By Danielle Garland, Account Director, Magnit (https://magnitglobal.com/)
The number of vacant positions within the adult social care sector increased by 52% between 2020 and 2022. This trend points to a staffing crisis in the industry, which does not show signs of tapering off, unless leaders take a fresh approach.
In an essential industry like ours, workforce issues have a real and lasting effect on the quality and efficiency of the service being delivered. The care sector should therefore look to solutions such as advance workforce planning and sector-specific technology to ensure standards are maintained.
Contingent workers are a key element of the health and social care workforce
The industry makes significant use of contingent, otherwise known as temporary, workers. In fact, in recent years the sector has increased its reliance on this workforce. 78% of independent care providers state that they now use more agency staff when compared with their usage up until April 2021. Contingent workers are an incredibly useful labour force in the social care sector, as they allow care providers to grow their workforce size quickly and easily according to their needs. As such, providers can more easily manage costs, to ensure that resources are being utilised effectively to deliver the best quality care.
The care sector’s increasing reliance upon contingent workers has resulted from the staffing crisis. A range of factors led to this crisis, which differ depending on roles. For example, many events during the Covid-19 pandemic put a strain on the social care workforce. An initial reliance on contingent workers in 2020 resulted in providers blocking the use of agency workers due to the spread of Covid-19 throughout various care settings. Additionally, many left the care workforce entirely, especially given that more than 80% of jobs in the wider economy pay more than the average independent care worker wage.
Other markets are experiencing similar staffing concerns, but there is an acute danger associated with a staffing crisis within health and care. Solutions must be implemented to ensure that care quality remains high across the UK’s social care settings.
Implementing workforce planning to prevent future crises
Often, care providers use agency staff as a last-minute solution to an urgent problem. A member of permanent staff may have fallen ill and become unable to work, or perhaps there is a sudden rise in patient need. This response became a regular occurrence during the pandemic, as establishments had the difficult task of balancing the risks between staff and patients becoming infected with the virus. Now that the sector finds itself in a more stable position, it’s time for a more permanent solution.
Care providers need to build the contingent workforce into their long-term workforce management strategy. When using contingent workers as a last-minute fix, providers experience a range of difficulties. Clearly, it puts significant time pressure on leaders to find the right candidate before it’s too late. Furthermore, care providers are likely to be forced to pay a premium to get talent at short notice. When contingent workers are integrated into the overall staffing strategy, care providers can both be prepared and ensure that they are better able to manage budgets.
Leveraging technology for efficient workforce planning
Integrating contingent workers into a provider’s workforce management strategy should not be a chore. Providers are often squeezed for time, and so setting up contingent workforce management shouldn’t be a burden to leaders.
To best manage a contingent workforce, organisations typically integrate a vendor management system (VMS). A VMS centralises contingent workforce management into one digital platform. This allows care providers to do everything associated with their contingent workforce in one place, including initiating talent requests, hiring workers, compliance checking, reviewing timesheets, and onboarding and offboarding workers. Consequently, providers can ensure that they have long-term visibility over their contingent workforce needs.
The care sector urgently needs to find solutions to its ongoing staffing crisis. Evidently, some aspects of the crisis are out of individual providers’ hands, but there is always something that leaders can do to drive change. Incorporating the contingent workforce into a long-term workforce management strategy is essential to reducing pressure on hiring managers, increasing efficiencies, and ensuring that great quality care is delivered every time.