Nobody likes a no-show—and unfortunately, they’re far too common. Here’s what you can do to tighten your operations and motivate your caregivers to show up to every shift, on-time.
At Home Care Pulse, we survey thousands of home care clients every month to learn what their agencies can do better. One of the most frequent complaints we hear is caregivers not showing up for shifts.
This isn’t just a complaint from clients; it’s an issue that frustrates agency management too, as well as other caregivers whose schedules are affected by the no-shows.
It’s easy to understand how this can be an issue in an industry like home care. Factors like ever-changing needs and schedules, employees doing most of their work without contact with supervisors or other employees, and a high volume of employees looking for short-term or contract work create an environment where this kind of problem is likely to occur. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it.
A quick disclaimer: It’s important to note that while employee no-shows are major issue, they’re still unusual incidents. Most of the clients we talk to are thrilled with their caregivers, and speak highly of their consistency, compassion, and dedication. We celebrate those caregivers. This article is meant to highlight the times when no-shows do occur—and suggest solutions.
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Two Ways of Approaching Caregiver No-Shows
When we talk about reducing no-shows and helping more caregivers show up to work, there are two general approaches to dealing the issue. Ways of reducing no-shows can generally be categorized as either:
Providing an incentive or a consequence to push the caregivers to be more consistent/reliable
Identifying the outside (non-caregiver) factors that are contributing to the problem and removing them
While these may seem like common sense, it’s important to discuss because many home care agencies often neglect one of these angles (typically the second) rather than focusing on a balanced, two-pronged solution. Keep this in mind as you read this article: If your agency struggles with employees not showing up to work, is it a problem that can be solved by incentivizing the caregivers more effectively, by addressing larger factors that are contributing to the problem, or some combination of the two?
Incentivizing Your Caregivers to Show up to Shifts
Here are a few of the ways that you should consider using (if you aren’t already) to provide stronger motivation for caregivers to show up to every shift, on time. Many of these methods are highly effective on their own, and in conjunction with each other they can significantly reduce the amount of caregiver no-shows that you deal with.
Set a consistent policy, make sure all your caregivers and staff understand the policy, and maintain a culture of accountability. This is the simplest, the most obvious, and one of the most important. Every caregiver should understand the expectations and the consequences if the expectations aren’t met, and you should never give caregivers reason to believe that they can get away with not showing up because they’ve seen others do it with no consequences.
(Make your policy is in writing and that every employee signs that they’ve read and understood it; this will be important in the event that you have to terminate an employee over it later.)
Employees will almost always rise to whatever standard they are consistently held to. Ask more of your caregivers and they’ll give more. We recommend that you consider the following policy and adapt it to the needs of your agency:
Attendance—One no-call, no-show is considered a voluntary resignation. It’s common sense that not showing up for work constitutes not doing your job, and under regular circumstances there should be zero tolerance for neglecting their duty to a client in this way.
Tardiness—three strikes and you’re out. Leniency in cases of an office staff mistake or personal emergency applies. As with the attendance policy, if this rule is consistently and fairly enforced it will set a standard that most caregivers will rise to meet.
(You should, however, reserve the right to show mercy on this rule in cases where it may be the fault of a scheduling or staff error, or extreme personal or family emergencies. Being understanding in cases like this is not being inconsistent in administering your policy; it shows that you understand and care about the needs of their employees. You can justify these exceptions by asking for documentation, when applicable.)
A final thought about strict attendance policies and enforcement: these will be more effective if you maintain strong relationships with your caregivers and make sure that you’re not communicating with them only when working out logistics or administering discipline. Take a personal interest in each of your caregivers, look out for their needs, listen to them, and you’ll find that it’s much easier to maintain a culture where excellence and consistency are a baseline, not a goalpost.
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Offer incentives for never showing up late to a shift. This is pretty simple, and many agencies are already doing it. If you’re not, you should be. It’s a simply, very low-cost way to incrementally improve punctuality, and is easily tracked through most scheduling software platforms or employee timesheet programs. We recommend offering rewards like this every six months or so and giving a gift card or other form of recognition at events where most or all of your caregivers/staff are in attendance.
You should also publish these awards in your newsletters and other mass communications to your staff. Consider creating some kind of competition for the longest streak with no attendance issues. Sometimes, it’s good to create a healthy level of competition.
Addressing Outside Factors that May be Causing No-Shows
Both of the above tips are important for you to implement; however, you also need to look into the possibility that there are organizational or operational problems that could be causing no-shows. Here are some ways that you can ensure that your home care agency’s systems and policies are making it easier for caregivers to show up to every shift on time, rather than making it more difficult.
Offer consistency in shifts wherever possible. Every unexpected shift or abrupt change in schedule contributes to the possibility that a miscommunication or a slip of the mind causes a no-show. While the nature of home care is that schedules and needs can change often, keeping as much consistency as possible should be at the top of your scheduler’s mind at all times.
Offer PTO and sick leave. Make it more likely that caregivers will show up to shifts by giving them recognized, compensated time to take care of their personal needs. This will also increase caregiver loyalty and retention by demonstrating that you care about their needs. See this article for a list of other caregiver benefits that caregivers commonly request.
Evaluate your scheduling process. This one is key. You should make sure that your system is conducive to clear communication and makes it simple for caregivers to find substitutes if needed.
Look at your scheduling process/policies with these three questions in mind:
Does your current method of scheduling make it easy for caregivers to request time off if needed?
Does your scheduling system/policy make it easy for caregivers to indicate availability and preference in terms of hours?
Do all your caregivers understand how to get a substitute for their shift if needed?
Keep clear communication. Ensure that any and all changes in scheduling are clearly communicated to caregivers, and that they confirm that they’ve received these updates. This is important to keeping everyone accountable. As mentioned before, you should also communicate often to keep strong relationships with your caregivers and help them feel supported, as this also makes a significant impact on no-shows in most cases.
Extra tip: When a caregiver doesn’t show up to work, your first response should be to give them the benefit of the doubt and call them to make sure they’re okay. Once you understand the cause for their absence, you can decide what to do next.
Incentivize your office staff to help reduce no-shows by compensating them based on tracking and reducing the percentage of shifts that are missed. This is another very important strategy that’s often overlooked. Oftentimes, your staff are able to find ways to tighten up existing policies/systems in ways that you might not have considered. By tracking the number of no-shows and tardy caregivers and providing bonuses or other incentives when these numbers are reduced, you can fully engage your staff in looking for a solution to the problem.
Be stricter in your screening and hiring process, if necessary. We understand that this is a difficult proposition, given how hard caregiver recruitment and retention can be. It’s also unfortunate, because it’s always preferable to coach and motivate employees to become their best rather than write them off. However, occasionally, there may be caregivers who have established habits of tardiness or irresponsibility and are unwilling to adapt. To weed out these employees in your hiring process, consider ideas like the following:
Make it a policy to contact multiple past employers/character references about an applicant before making a hiring decision.
Be willing to wait an extra week or two to start a client with services if it’s necessary to find the right caregiver. As you explain it to the client, emphasize that you recognize the inconvenience but that you’re making sure you can the right, top-notch caregiver to look after them.
Plan your hiring interviews to include questions like: “Describe for me a time when you believe it would be justified to be late to work.” The right questions can give you powerful insight into their outlook and habits on punctuality. See this article for a list of 65 insightful questions to ask in your caregiver interviews.
Always take time to understand the causes behind no shows and late caregivers—and look for patterns. Remember—sometimes the root cause is very different appears. The best decisions are often made by setting aside your preconceived notions and seeking to understand if there’s something you might have missed.
If you take care to address these ‘lurking’ factors, you’ll probably find that your efforts to motivate caregivers and provide consequences will be much more successful.
Do Your Caregivers Feel Like They’re Helping Put a Man on the Moon?
There’s a story told of the first time that President John F. Kennedy visited NASA headquarters in 1961. While touring the facility, he met an employee in the hallway and asked what he did at NASA.
“I’m helping put a man on the moon!” the employee told JFK.
The employee, it turned out, was a janitor whose day-to-day job was to mop the floors. But he caught the vision of his organization’s goals, and understood his part in them, however small.
It’s easy for the day-to-day grind of caregiving to feel trivial. When it’s all said and done, one of the most important ways to help your caregivers consistently and enthusiastically show up on time is to help them catch the vision of your agency’s mission: improving lives.
Do your caregivers feel like they’re helping put a man on the moon?
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