In order to grow your business, you need to know what’s going on. Your caregivers are your front line, and maintaining open and constant communication with them is indisputably critical to your success. Caregivers also need an environment to express personal needs and client concerns, while receiving necessary guidance from supervisors. Though it may seem simple, effective communication takes a lot of effort and we’d like to suggest five ways to overcome possible communication barriers with caregivers:
1. Establish Trust
Caregiver trust is earned through personalized, individual interactions centered on more than what is happening at work. In The Thin Book of Trust, Charles Feltman states, “Trust is the best medium to grow success. It creates an environment in which people feel free to be authentic, passionate, committed, and willing to share all they have to offer.” Caregivers who display these attributes with their clients will be more productive and engaged. Caregivers may not know all the answers, but having a relationship of trust ensures they feel comfortable coming to you when they need help.
2. Observe and Listen
Communication is a two-way process, so be sure you’re not doing all the talking. Watch for nonverbal cues such as yawning, crossed arms, and other signs of frustration. Through the Home Care Pulse Satisfaction Management Program, we have asked hundreds of caregivers how their supervisors show them respect and value. A caregiver responded, “My supervisors always listen to my concerns and they will ask me how to make things better. Then they will do those things I suggest. My supervisors are nice and they understand. They want to help with clients and employees.” Listening to the solutions your caregivers suggest will help you understand what works best for them, even if you can’t always implement their requests.
3. Prepare in Advance
Conducting monthly or annual reviews with your caregivers will keep the communication door opening both ways. However, advance preparation is required for each review to be effective. When preparing to speak with a caregiver, write out the points you hope to communicate and consider providing the caregiver with a copy of your agenda. This will keep you from straying too far from topics and not forgetting an area of discussion. Preparation brings confidence and leadership into your agency as a whole.
4. Set Clear Expectations
Michael McAlpin’s article The Business of Happiness is featured in the 2014 Private Duty Benchmarking Study. He states, “Caregivers who are expected to arrive on time, expected to address the client as sir or ma’am, recognized for a job well done, and given bereavement when their client dies, will brand your organization in a way no salesperson or Web designer ever could.” Caregivers who understand what their job includes will be more satisfied overall. When holding a review with a caregiver, ask what they think their job involves, verifying that expectations have been clear. Caregivers often become irritated and disconnected from their agency when they feel you’ve been unclear about your expectations. Help your caregivers see their value and understand that there is still a job to be done.
5. Avoid Assumptions
Making assumptions about your caregivers harms your relationship with them. When a caregiver is upset, ask them about it instead of assuming you know why. Follow up with what they would like to see changed and go from there. When determining what course of action to take regarding the issue, keep in mind the solution needs to be tailored to the caregiver individually. Caregivers will be more receptive to solutions when they can see you trying to understand how they feel.
Effective communication allows you the opportunity to inform and build positive relationships with your caregivers. Caregivers who are comfortable with supervisors are more capable of meeting goals and requirements that build your business. Encourage your caregivers to share their understandings, ideas, and insights in the comfortable, open environment you have created.