Employee referral schemes and salaries for home care staff: providers aim to be the ‘employer of choice’ in new competitive market

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With workforce shortages critical across residential care and home care, South Australian providers ECH and ACH Group are taking innovative approaches to attracting and retaining staff.

ECH is currently exploring the option of offering its staff a salary in place of an hourly rate.

“We are asking if you had a salary instead of 20 hours, how would you use those hours? Where we have a set of clients, but we also have training commitments and administrative functions that have to be done,” said Chief Executive Dr David Panter (pictured above).

Also essential to ECH’s recruitment strategy is their use of an employee referral scheme.

They were the first provider in Australia to use the UK-based Care Friends app, which is designed to allow employees to share jobs with their friends and family and accrue points that they can trade in for cash.

“We found that incredibly beneficial to us in terms of recruitment, because with a SEEK-type advert, you might get 200 applications, but 180 didn’t actually read the advert. When you have tried to get the right fit from the other 20, in terms of our value and culture, you might need to do five, and then one of those you might offer a job to, and the likelihood is we find that in a few months’ time they are not working for us,” said David.

“Whereas with the Care Friends app, we get fewer numbers, but much higher quality in terms of people being more suited to our culture and our values. And it’s not rocket science – if I enjoy working for ECH, then my friends and my family probably have a very similar outlook on life that I have and therefore I might also then enjoy working for ECH.”

ACH Group is also using an employee referral scheme with great success.

“The best new recruits are those that are recommended by your own colleagues because they arguably are the best advocates,” said CEO Frank Weits (pictured right). “They know what the job is, and they are going to really tell you how it is.”

The Group is also using student placements in both residential care and home care and partnerships with universities and the acute health sector to train new staff and counter some of the stigma around working in aged care.

“There is some work done by Flinders University that shows that if you offer placements, people’s prejudice against or thoughts, negative thoughts about the sector tend to go away,” said ACH Chair Mary Patetsos (pictured left). “I think they realise there’s a lot of opportunity.”

With a background in the professional services industry, Frank says providers should take a cue from that sector and shift their focus from hiring workers to offering people the best possible experience.

“In aged care, I think we still have a task orientation model where I need workers to do a job, therefore hiring people to do a job makes sense. But I want to do more than simply hire people – I want to create brand ambassadors for the business and industry.”

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