You've heard the figures before: In recent years, caregiver turnover rates have topped 60 percent, giving an entire industry — and those it serves — cause for alarm. Retention tactics range from increasing pay to creating communication forums. While there are merits to all strategies, most agencies are still required to hire regularly, getting new and quality caregivers on board on a quick timeline. So how can you hire well (hopefully preventing turnover) when you have to do it so frequently? We spoke with Allison Lutz of Peace at Home Caregivers to get her best tips.
Hiring New Caregivers Who Make the Difference
It can be difficult to discern at first glance who will make a good caregiver, says Lutz. "Some that have seemed amazing have fizzled out, and there are others we've decided to take a chance on who have then become some of our best employees." The following best practices should help you sort out the best from the rest.
1. Always do a reference check
Because caregiving is a human field, the process to select caregivers can't be quite as clinical as your agency might like it to be, says Lutz. That's why professional reference checks are the most valuable resource in uncovering who will be a good fit: they give you a sense of the person as he or she operates in a professional setting.
2. Send candidates on a trial run
"We like to send people out on one smaller, less labor intensive case as a trial run so we can see their reliability and get a feel for how they perform home care," says Lutz. Oftentimes, caregivers come from hospital environments and are accustomed to fast paced, labor intensive work. Home care is a lot more slow paced and a lot more personal. By giving applicants an opportunity to test the waters of such an environment, you both gain perspective on their best qualities, and you begin to understand any specialized skills that might come into play.
3. Hire in groups
If you want to hire more quickly, consider implementing hiring groups. Lutz says Peace at Home performs about 10 interviews per week during hiring periods, selecting 2 to 4 caregivers from each group of interviewees. This type of process can also help you match new caregivers with individual clients so you know no one client misses out. (Matchmaking is another best practice you might want to add to the mix.)
4. Interview and roundtable with multiple parties
It's important to learn about how potential caregivers hold and present themselves, as you will be sending them into clients' homes representing your agency. Additionally, interviews can help iron out red flags and give people a chance to explain any holes in their resumes. To get the most out of the process, involve multiple parties from your agency, including HR and a manager. Then, complete a roundtable at the end of a group of interviews with everyone who participated (except, of course, the interviewees).
"When we roundtable and review our interviews from the week, we bring in different opinions and outside perspectives," says Lutz. "Doing it by yourself can be difficult. You can get sucked in and you always want to have a lot of trust in the interviewee. So you need multiple people to weigh in."
5. Run thorough background checks
Of course, you need to know if anyone you plan to hire has any criminal history that might be relevant to their potential caregiver role. Run state and national background checks and don't let anything slip through the cracks. You may need to use several different sources to accomplish this, including phone calls to those references!
6. Trust your gut
Undoubtedly, your team will have feelings or ideas about a person's experience, innate capabilities and potential contributions to your clients' lives that don't directly connect with the information you learn during the interview process. That's OK! You don't have to know everything about an interviewee to know that you should take a chance on them. The trial run should help suss out any incompatibility between your agency and this candidate, should it exist.
With these six best practices, you're ready to start hiring the people that will best represent your agency and best serve your clients. But don't forget: hiring is only half the battle. Retention is important, too — but we'll save that topic for another day.