According to a report last year by Skills for Care, there are some 1.47 million people working in adult social care in England alone. That’s in addition to the nurses and other healthcare professionals who are employed in care and nursing homes across the sector.

With an increasingly ageing population pushing demands on care services, this has led to an increase in the number of open job opportunities for experienced carers. Positioned as ‘good news’ for the future of the healthcare sector, this brings critical recruitment challenges for the future that need to be addressed today. Care jobseekers now have more choice than ever, good carers are increasingly transient and can afford to be more selective in who they choose to work for and what roles they decide to accept.

This presents a very real challenge for healthcare recruiters and healthcare organisations who are seeking to attract the best candidates. Bringing new people into the sector is also proving to be a challenge and the overspend on temporary agency staff is on the rise according to the latest CQC State of Care report. The average age of the caring workforce is 43 and there are currently around 320,000 workers who are over the age of 55. Attracting a younger demographic is important in order to replace those who will retire in the next few years. This is made even more vital when you consider that a further 650,000 job places will need to be filled by 2035 to cope with the care needs of an ageing population.

The challenge is that many younger candidates are looking for careers that give them the opportunity to learn specialist skills. Another challenge, at least according to some in the care industry, is that the profession is viewed as a ‘last resort’ rather than a future career that has value and the chance to progress.

What Jobseekers Are Really Looking For

Care jobseekers can largely pick and choose who they decide to work for because there are plenty of live opportunities. The healthcare organisations that are visibly appealing and able to offer additional benefits are more likely to attract higher quality candidates, and retain them.

Over the last year at Go Apply, we’ve been made more aware of the benefits that care jobseekers now value most as part of a job offer:

1. Help With Transport/Transport Costs

The cost of travelling to work is certainly one factor care jobseekers put at the top of their list when considering their next post. Carers often work varying shift patterns which don’t always chime with local travel provision, especially if their place of work is in a fairly remote location.

The price of transport, certainly in many inner-city areas, can be prohibitive. Even if carers have their own transport, finding parking and the cost in petrol can be an issue. One of our clients offer free transport to and from their care home from the local train station. This has been a hugely attractive benefit to the candidates that we have engaged with for this particular role.

2. Reduced Cost Meals Available Onsite

Most jobs come with hidden extra costs and the care sector is no different. One added benefit that care jobseekers are likely to be attracted by is a reduced cost or even free meals onsite where they work. For care homes that are again situated more remotely, where there isn’t a local shop or café at which staff are able to buy lunch or a snack, this is doubly important.

A few of our clients offer reduced daily staff meals onsite from the care home restaurant and the staff absolutely value this benefit! Staff no longer have the hassle of preparing and taking their own food to work with them, so having a cheap, easy, healthy meal option onsite is a definite bonus! Not only does it save the candidate time but money as well.

3. Flexible Shift Patterns

Not all benefits that care jobseekers are looking for is finance related. Care work involves long and unsocial work hours which can also sometimes be unpredictable. Someone calls in sick and suddenly a carer works an extra shift to help fill the gap.

Consider a carer who is a working parent and their shift starts at 7:30 in the morning and lasts 13 hours. That carer will leave home possibly before their children wake up and won’t be getting back home until well after eight in the evening.  This potentially means that this individual won’t actually see their children for all the days that they are on shift, having a huge impact on their work-life balance and spending quality time with their family. This is a major reason why younger carers move into different professions, simply because they don’t get the flexibility they need to maintain a proper work-life balance at an important time in their lives. And it’s actually not just younger carers that crave more shift flexibility.

Healthcare organisations that offer more flexible working patterns are more likely to attract a wider range of care applications. This is something the industry as a whole need to address, as often we experience the attitude from clients that “this is the way that we have always worked”. This means the balance from client to employee is not quite right.

The big question we need to ask is: How many loyal and caring employees leave the care industry because of the strain of unsocial hours on family life or perhaps don’t apply for a role in the first place?

4. Care Home Career Progression

This is a major issue within care. The majority of candidates that we interview are looking to move jobs in search of an employer that will support them with training and career progression. Many candidates say that they joined their current employer who promised training and career progression, but that this was a false promise, and the employer has not been forthcoming. Millennials in particular are driven by constant career growth and progression opportunities and they will continue to job hop until they find it.

Whether it’s support in gaining qualifications such as NVQs or learning specialist skills, healthcare companies that actually deliver are very much more likely to attract higher quality and committed candidates to their business. If your healthcare business is looking to recruit the best candidates, then making a commitment and fulfilling on development training should be a high priority.

If you’re about to recruit staff for your healthcare or nursing home organisation and want to attract the best candidates, introducing value-added extras into your package can make a huge difference to care jobseekers. Whether it’s the chance to learn new skills, help with travel expenses or a more flexible approach to shifts and working, it can make a definite impact to the level of care you provide, your reputation and of course reduce the reliance on and cost of temporary agencies.

We at Go Apply are specialists in developing a happy candidate experience for care and nursing homes. Our goal is to help healthcare organisations fill internal vacancies and reduce agency spend. Get in touch today for a complimentary no obligation health check.