Improving career opportunities can improve retention while communication is key during recruitment, writes Natasha Egan.

In this story:

  • A provider’s education and mentoring program offers career advancement opportunities
  • Insights from SEEK data including on aged care hiring trends
  • Data-based tips for improving recruitment and retention.

We all know the needs and challenges around recruitment and retention in aged care. The number of workers has to triple by 2050 and overall skill levels must increase.

At the same time, remuneration remains low and turnover high. However, as noted by many including the aged care workforce taskforce, career advancement opportunities can help.

Chianne Cole, Cindy Forward and Aroha Lucas are among 10 recent nursing and allied health graduates who have begun a new education, mentoring and placement program in Western Australia. They will spend the next year working across aged care provider Amana Living’s residential and home aged care and corporate office teams.

Cole, a registered nurse who graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing in 2017, wants to ultimately achieve a Master of Clinical Nursing.

“I am always seeking opportunities to further my education within my nursing career and I am excited to have the opportunity to learn more about aged care nursing within a supportive environment,” Cole says.

As part of the program they will undertake short courses designed and delivered by Edith Cowan University to provide graduates knowledge about caring for older people in residential and community care. They will also receive mentoring from Amana Living staff throughout the program to help them develop clinical and management skills needed for career advancement.

While their aged care experience and qualifications differ, these three participants have a common ambition to develop their skills and a career.

Amana Living graduate program particpants (from left) Chianne Cole, Cindy Forward and Aroha Lucas

Forward is keen to learn more about aged care nursing. The multi-skilled care worker, who achieved her Diploma in Enrolled Nursing in 2018, says she loves working with aged care clients.

 “I have a passion for supporting people living with dementia and I want to further my nursing career in this industry,” she says. “Through the program, I hope to gain exposure to a variety of clinical settings while constantly learning and gaining clinical skills.”

Lucas, a carer and occupational therapy assistant for seven years, also graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing, but a year after Cole in 2018.

“Since starting with Amana Living in 2012, I have felt I have wanted to make a difference in aged care. Completing a graduate program means I can grow as a leader and role model in this sector, enhancing my leadership and critical thinking skills.”

Lucas is working towards becoming an aged care facility service manager or care coordinator.

The program aims to develop first class clinicians and leaders who specialise in supporting older people in a range of environments, says Stephanie Buckland, CEO of Amana Living.

Stephanie Buckland

“We designed this program to improve the skills and career advancement opportunities for nurses and allied health staff in aged care,” says Buckland.

“Through this program we hope to enhance sector development and opportunities to progress, helping to improve recruitment and retention, while creating an agile workforce that is fit for the future.”

Insights from the data

Job seekers are looking for and more likely to stick with aged care roles and organisations with career opportunities says, says James Duncan, national healthcare manager at SEEK. There’s a particular gap in the personal care worker space, he says.

“There is an opportunity around career development and how that can help retention,” Duncan tells Australian Ageing Agenda. “I find in the personal care worker space that high turnover and high churn. The way to offset that is to have some solid career development opportunities for those people to go into nursing, leadership, or mental health, for example.”

He suggests aged care organisations sit down and think of a clear development plan for personal care workers to improve retention. Providers with great career development plans should put it in the job ad, says Duncan.

“Advertise that. Put that in there as a proposition. It is such a big point for candidates out there. You will get better candidates.”

Aged care hiring trends

Duncan says strong hiring demand in aged care is driving the growth in the top two growth sectors, which are healthcare and medical (up 36 per cent) and community and services (up 28 per cent).

Aged care nursing accounts for just over a third of health and medical while aged and disability support account for almost two-thirds of community and services. He says SEEK’s data show these three key job families make up more than 80 per cent of aged care need:

  • the personal care worker space
  • aged care nursing
  • allied health, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology.

Each of these three areas show different challenges and different opportunities, says Duncan.

“At the allied health level, it is a real war for talent in that market. The supply is not really there and it is very fragmented,” he says. “But one of the beauties of that sort of area is, on our database, [candidates] are open to be contacted and approached.”

There are also opportunities for regional providers. The early data from applications showing where jobseekers are moving to indicates that aged care physiotherapists and nurses are open to moving to regional areas, says Duncan.

“We are starting to see some other data on the monitoring candidate’s side – they have not quite applied – that they are willing to move.”

Cost of living in Sydney and Melbourne, work-life balance and career development opportunities that exist in regional areas are among drivers, says Duncan.

“You get a bigger scope of work. You get more responsibility. You get more chances. So for new graduates, for instance, it would be a good move to go to a regional area. You get a good breadth of experience in a short amount of time.”

Duncan says their research shows that work-life balance is a bigger driver than salary for aged care job seekers. “So if hirers focus on some of the work-life balance aspects of their role and some of the career development aspects of the role… they will have a higher quality of candidates applying for their role.”

Communicate during application process

But after attracting high-quality candidates, providers need to make sure the application process doesn’t put them off due to its complexity or lack of information.

Seek’s 2018 study found that 66 per cent of candidates wanted to apply for a role but didn’t go through with the application process.

The number one reason was because they expected the application process to be too complicated or too time intensive.

Not knowing the salary was the next most common reason.

The same study found:

  • 81 per cent of candidates find job ads without details of the recruitment process frustrating
  • 46 per cent hirers include details on how to apply for the role.

The more hurdles there are, the likelier candidates will drop off, and the best candidates are probably the busiest ones and the first to drop off, Duncan says. “While you can do all this work to get candidates to the role, if you put barriers in around the application, all the hard work you have done previously is destroyed.”

Communication is the key to improving any application process, he says.

“Even if it is a really complicated application process, just communicate with the candidate so they know what they are up for… When they do apply, let them know how they are travelling.”

The study also found that:

  • 94 per cent of candidates want to know the recruitment stage they are in and when they are unsuccessful
  • 57 per cent of applicants who haven’t heard back about the job are unlikely to apply for another role at the same company  
  • 66 per cent of applicants who haven’t heard back have negative sentiment towards the company.

It is important to take more care of the candidate through the process because it has a knock-on effect, says Duncan.

“If you don’t do it, the impact it has on your consumer product is detrimental.”

This feature appears in the current edition of Australian Ageing Agenda magazine.

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent revue on ways of structure
    I have worked for Amana for 16 years
    This has given me a lot of insight of what works and what doesn’t
    With structure and enthusiasm Within the team with communication and respect for each other the organisation can reach
    New heights as I believe Team morale
    Is a huge key point along with the organisation asking loyal long time employees for their feed back on the history of their working life within Amana

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