• 03 July 2019
  • 18 min read

Care Home Quality Podcast - episode 4 with author and recruitment specialist, Neil Eastwood

  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager

In episode 4 of the Care Home Quality Podcast, Liam speaks with Neil Eastwood, the author of the book Saving Social Care. Highly regarded in the social care industry, Neil speaks regularly about recruitment and retainment within care.

Listen to episodes one, two and three.

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-- Abbreviated version of the podcast --

Where Neil is at today

In the last year, on seventy-two occasions I'm speaking in front of audiences, care audiences around the world sharing Recruitment and Retention best practice.

So I'm kind of on a mission to share some of the findings of the 10 years of work that I've done trying to understand how we as care providers can recruit the right kinds of people and keep them longer and I think this is becoming a more critical thing.

So I'm asked not because of me, but because of the topic a lot more to be speaking and to sharing this sort of work. So I do that.

The book is obviously Saving Social Care, I wrote that a couple of years ago and it's out.

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So, that doesn't need maintenance now, thank goodness, it's happily out there. So that generates more and more inquiries.

One of the big focuses I've had since the summer of last year was to advise the Department of Health and Social Care on the national recruitment Campaign, which at the time of recording is the first phase of that, the first wave of that is almost over, so my work is kind of done on that but there's been a lot of work in the last few months trying to support a way that the best way to optimize, you know, changing the perception of care work in the wider community in England particularly.

What's taken a lot of my time up most recently and kind of where I am right as we're speaking is an app I've been developing called Care Friends, which is looking at how we can improve employee referrals.

Employee referrals from my research were the number one source of quality staff.

So quite a lot of different things going on, but all centred around the theme of Workforce and how we find great people and how we keep them in the castle.

What are the current pressures on recruitment in care?

There are there are many pressures.

I mean, even if you're running a learning disability service and you're not affected by or in involved with aged care, it's the Aging population that is so pulling in the demand for care workers.

And so you're at risk, even if you're running a learning disability service because the demand for workers is so high and there are a lot of substitutes and you know what I perceived as easier options for people at this looking for this kind of work, looking for local work and so it's imperative that we talk to passive applicants, so not just people on an internet job board.

I think it's one of the big mistakes that's happened over the past 10 or so years, is that it's too easy for a care provider to simply put an advert on let's say Indeed or another job board and get a flood of applicants.

What they are not seeing and don't measure often is, do those people stay or are they the right people?

It takes your time up chasing people.

So one of the big changes I encourage care providers to make is to start looking out in the community for people that have the right values and not relying on active job seekers who present themselves to you on a plate.

The findings that are absolutely KEY

I was at a care and drinks event then a care provider came to me.

I was introduced to him as the author of Saving Social Care and you're dealing with the recruitment retention.

He said ‘oh, I don't have time to read your book. Just give me the top five things and we're done’ and I was immediately irritated and thought, you don't even want to buy my book!

I make no money out of the book I should hasten to add for the listeners, it all goes to the care workers charity, but nonetheless, I thought I was initially kind of a kind of annoyed with him, and then I thought actually, he's got a point.

So what are my kind of key takeaways from the book, because if you don't have time - and not everybody has time, what would I say are my key findings?

And I think I think one of the key findings is around, as I mentioned, sourcing and really looking at where you're getting your applicants from and then looking at who makes it start and it is those sources the same staff, same people or are some sources dropping away in some really over delivering.

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And then most importantly if you have a care setting already, if you're an employer that is to look at the staff you have and find out where did they come from, and you will find a guarantee in a lot of cases employee referral and word-of-mouth drives good quality recruitment.

And I think that everyone can do it for themselves to work on their own data but that's one.

Another key finding for me is that you have these two kinds of applicants.

There's an active job seeker and they're on the Indeed and all the providers are chasing them and even if they say yes to you, it's quite likely they'll change their minds and they are flighty and they won't necessarily stay, and then there are the passive job seekers than those are people in the community we need to reach out to.

So a key finding for me in terms of sourcing was that we need to activate more sources and diversify our sourcing away from the easy internet job board source.

And on Facebook is another digital source, that actually does deliver pretty well now and I would encourage providers to be recruiting on.

But there are many sources outside and I think you know particularly for in-home care then you need an older profile.

So typically an older profile of worker for a whole range of reasons is more successful in home care.

So what is your offer to the over 50s, are you reaching them?

And if you're on the internet job board you may not be doing that.

Another finding key finding I think is around the candidate experience, and here I would recommend that listeners apply for a job with their own company on their mobile phone because that is what applicants are doing.

Can you do it? How hard is it?

And I think one roadblock would be suddenly you're faced with being asked to upload a CV onto your mobile phone. Do you even know how to do that?

And I think often the types of people we're encouraging, so return-to-work moms and others, they may not have a CV ready.

So think carefully about whether you are insisting on a CV.

Frankly, it won't tell you anything you need to know about that person.

We're looking for the character and their motivation and that means talking to them.

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So I think that's another point. And generally on the candidate experience, we need to be less corporate and more vocational.

So we need to tell a story and as more Millennials come into the workplace they want to know your mission, your why, and we don't do a good job of selling care very well. Why should I work in care?

And if you if you take for example, if you have The Misfortune of Being near a NHS hospital and they can kind of Hoover up all the great staff that wait for you to train them potentially in there Nick them off you.

I think the important thing to consider is, what do you offer as an experience?

In Social care that's different to the NHS and generally, that is that your staff get to see the outcomes of the work they do, whereas in the NHS the contact time they have with a particular person is much shorter.

So that is something I would encourage people to sell against the NHS if that's what they need to do.

So the whole candidate experience, we need to be faster to respond, we need to be friendly, and we know that a lot of people no-show for interview one in five because they're too nervous to come along.

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So, thinking about how we can depressurize and destress the interview experience for people who often very caring, maybe low self-esteem, low confidence, but they are nervous and worried and I think we can forget sometimes that we don't do enough to make it a friendly experience.

So I think those are two rather key points, which is sourced differently and make sure the experience of applying is good.

And then I would say another couple of final points one is onboarding, very very important that when people accept the job offer with you pay very careful attention to the first few minutes and hours they're in the office that they start work with you.

That is the time they're making their mind up - have I made a bad mistake, am I going to leave or I'm going to stay?

And there's much you can do I would encourage the owners of businesses that are listening to welcome that person personally if that's possible to do or at least get on the phone and say thank you so much for joining, and I think simple things like that they're appreciated is a very valuable thing.

And when you get into long-term retention, just finally I would say the thing that Care staff crave the most is an appreciation for the job.

They do, you know in The Current financial climate, we can't pay people what they’re worth.

So we need to make sure they feel intrinsic rewards from doing the job.

If you've chosen the right people and they've chosen the right career then you'll find they're caring people who get a lot out of the interaction with the client or the resident.

But what we need to do as managers and owners is say thank you to them regularly for doing it.

What research underpins your findings?

My research base was quite varied.

So I read as much of the academic researchers I could find and but I found often that is not very practical to implement as a care provider.

So I have been a care provider and I know it's a busy environment with limited resources.

So it's all very well to talk about long-term culture change and lots of things that we ought to be doing that require a lot of thought and strategy, but really the day-to-day where the rubber hits the road in social care is a very crisis driven reactive environment and there are limited resources.

So it's very very difficult for care providers to do some of these more academic things.

So what I recommend you do is and what I centred on really was the research that is from providers themselves.

So I travel around the world talking to care providers and when they gave me good pieces of advice, I would take them typically back to the UK and say can we Implement that simply, and does it work?

And in many cases what you need to do is lots of little things, you don't need to do one big change.

So the research base was academic in one instance, but more valuable I think is measuring the data that's coming from care providers, talking to them and making sure it's very practical for people to implement.

Where did it all begin? 

I think that most people who are listening will have had a rather unusual journey into social care themselves and often it's a referral or a family connection oil at Family Care that that created the initial connection with social care for me.

I'm the son of a vicar so I was brought up in a vicarage and therefore the whole ethos in the family was around helping people in the community and this is back in the 70s when you know social care wasn't as developed.

And so there was a lot of sort of community-based care and the church played a bigger role than it does now.

So I was doing paid social care roles in the 70s in the mid-70s when I was a kid myself helping older people out but in the community with walking their dog, and that kind of thing. I was brought up to put others before myself.

And so although I'm moved away from that initially, you know. The Strand through my life has been startups and innovation, so I always didn't want to work in a big corporate where I didn't matter.

I wanted to do something to make a difference.

And so I did a number of startups and I lived around the world doing different startups in Singapore and Australia and other places and ended up coming back through Healthcare really, so I did some projects around telemedicine and Telecare.

And one of the projects I was working on was can we make the television into a connected device to reduce the loneliness of older people in the home?

They're familiar with a remote control that familiar with the television and maybe they can't adapt to other Tech.

And so as part of that work then I realized that social care was a potentially a place I would like to be and I took a took an interim job with a national home care provider.

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It was never meant to be a long-term thing, I only stayed a little over a year, but that experience of seeing where we had 10,000 staff and almost a hundred percent of them were leaving every year, it was horrifying to me and I thought I don't think there's really much help for providers like us for how we recruit to retain, there must be a better way of doing it.

And so that's why I thought I would look outside the UK for some inspiration because in the past I'd always look to find ideas that were working in one country and can we import them to the UK or in when I was living in Singapore.

Can we bring an idea from the UK to Singapore and so in, really mixing those two things together led me to focus on Recruitment and Retention.

It's really a journey that I have only just started after 10 years.

I think I'm learning something new every day talking to providers.

So there's much more we need to do because the demand for staff and the and the pressures on the workforce are getting exponentially worse.

So I'm trying to do my little bit to try and help providers overcome it.

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How do you get the word out and engage with others?

A lot of what I do is is free really and that is so a lot of it is based around the speaking I do.

So this evening I have a webinar with Australia and New Zealand, so I will be sharing the word I guess at a different care settings like where we are today.

I also have a website called stickypeople.co.uk that focuses on a screening tool which we do charge for, that allows you to identify the personality in the attitude and the risk profile of people are applying to join you.

The book Saving Social Care has its own website with a company video. So there's more content for people to learn from there.

And then a lot of my work now is developing an app Care Friends to see if we can improve the number one source of Staff in terms of quality, which is employee referrals.

Can we use technology to ring out of the community more of those great people that everyone knows.

What challenges have you had and how have you overcome them?

I think the biggest challenge we face and we found this with the national recruitment campaign work that the Department of Health and Social care is doing is that the sector is very fragmented and just simply time to reach providers when we have 20 odd thousand of them is a real challenge.

Not all of them, I mean a small fraction, will be engaged with, for example, skills for care through the registered managers networks or will come to a care show like we're at today.

And so that's the challenge.

There's an awful lot of people out there who are unaware of the resources and I don't have all the answers.

I'm always learning myself, but I think there's an awful lot of providers that are not engaged and are not accessing this and I think that is a frustration that we don't have an overarching club or brand, that is a real challenge.

So she get was seen as a very we are very fragmented service and of course by its very nature within the communities right across the UK, It's not centered in any one place.

And so I think that is the number one challenge is just that we can't reach people.

Do you have a skill or behaviour that has contributed to your success?

I used to be, back in University, a stand-up comedian back in the days and some of your listeners may remember the days of improv where you just had to stand on stage and the audience would shout stuff out and you have to be funny about a topic you had no idea of.

And I think that combined with, you know, from my very first memories as a child was in church seeing my father standing at the pulpit speaking and thought well that looks like a perfectly normal thing to do.

What I didn't realize is being brought up in the vicarage is rather an odd thing to happen to you because I had no idea of that.

So I thought it's perfectly normal to speak in front of people and I found that you know comedy was was one way of I guess getting attention because back in my childhood my father was 50 when he had me so he was quite distant figure.

He'd been in the war, he got shot by a tank - not the main turret, otherwise, he wouldn't be much left of him, but machine gun hits him.

So he's had a really quite you know, it's kind of interesting background, but he was quite distant person and so I was kind of left on my own a lot and then you crave attention and I think probably that combination of like wanting to be funny and I don't you know, I try and be funny in my presentation so people can make their own mind up whether that's the success or not.

But I think that you know, there's certainly that strand of it's great to have an audience and if you can make it fun for people then I think you can get a message over in a much more effective way.

So that's been my aim that.

Next time...

Our next speaker is Issac Theophilos.

Isaac is the author of How to get outstanding: an ultimate guide for Care Homes.

He's a really interesting fellow.

Great back story as to how this book came about.

So look forward to sharing that with you shortly.

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About the author

  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager

Liam Palmer is the author of 2 books on raising quality standards in care homes through developing leadership skills. The 2nd is called "Leadership Secrets of Care Home Managers” inspired by several meetings with the Chief Inspector of the regulator, the CQC. Liam has been fortunate to work as a senior manager across many healthcare brands including a large private hospital, a large retirement village and medium to large care homes in the private sector and 3rd sector.

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  • Liam Palmer
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About the author

  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager

Liam Palmer is the author of 2 books on raising quality standards in care homes through developing leadership skills. The 2nd is called "Leadership Secrets of Care Home Managers” inspired by several meetings with the Chief Inspector of the regulator, the CQC. Liam has been fortunate to work as a senior manager across many healthcare brands including a large private hospital, a large retirement village and medium to large care homes in the private sector and 3rd sector.