Engage: Why focusing on retention is key for the future of social care

The latest Skills for Care data estimates that for the adult social care workforce to grow proportionally to the projected number of people aged 65 and over, an extra 490,000 jobs would be required by 2035.

Not only do we need to attract new people to the sector, but we also need to focus on retaining our new and existing talent, so we’re able to provide the care and support our community deserves now and in the future.

During the pandemic turnover decreased; turnover rates for registered managers dropped by 4.7%, while care worker turnover was down 3.7%. However, since March 2021 social care employers have been reporting that recruitment and retention is now more difficult than ever.

It’s vital that we all do what we can to support the sector with retention. In light of this, Skills for Care is currently focusing on highlighting their retention support with their #RetainToGain activity which provides tools, resources and information to help social care employers to retain staff.

Retention within social care is incredibly important. Having a high turnover rate means that you’re continually spending time and money on recruitment and onboarding – this is time and money which could be spent elsewhere.

Building a strong and loyal workforce allows you to skill up staff within your organisation, to build strong team relations, and to provide consistent care to the people you support.

Given the challenges we’ve seen through the pandemic, as well as the demanding nature of a social care role at all times, one of the key steps in supporting retention, is looking after staff wellbeing.

Social care workers work incredibly hard and are faced with tough situations on a regular basis, and it’s vital that employers do what they can to support their health and wellbeing. This could include regular catch-ups with their supervisor to talk through any difficulties, providing access to professional counselling, offering wellness days and ensuring these are taken, and creating a positive workplace culture which encourages open and honest communication and tackles any issues straight on. Social care managers have reported to us the importance of providing team social events, to create a supportive team bond and to make sure that while people work hard, they also have fun.

Social care managers have told us that burnout is a real issue for staff right now, and this must be addressed to look after staff wellbeing and keep people on-board.

Social care is not a 9-5 job, this can bring challenges but it can also provide opportunities to allow for flexibility. I’d say for social care managers to be as flexible as they can with their team’s hours, as flexibility is a key reason for people to stay in their role.

Skills for Care offers a range of resources to support wellbeing, which can be found through our Wellbeing Resource Finder.

Another key element to help retain staff is focusing on learning and development. Investing in your staff’s development not only makes them feel valued, and as such more motivated within their role and committed to your organisation, but it also allows them to grow their career within your organisation rather than moving elsewhere.

And to really address retention within the sector it’s vital that we truly understand what motivates people to work in social care. What’s the reason that the people who have built a long career in social care stay?

It’s because of the difference that they get to make to our community and to people’s everyday lives. The people who choose to stay in social care are motivated by making a difference, by helping, by seeing the impact their work has, by building meaningful relationships with the people who they provide person-centred care to.

In order to retain our social care workforce, we need to attract others with those same motivations to a career in social care.

To do this we must raise public awareness of the important work of social care and the incredible opportunities that a career in social care provides. We need to highlight the rewards and showcase what a career in social care means, and where it can lead. By raising public awareness of social care and why people choose to work in the sector, we can attract more people who are also a right fit for the role.

Using values-based recruitment can help us to identify these people at the recruitment stage, so that we’re bringing in people to the sector who have the right values and behaviours to build a long-lasting and fulfilling career in care.


About the Author

Jim Thomas is Head of Workforce Capacity and Transformation at Skills for Care. Jim has led a broad range of national workforce Innovation programmes. These include developing and testing a framework for workforce redesign in social care, the development of principles for workforce integration and the creation of skills led approaches to community development.