Professional Comment

Care As a Career – Not a Stepping Stone ‘Creating a Sustainable Skills Pipeline for Care’

By Ric Thompson, Managing Director – Health & Care at Advanced (

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, there is a serious staffing shortage in care. This is being exacerbated by increased Government scrutiny over the recruitment of migrant workers, not enough high quality new entrants to the profession, and by high staff turnover with many older, experienced workers deciding that enough is enough, and quitting.

A pervasive culture of low-pay and low value placed on care workers isn’t helping. It is no surprise that according to Advanced’s Care Providers Trends Report [insert link], 97% of care providers say they have problems recruiting staff and 98% have trouble with employee retention.

It isn’t a job for just anyone. During the hiring process 60% of employers in our survey said they received high numbers of applications from unsuitable candidates. It is imperative that care providers can find ways to reverse these trends, drive more applications from suitable candidates, attract more, high-quality talent and hold onto those people, nurturing their skills and commitment for the long-term. Many skills can be taught and developed, but the best carers have caring hardwired into their DNA. These are the people we want working in the care sector, as we try to ensure a sustainable, safe future for users and employees.

One of the solutions may lie in the Government’s push to phase out paper record-keeping and encourage the implementation of digital records within the adult social care sector. The aim is to achieve 80% compliance within the year, by March 2024, with full compliance as soon as possible afterwards. These will improve outcomes for those receiving care, minimise safety risks, allow staff to respond to needs more quickly, and to share important information quickly and securely.

This drive is part of a greater need to digitalise processes within care provision organisations. There is a need to attract more school and college leavers into the sector, to start what will ideally become a long and fulfilling career. This digital-native generation expects to use technology in their working lives, so it makes complete sense that employers who have already implemented the latest software that helps people do their jobs more effectively will attract the best of that new talent.

It is also crucial that employers look after their existing staff, ensuring continuity of care for their clients and retaining experienced mentors for new recruits. These employees have a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience that is vital for ensuring the delivery of high-quality care all clients deserve. Disillusionment cannot be allowed to take root here.

Digital transformation is the key to improving the employee experience. Specifically-designed care sector technology can massively reduce time spent on paperwork, digitalising processes so repetitive sections of forms can be completed automatically. This gives staff more time to deliver care to clients. Digital documents can’t be mislaid or lost, keeping the data within secure and making it easy for staff to refer to specific care plans, record diet and hydration information and other details for more joined-up and seamless processes. Digital records also offer more protection for staff when things go wrong as there is an irrefutable evidence trail that shows all procedures were followed correctly. Demonstrating compliance for CQC and others is crucial in such a highly-regulated sector.

Implementing a Learning and Development (L&) programme for each employee not only ensures compliance with CQC requirements and those of other bodies, but also demonstrates to employees that each of them is valued accordingly. If we want people to look at care as a career, not just a stepping stone, we much ensure that long-term prospects and new opportunities are visible and attainable. Performance management can be a headache for managers dealing with staff working on different shifts, or a largely remote and mobile domiciliary team. Two-way conversations on digital platforms around targets for quality and delivery of care, recording and rewarding achievements as well as flagging any need for further training or support make it easier to monitor and manage individual performance.

We need to take care of the carers. Many are attracted to the sector because it allows them to have more flexibility with shifts and days worked, so it is crucial that employers maintain staffing levels enabling people to work the hours they want. Persistent understaffing impacts heavily on the remaining team, putting them under increased pressure and at greater risk of burnout. Managers are affected too and 62% of care provider managers told us they felt stressed and unable to cope all or some of the time. 36% of these said they would have to take time off sick in order to be able to cope. The last thing a short-staffed care provider needs is management absence, piling even more pressure onto others.

Digital solutions can transform rostering challenges, helping manage unexpected sickness or late requests for unspent leave more effectively. Sector-specific technology can also improve the problems with void management experienced by 95% of care providing organisations, giving them better visibility over crucial occupancy rates. 58% of the respondents in our survey have developed their own manual processes including spreadsheets to help give them advanced visibility of the business. These tools provide out-dated information for inaccurate decision-making while Cloud-based technology could give them instant access to accommodation and occupancy in real time.

Employers can use the data contained in their technology platforms to help them manage many of the day-to-day tasks more efficiently, supporting more effective recruitment and higher retention rates. Employee data can be a powerful tool in gaining deeper workforce insights, helping employers identify trends that can help them make better decisions. This might be identifying the hardest-to-fill shifts, and then making recruitment for those a priority. Or it may shine a light on the circumstances that lead to higher rates of sickness absence, helping leaders to locate specific problems and make changes to reduce them.

In conclusion, technology can help elevate the status of the care delivery role, improving employee experience and developing talent for a sustainable pipeline of career-care providers.