Recruitment: Adapting to the Challenges of COVID-19

By Claire Fretwell, Head of Learning, Development and Talent at Exemplar Health Care (

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has challenged our industry to think differently and creatively about recruitment, especially when it comes to monitoring and maintaining staffing levels. At Exemplar Health Care we were able to overcome potential recruitment challenges by introducing new temporary roles, moving many of our processes online and introducing an innovative approach to monitoring staffing levels across our 32 homes.


In March 2020, we introduced a new role, which encouraged those who may be out of work for a short period of time, to consider a tempo- rary role within the care sector. The Associate Carer role was specifical- ly designed for those who usually work in the hospitality, leisure or travel sectors, or students, who might be looking for extra work.

The introduction of the new Associate Carer role proved to be a suc- cess. Since mid-March, when we started a recruitment drive in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19), the number of applications and offers of employment was double that of the same period in 2019 – which supported our homes to maintain safe staffing levels, at a time when it was needed most.

The quality of life of our residents is our main priority and, despite these challenging circumstances, our Associate Carers have played a vital role in ensuring they are safe and that they can continue to live as fulfilling a life as possible.

We also had a large reliable team of bank and agency staff on hand, as well as non-direct care and central team colleagues in place to sup- port our homes if needed. This helped us cover any staff shortages due to sickness or isolation.


Due to travel restrictions, social distancing, and the need to recruit around 1,000 new temporary carers, we reviewed our recruitment process and moved many of the processes online. We have now decid- ed to maintain many of these new online processes – as they have been working well.

Firstly, candidates fill out an online application. If their online application is successful, the Home Manager or Recruitment Team conducts a video interview via Zoom, FaceTime, Messenger or Skype. If the candidate is successful at this stage, we accept verbal references over the phone to support people to start work in as little as 3 weeks.

Before the pandemic, we delivered five days of face-to-face induc- tions every month for all new recruits. However, due to lockdown restrictions and social distancing, we’re now running virtual inductions three times per week.

It is a blended approach of online learning, presentations and activi- ties, to introduce new recruits to the organisation and our values, and to support them to complete the relevant mandatory and statutory train- ing (MAST).

Once the new colleague has completed the corporate induction, they are supported by an experienced buddy in the home who wel- comes them and mentors them to achieve their local induction. After training has been delivered, staff can confidently put their new knowl- edge and skills to good use.

This has helped us to efficiently induct more people, so that our homes can continue to operate at safe staffing levels during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

To ensure we have the right number of colleagues working in our 32 homes, we introduced an online dashboard that provides real-time information about staffing levels.

As our homes are staffed 24/7, one of our key priorities each day is ensuring that we always have the right number of people to support our residents. If a home falls under their target staffing level, the dash- board highlights this and we can explore the reasons why.

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