How to retain your staff in an era of shortages

Pioneer Homecare | AIBF
Pictured above is Pioneer Homecare Founder Louise Whelan who has been named AIBF Homecare Personality 2021.

Homecare is a rapidly expanding sector in Ireland.

Sociological factors such as increased lifespans and shifting preferences from more traditional solutions like nursing homes and family care have given rise to a huge demand for for the service.

But as is the case with many industries post-Covid 19, supply of staff is currently not meeting the demand.

Pioneer Homecare is an Irish family-owned and run company that provides a wide range of services to people of all ages and abilities, allowing them to continue living independently and happily in their own homes.

The Dublin based company has 300 staff in its ranks and has shown strong rates of retention despite the many challenges that the industry has faced over the last two years.

Company Founder Louise Whelan described the industry as “a competitive recruitment sector” and told the All-Ireland Business Times that she is seeing a lot of carers moving in and out of the industry.

She said: “There is a huge shortage of care staff in Ireland and the situation has not been helped by the Government who are incentivising carers in nursing homes and hospitals but have given nothing to homecare workers.”

“Covid 19 had a devastating impact on nursing homes so I understand the focus on supporting that particular sector but they need to remember the enormous contribution of homecare workers during that time.”

Foreign carers working within nursing homes and hospitals have been incentivised by the Government through visas that allow them to remain in the country as long as they remain working in those facilities.

Louise explained that foreign homecare workers have received no such incentives and said that these vital workers have no choice but to make the switch to nursing homes and hospitals.

“It’s no wonder so many homecare staff who are foreign nationals are moving over to work in nursing homes and hospitals,” she said.

“I would be doing the exact same thing in their position – the sad reality is that most of them want to stay in homecare but they aren’t given the option.”

Pictured above is Jane D’Alton Compliance Officer at Pioneer Homecare.

Pioneer Homecare’s compliance officer Jane D’Alton said that the industry is experiencing a high turnover of staff due to the added pressures that Covid has placed on workers in the field.

“It’s an industry that is relatively easy to get into, in that carers can complete a Fetac Level 5 QQI course to become certified and can begin work straight away and it’s by no means a minimum wage job,” she explained.

“But I think that the challenges of working in healthcare environments really came to the fore during the pandemic.”

“It was an incredibly stressful time and carers now have upskilled significantly and must engage in ongoing professional development with an increased focus on infection prevention and control in line with the challenges of Covid-19.”

“I think that is why there is a high turnover where people move out of the industry – it’s hard work and it takes a certain type of person due to the challenges involved.”

“People talk about frontline workers but they don’t realise just how physically, mentally and emotionally challenging their jobs are, and at Pioneer HomeCare we could not be more proud of our staff for their care, commitment and courage throughout the pandemic.”

Despite the myriad challenges in front of them Pioneer Homecare stand head and shoulders above their competitors in terms of staff retention.

Louise said that the company holds on to its staff because the team focuses on its carers as much as on their clients.

“As a carer, you can be looking after somebody up to three times a day, five days a week so you build up very intense relationships with these people and they become a huge part of your life,” she said.

“This isn’t easy and we recognise the emotional toll that the job takes on our staff. We support them in a very direct way through training and hands-on guidance.”

“We have also created a wellness space in our office that is solely for the carers to relax and take time out between clients.”

Pioneer Homecare also offer in-house QQI training for staff which has been very successful for both the business and its teams – they also pay mileage and contribute to public transport fares for employees travelling between jobs.

Care assistants are recognised for their efforts with a generous Carer of the Month reward, along with a Refer a Friend Scheme, which further incentivises the already motivated workforce.

Jane said that aside from the benefits and support that the business offers, she believes that Pioneer HomeCare staff stay with the company because of the hands-on approach that management have adopted.

She said. “When a managing director is as hands-on as Louise it inspires a certain confidence and loyalty.”

“We do have high staff retention compared to other companies and I think that is because our staff feel that they can have a one on one conversation with Louise and interact with her in a very human, normal way.”

“She has a collaborative approach to business and when things go wrong she is understanding and solution orientated. Also, importantly, when things are going well, she recognises it, congratulates it and elevates us all.”

Louise was recently named AIBF Homecare Personality Of The Year by the All-Ireland Business Foundation, in recognition of her enormous contribution to the homecare industry.

Reacting to the news Louise said: “I am so thrilled and humbled to have been accredited as the AIBF Homecare Personality of the Year.”

“To be able to serve the community each and every day is a rare gift, best approached with patience, empathy and good humour and it is my great pleasure to be able to do so with such an inspiring team of individuals.”

“This accreditation means so much and I am very grateful to have been considered for the honour.”

When asked for her staff retention secrets, Louise explained that hers is a very simple, but often overlooked method.

“Open communication and accessibility are the key points for me,” she said.

“What I see in homecare is that a lot of managers and directors aren’t very accessible to their staff – for me that’s wrong.”

“If you own your own business I think that you should be involved and I think you owe it to your staff to be accountable and involved in all aspects of decision making.”

To learn more about Pioneer Homecare, visit their All-Star showcase page here.