Caregivers in Minnesota recently made the news as a federal appeals court declined to overturn their new union. While many caregivers opposed the union, others have sought to join in. In a prepared statement, union leaders stated that they formed the union to provide a voice to home care workers who have been “undervalued for far too long”, and the gathered group of caregivers chanted the motto “Invisible No More”.
While some providers may not approve of the union or the recent federal ruling, the issue reflects a deeper problem in the industry with caregiver satisfaction and loyalty. Caregivers are turning to media and legislative outlets in order to have visibility and a voice, which they feel they do not have at work. So the question is, what can you do as their employer to foster their trust and to satisfy their need to be valued and heard?
Fostering caregiver loyalty takes time; however, using these five proven strategies taken from the 2015 Private Duty Benchmarking Study and data from thousands of live satisfaction interviews with caregivers across the country, providers can improve their caregiver engagement and allegiance to their agencies.
1. Invest in the hiring process.
Satisfying your caregivers can start by understanding why they chose to work for you. According to our interviews, 22.4% of caregivers chose their agency for its ‘good working environment and benefits’ and 20.3% because the ‘working schedule met their lifestyle’. You may notice that caregivers didn’t mention their commitment to the agency’s mission statement or their desire to help the agency meet its 5-year goals. Though they may have those sentiments, they’re not their primary interest. However, as a provider, your primary interest should be finding caregivers who are a good fit with your future goals and mission, and entering the hiring process, you should strive to leverage your interests with those of your caregivers to acquire the highest quality hires.
Begin by evaluating your mission and goals, and write a list of the critical characteristics you need in your caregivers in order to fulfill these goals. Next, draft specific interview questions geared toward identifying these qualities as well as any secondary qualities you’d like to find. Test the questions, evaluate your results, and keep reshaping them until they work as a reliable filter for finding the caregivers you need.
Once you find caregivers who fulfill your primary interests, help them to see how you satisfy theirs. Detail your benefits package and take them around the office to get a feel for the environment. Talk to them about scheduling, and address their needs and questions. Building caregiver loyalty begins at the hiring stage, when it’s critical to find a good fit, matching the caregivers’ needs with the agency’s needs. The better the match, the more engaged your caregivers will be and the more loyal they’ll be to your particular agency.
2. Create pathways to advance.
As a general rule, stagnation fuels discontent. If caregivers don’t see a way to progress within your agency, then you’re essentially interchangeable with any other provider. Few caregivers will be loyal to an agency who treats them the same way after five years with the company as it did after one month. Whether through supervisory positions, certificates, or benefits, you should reward longevity and commitment.
Supervisors can play a key role in making this happen. After hiring new caregivers, have them sit down with their supervisor and create a 1-year, 3-year, or 5-year plan for their growth with the company. Ask them where they see themselves and how they’d like to grow or progress in order to achieve that goal. Consider instituting a Caregiver Mentor program that promotes your best caregivers to act as mentors to your newest caregivers. If you don’t have a specific advancement track for your caregivers, help them to create a personal one. As you check in with their progress every quarter or trimester, you’ll demonstrate that you have a vested interest in their advancement and that you’d like to see them succeed.
3. Demonstrate trust by empowering their choices.
Trust and loyalty are reciprocal sentiments. Caregivers will trust their providers after they feel that their providers trust them. When supervisors micromanage their caregivers or constantly question their behavior, the work environment can become suffocating and toxic.
The best way to demonstrate that you trust your caregivers is by allowing them to take control of their work and to make important decisions. When they identify client needs, offer suggestions, but encourage them to be creative as they find and implement their own solution. This strategy will not only enable your caregivers to resolve problems as they find them, but it will also help you to discover new approaches to improving your clients’ care. By empowering caregivers to make decisions, you will help them to feel like a valuable part of the team and to invest more in their work. And as your caregivers see your trust in them, they will reciprocate it.
4. Increase their marketability through training.
The best providers create win-win work environments in which caregivers are provided with ample opportunities to improve their professional skills. Though some providers hesitate to devote too many resources to caregivers’ training, in case they decide to leave, investing in your caregivers’ skills is actually a key way to motivate them to stay. As they discover new talents and gain the skills necessary to care for a wider variety of clients, they’ll have a stronger desire to continue progressing with your agency and developing those skills.
As you select training topics, consider your caregivers’ particular needs and interests as well as the needs and interests of their clients. In our caregiver interviews, dealing with falls, coping with death, and CPR/First Aid Certification were among the most requested training topics. You may consider trying different subjects each month or taking requests from your team to create a training program that best meets their needs. Continually searching for new topics and offering certificates or advancements for caregivers will allow them to continuously improve and progress. Plus the more skills your caregivers have, the better they’ll serve your clients and the more value and diversity they’ll find in their work.
5. Improve confidence in leadership.
More often than not, a lack of loyalty springs from a lack of trust in a leader or supervisor. If caregivers don’t feel like their supervisors listen to and support them, they won’t trust them to meet their needs. Gaining caregivers’ confidence takes time, but the process is simple. You and your supervisors should take the time to meet with your caregivers personally and to regularly communicate with them. In many interviews, caregivers expressed that while they liked their supervisors, they didn’t communicate frequently, and they therefore didn’t have a strong relationship with them. Especially when there are policy changes or important news to share, you should communicate that promptly and openly. Allow caregivers and supervisors to ask you questions and to feel comfortable bringing you ideas. As you establish yourself as a leader, don’t create too much distance with your team members so they see that their work and opinions are valuable to you and your agency.
Caregiver loyalty is rooted in trust and engagement. Though there are many ways to build loyalty, these five strategies are keys to strengthening your caregivers’ ties to your mission and allegiance to your agency.
The most reliable way to know your caregivers’ unique needs is to ask them directly. Home Care Pulse provides caregivers with a regular unbiased outlet for sharing their opinions and concerns. Providers can measure satisfaction over time through monthly reports of their caregivers’ ratings and work to address their specific requests. As providers invest in understanding and improving caregiver satisfaction, caregivers will see that commitment and reciprocate it with better engagement and loyalty.