Keep caregivers from jumping ship—even in a hot job market
by Austin Harkness
June 7, 2019

It’s a universal truth in homecare that the strength of a business depends on the quality of its people. Technology affords tremendous advantages to caregivers, clients and families, but it is important to recognize that without the right caregiver-client match, the rest of a company’s efforts are for naught. Bottom line—the better your people, the better your client experience.

Currently, caregivers are in a seller’s market when choosing where they work. They’re recruited aggressively, sometimes getting multiple calls per week about new job opportunities. And nearly all say they’re open to taking another job at any time.

It’s no surprise then that the industry average for caregiver churn—also known as turnover rate—is more than 60%. The best caregivers have their pick of agencies to work with, often moving to get more consistent hours, a client closer to home, or even a client who’s easier to care for.
High churn is one of the biggest challenges independent homecare agencies face. But it’s not inevitable. In fact, it’s possible to reduce churn rate by 20% or more simply by creating a sense of community for your caregivers and a culture of mutual respect.

You may be thinking that reducing turnover is as simple as raising pay rates. Surprisingly, it’s not that simple nor that expensive. High turnover is about much more than a paycheck, and experience shows it isn’t correlated to base pay. The fact is, the best way to keep your qualified caregivers happy is to make your agency a better place to work.

Keep Caregivers Connected

Let your caregivers know what you expect of them and how you define success at your agency. Many managers don’t clearly establish or communicate policies and processes to employees until they become urgent. For example, what’s the policy on late arrivals to care visits? How do last-minute call-offs affect performance evaluations? Are caregivers expected to document after every visit, and if so, how?

Once you’re clear on expectations, communicate with your team on a regular basis. Friendly reminders via text message can really help your team feel supported and up-to-date on your agency’s policies.

It’s also easy for caregivers to feel like they’re on their own when working in a client’s home. That’s why it’s so important to be available by phone to answer questions, provide support and help them be safe and successful 24/7. And if you’re using software to support client management, make sure your caregivers have access to the right tools and resources.

Caregiver burnout is real—for professionals as well as for family caregivers. When you can, let your caregivers choose their next client so they get a mix of people with different needs and, most importantly, have a full schedule of work.

Help Caregivers Build Their Careers

Caregivers are professionals who care about growing their skills and advancing their careers. But many agency owners fail to acknowledge this­—and that’s a mistake. Offering a clear career path creates an opportunity for agencies to differentiate themselves from others in the minds
of caregivers.

How can you nurture and grow careers for your caregivers? Consider giving employees opportunities to attend caregiving conferences or talks by medical professionals. Make resources available for caregivers who want to take the Certified Nursing Assistant exam or other certification tests. You could even offer an in-house caregiver preparedness course.

Those are just a few examples I’ve seen from partners in the Honor Care Network. Depending on the quality of your caregivers, you could go further. Our company is happy to accommodate caregivers who have exceptional skills and show an interest in an alternative career path, moving them up to more senior roles on our care team or even inviting them to join our corporate team. They are among the best performers in their roles, in large part due to their previous caregiving experience.

Make Time for Fun

I’ve heard people describe their coworkers as a big reason they don’t want to change jobs. Friendship is a powerful force. If you’ve made good friends at work, it’s harder to consider leaving. So why not give your employees the chance to build and grow friendships at fun quarterly events? Barbecues, picnics and holiday parties strengthen bonds and make caregivers more loyal to each other, your team and your agency.

Don’t forget to plan family-friendly events. When you include your employees’ spouses, partners and children, you reinforce the idea that your agency team is like a family. And the same family commitments that prevent caregivers from backfilling call-offs may also prevent them from attending company events if their families aren’t invited.

Tell the World You’re Proud of Them

Everyone likes to feel appreciated and to get public recognition for their work. Consider an employee-of-the-month program. Or start a newsletter that spotlights your caregivers and their stories. Either of these will communicate to your caregivers that they are an important and valued part of your team.

Treat Them Like Family

Employees in any industry notice when their employers treat them as an afterthought, or worse yet, with disregard or disdain. Those workers will stick around only as long as they have to before taking a better offer. You can avoid unwanted attrition by consistently showing your caregivers how much you value them.

Caregivers have demanding schedules due to personal and other professional commitments in their lives. Try to accommodate this reality rather than being inflexible. When events are coming up that your caregivers need to know about, remind them with a text or an email. Many caregiver seem to prefer texts.

You should also try to offer the benefits you can afford. Depending on the size of your agency, this may or may not include health insurance. If it doesn’t, offer other benefits to stay competitive in the labor market. Get creative. Give gift cards for excellent, ongoing performance or a cash bonus for sticking with an especially challenging client. And ask your caregivers what benefits they would most like to have.

At our agency, caregivers have shared how much they appreciate getting paid every week, rather than biweekly. We do it not because it’s easier for us, but because it makes the caregivers—the people responsible for delivering great service to our clients—happy.

Ultimately, that’s what it boils down to. When your caregivers are happy because of how they’re treated and the opportunities you offer them, they aren’t focused on moving on to another employer. They’re focused on caring for their current clients.