects that enrich our organisation, such as a genuinely supportive work environment and connection to our purpose – every single day.
The effort we put into nurturing our employees and enabling their growth pays great dividends with many of our staff members starting in frontline roles and progressing across functions into senior positions. At a time when the sector is struggling to recruit, we have grown from just under 600 team members to over 800.
But we cannot talk about EVP without mentioning aged care workers’ wages. While Fronditha Care welcomed the recent 15 per cent pay increase announced by the Australian Government for frontline workers, the increase left behind support workers. This oversight will likely leave them feeling undervalued.
To truly deliver service excellence and quality care to elders, all aged care workers must receive the increase. That is every single person working across residential and community services and in corporate functions too. That is what happened at Fronditha Care.
By guaranteeing fair and equitable pay and reward and recognition for all employees, organisations can foster a positive and inclusive work culture that respects the contribution of all their people, no matter their function.
While the introduction of the recent 15 per cent pay increase for frontline workers is a positive step, it is crucial to recognise that addressing the challenges of recruitment, retention and empowerment in the aged care sector requires a comprehensive approach that extends beyond financial incentives.
It requires an approach that must look at organisational EVP and can only be achieved through collaborative efforts involving government at all levels, industry stakeholders and the community in a tripartite partnership working in lockstep.
As aged care providers we have an enormous responsibility to the elders we care for, their families and the community. If aged care services align themselves with a clear mission for building a workforce grounded in purpose that moves beyond a pay rise, we can pave the way for a sustainable and empowered aged care sector that delivers exceptional care to elders in Australia.
Faye Spiteri OAM is chief executive officer of Fronditha Care
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