• 13 November 2019
  • 8 min read

How Care Home Managers can hire with success and why getting recruitment right is so important

  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager

For Care Home Managers it's vital that recruitment is done successfully and correctly. Here are the simple steps and tips to hire well by an experienced Care Home Manager.

Getting recruitment right saves time, money and stress. Read our guide on how Care Home Managers can hire successfully

Topics covered in this article

Why staff retention is a particular challenge for Care Homes

What resources do Care Home groups use to resource candidates internally?

What factors can impede recruitment?

Should you hire experienced staff or those new to care?

Essential skills for Home Managers who recruit their team

Why staff retention is a particular challenge for Care Homes

Successful recruitment is the lifeblood of any care home – actively recruiting new staff is essential to balance the high levels of staff turnover in social care.

The problem of recruitment however is matched by the challenges of staff retention.

Contributory factors to high staff turnover (retention) can include the fact that it’s shift work over 7 days, often requiring weekend working. This often involves late shifts: 2pm to 10pm, for example.

For single parents with little support around childcare, these shift patterns can be impractical.

Ideally, a residential home wants to use zero agency workers, relying wholly on their own team of carers contracted and occasional workers (aka “bank” workers) to fill their shifts. In reality, most mid to large size homes use a degree of agency workers on an occasional or regular basis.

I recommend Neil Eastwood's book “Saving Social Care” and his video and article about staff turnover here on Nurses.co.uk as a reference to delve into this more deeply.

There are several articles on the use of agency in care homes covered in my book “Leadership Secrets for Care Home Managers”.

What resources do Care Home groups use to resource candidates internally?

1. Company managed recruitment job boards

There is good reason for using an internal job board: in theory it saves money on using expensive agencies.

In practice however, internal recruiters sometimes lack the level of contacts, drive and skill of financially driven external recruiters (there are some excellent ones too).

The other limitation for internal recruiters is having no middleman to bring the two parties together. The initial cost saving can become a greater expense. So consider whether you have the internal resources, time (it IS time consuming to hire successfully), skill and drive to make a success of it.

2. Open days / banners

Can be good for 1 or 2 staff but in my recent experience, with a buoyant job market in care and many unfilled jobs at minimum wage level, there is plenty of choice.

3. External job boards

Of course, Nurses.co.uk is a good start for advertising Care Home jobs - especially Nursing Home Nurses and Care Home Manager vacancies.

While they may all look similar (a long list of jobs that are searchable) a quick look under the bonnet of each job board will help you decide which one is best for you.

Generalist job boards

These are job sites that cater for every type of job out there. They are non-specific by nature.

So you may attract applications from people hoping they can easily transfer from another industry.

These 'hopeful' applicants most often waste time. 

Due to the size of generalist job web sites you will receive more applications. Generalists tend to talk about 'traffic' and 'clicks' rather than 'audience' or 'readership'. A complaint aimed at generalists is that they can tend to produce volume at the expense of quality or relevance. If so, you may use a lot of time rifling through irrelevant applicants.

This is because generalists market themselves by casting the net very wide: television, radio and in some cases across the whole world.

They claim to have millions of CVs and are geared up for selling to those looking to hire based on volume.

Generalist job boards are often run by very large multi-national tech companies with high profit targets to maintain. So, find out if the customer service you receive extends beyond the initial sales process.

Specialist job boards

Or niche job sites, as they are known. (For instance, Nurses.co.uk is a specialist platform for Nurses and Home Managers, with a job board attached to it, listing Care Home Manager jobs.)

Some of the specialist jobs boards are in fact owned and run by the same huge corporations that run generalist job boards too.

So it's worth asking (or you could receive the same kind of traffic if you were to go to a generalist).

With a specialist site it is more often dedicated to the country you are in, and staffed by a far smaller number of people.

The drawback is it is very likely you will receive less quantity (fewer applications). But due to the way specialist sites attract their visitors (much more of a readership audience, like a typical print publication, won over the years by offering its audience good reasons to keep returning and reading) the advantage is that you can hope to receive:

- better quality

- access passive candidates (not strictly looking for a job, but yours could catch their eye!)

- less wastage

You may also prefer to simply deal with a smaller organisation that is as much a part of your industry as you are.

Read our Complete Care Home Manager Career Guide

We explain the key elements of a Home Manager’s job and the questions around working in Care Homes in the UK. We cover typical pay, CQC requirements as well as the challenges faced by Home Managers and Registered Managers

Find out more

What factors can impede recruitment?

Providers not adjusting the rate of pay for the local area, or having an uncompetitive level of benefits

Though carers are not necessarily financially driven, often they will know who has better benefits (sick pay is an important one often omitted).

The net result is that staff work when they are ill and often run their health down over time, leaving to higher sickness levels. This can be very counter-productive.

Lack of public transport to the home

It all depends on the level of housing around and depth of car ownership / demographics in the area.

Sometimes it can work fine, for example where staff who are car drivers help each other on shift.

In other instances, the lack of public transport can lead to long term agency usage which in turn can lead to quality / sustainability issues.

Reputation of the Care Home and or its manager

This has a significant bearing on recruitment.

Everyone who comes in touch with the Care Home will have their own view of the home manager.

In my experience, often it's the carers and nurses who are very tough who rise to the top.

Whilst a “firm but fair” management style is effective on some levels, there are other management approaches which help engage a staff team.

Care Home Managers who have come up through the ranks would benefit from being taught how their behaviours impact the behaviours of the team.

Skillsforcare, (the government education and training partner to the CQC) does some great management training for care managers - worth a look.

Should you hire experienced staff or those new to care?

Considering the Care Home labour market is expanding as so many Care Homes are being built, this is an important consideration for any Care Home manager - do you hire experienced (smaller recruitment pool but they come with the right skills), or do you hire inexperience (far bigger pool but training will be needed).

Recruiting experienced staff

The pros are they often have solid training, sometimes a level 2 or 3 in social care. With that, comes these benefits:

• they are knowledgeable, safe, understand good practice

• they cost little to train / need little time to get up and running and be on the rota

The cons are:

• they can be burnt out or institutionalised (when did they first learn about care?)

• have they adapted their practice as care standards have evolved?

• are they leaving due to problems at a care home that they are part of?

It takes judgement and experience to decide whether an experienced staff member will be an asset or a liability.

Personally, I always recruit on emotional warmth (ask yourself 'do they have any?').

I also look at attitude:

• are they easy to talk to?

• do they listen?

• are they team players or moaners / complainers?

• do they have a passion for care and making a difference or do they just “say the right thing?”

Recruiting staff that are new to care

The pros are:

• they are a blank sheet of paper to a point in regards to culture / ethos

•  they will typically absorb what you say

•  they are useful to bring some new perspective to a team

The cons are

• they need a great deal of training to become competent – there are cost implications here

• there is a greater churn for new staff – they may “try it out” and then leave, wasting valuable management and admin time.

A very robust, structured induction during their first few weeks will help the most committed “new to care” staff settle.

A degree of creativity and focus is needed to help these staff make a successful adjustment to this new work setting.

All Care Home Managers have been burnt with recruiting staff that are new to care, who seem engaged, make lots of promises and leave shortly after. It’s a hazard and risk with recruiting from this profile of candidate.

Interestingly, several CQC “outstanding” rated providers I know have developed their capabilities to properly train and induct “new to care” staff to their ethos and standards.

They actively prefer to take staff that haven’t worked in care before and introduce them to their values and ways. Your decision!

Essential skills for Home Managers who recruit their team

Managing your team - daily meet-ups vs weekly or monthly meetings

There is a train of thought in some hotel / hospital groups about having a daily meeting – sometimes called a “huddle” for example.

The idea is to hear what different departments are doing and then ensure everyone is aligned for the work of the day.

In my experience, the benefits of this are where there is lots of activity which impacts the staff teams – in that instance, coordination is key.

In a small to mid-sized care home with little unique activity each day, I found these meetings to be have little value.

Monthly meetings

Most care home groups will have a meeting schedule, sometimes with a prescribed agenda.

The idea is that there should be regular meetings between the home manager and staff, residents, various departments.

It is good but forced meetings with little to say or too many meetings can loose sight of the intent – clear, effective leadership with good communication and a home manager that is listening and responding to the various people using, or working in / with the service.

It is crucial to have good notes from these meetings and agreed action points which should be signed and dated before the next meeting.

It is important for staff to see that the manager will take action on things raised at meetings as per “effective”, “responsive” CQC key lines of enquiry (find out about KLOEs - key lines of enquiry - within a Home Manager's role here).

Weekly meetings

This is a useful format where there are staff problems, morale or behavioural or it is a fast growing home or a new manager.

It has the benefit of brevity – only talking about the last week.

If you continue patiently, usually staff will start to speak up as you get into more and more issues.

Related articles

The cost of high staff turnover

Managing finance to run a viable Care Home

All our other articles by Liam

The Complete Care Home Manager Career Guide

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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.