Complacency not an option, providers advised

All aged care organisations need to be vigilant in considering and monitoring the needs of their workforce, an upcoming conference will hear.

All aged care organisations need to be vigilant in considering and monitoring the needs of their workforce, a provider executive tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

Workforce and culture must be the priorities right now, says Sylvia Powell, executive manager of people and culture at South Australian aged care provider Resthaven.

“Resthaven has always been privileged in that we’ve been very successful in attracting and retaining quality staff for long periods of time. But like everyone else, the last few years have shown that no one’s immune. COVID has not discriminated,” Ms Powell told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Sylvia Powell

“We are all required to step up. Complacency is not an option now. All organisations need to reconsider, and constantly be vigilant in monitoring their workforce, their movements, and their needs – especially as the circumstances change,” she said.

Ms Powell is presenting on Resthaven’s employee engagement strategy to reduce turnover and maximise retention at the Aged Care Workforce Leaders Forum next Tuesday.

The strategy is part of a new workforce plan called Inspiring People at Resthaven, which has a culturally-diverse workforce of around 3,000 staff aged between 17 and 77. It comes in response to a new trend at the organisation attributed to COVID, which has seen individuals on a global scale reassess their priorities and what matters most, she said.

“All age profiles need different things and flexibility has become an emerging issue for us so we need to consider that among other things,” Ms Powell said. “The data over the last 12 months – and the staff movements that we’ve been monitoring – have indicated a shift in what we’ve traditionally experienced, which resulted in us thinking about what we need to do differently,” she said.

These people are our greatest priority right now. They are our enablers to continue the service delivery.

“We need to think about what our staff need and also think about the variety of different opportunities they have. We can’t wait for government to deliver on things that we may need today. And we also have to think about long term; planting seeds today that will yield a benefit in the [future].”

Employee value proposition

Resthaven is looking at all aspects of workforce from attraction to retention, growth, leadership and wellbeing, and a range of priorities for the short, medium and long term via a multifaceted strategy.  An employee attraction and retention strategy includes an employee value proposition – to be launched mid-year – about the strength of Resthaven’s brand and the reason people want to work for the organisation.

“We are working with our staff, whose voices we heard last year in a climate survey, and we’re continuing to have focus groups to define and refine the reason our people come to Resthaven, why they stay and why they believe Resthaven is a unique employer who provides unique benefits to them.”

The strategy also involves consolidating existing initiatives and developing and growing others. In addition to sector-wide benefits of working in aged care, such as salary sacrifice provisions, Resthaven offers a range of wellbeing provisions for staff, Ms Powell said. They include different paid leave options, an employee assistance program and an early intervention physiotherapy initiative. There are also resources, paid leave and other support available for women experiencing domestic violence.

“These are all free services for our staff that enable them to support their whole self,” she said. “We want to continue to grow that and the best people to tell us what their needs are today – not what it was yesterday – are our own staff, which is why [we have] these focus groups.”

‘Start today’

Ms Powell wants to make it clear that she and Resthaven do not have all the solutions. However, she said, importantly the organisation is working on it with a commitment from the board and executive, led by chief executive officer Darren Birbeck.

“I want to be really honest; we don’t have all the answers. We’re coming at it with what we are doing.  The first bit is that we make it a priority; that workforce is our priority. The workforce plan that we’re working through is our first commitment in our roadmap on where we need to head and that is multifaceted. It’s looking at all aspects of workforce from the wellbeing to attraction, retention, growth and leadership, as well as the role and responsibility that leaders have in supporting that.”

Her key message on workforce strategy to “anyone in aged care is that they do need to start today”. “They cannot put it off,” Ms Powell said.  The first step is asking the questions and the most important follow up is listening and then taking action, she said. “These people are our greatest priority right now. They are our enablers to continue the service delivery.”

The Aged Care Workforce Leaders Forum takes place in Melbourne on 28-29 March.

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Tags: aged care workforce leaders forum, featured, resthaven, sylvia powell, workforce,

5 thoughts on “Complacency not an option, providers advised

  1. Here’s an idea – Wouldn’t it be great if you could hire some retiree’s/people on pensions to be able to undertake those small things that mean alot eg, those that are mobile, to assist to go to the toilet, assisting people with meals, helping those that need a helping hand only in getting dressed, showering – and the time given to shower not a time constraint on this and spending the time with our aged, which is really what they all want. You could easily match up the Resident with people within this age group. There could be a training program based on the basics too. This would assist in a high reduction of behaviours and those unmet needs we all hear about, the reduction in the need of psychotropic drugs, which we all know is so true but time constraints do not give us the time we wish to spend with a person. Instead of a culture that has permeated over the past 2.5 years of over working, at times bullying with a high demand of working more and more without any consideration given to the workforce within the group when short staffed (dramatically). Now just need the Government to come on board and not tax 50c in the pension dollar or taking away entitlements for our mature workforce.

  2. Agree with L Galea about taxing mature workers. That is from the 1950s.

    Workforce issues apply also in retirement villages which are under state law not federal.

  3. Hi Louise
    This is a good and strategic idea and one we need to really think about. With an ageing population, we will be reliant on our older population to fill many positions. Many pensions also want to continue working and in roles that are meaningful for them and which increase social engagement. What you outline above is a solution to a current and future aged care workforce crises .

  4. The fact is the organisations do not want to pay … they want volunteers.
    The application process is OTT and volunteers are treated like servants.

  5. I won’t be volunteering in aged care after working more than 20 years in the sector that gives nothing to the person who invests themselves in it. If there’s no benefit for me, then there’s nothing to give to Others. I can’t continue to volunteer on the basis of gender, goodwill and extension of a caring nature.

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