Aged care providers should adapt to the needs of workers and provide job security to retain quality staff, according to a workforce council report collating a decade of research on the voices of aged care workers.

The Aged Care Industry Workforce Council report Aged Care Workforce Narrative analyses the insights of 109,000 aged care employees collected in the Aged Care Census Database from 2009 to 2019.

The report presents the findings under 12 themes reflecting key workforce issues such as recruiting and retaining quality staff, turnover risk and fair workloads and pay.

Louise O’Neill

While turnover in aged care remains a key issue, the report released last week shows many more aged care workers believe the sector is successful at retaining quality staff at the end of the decade (45 per cent) than at the beginning of it (34 per cent).

It is an interesting finding, said Louise O’Neill, CEO of the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council.

“Turnover is still really high but the people who are remaining are good quality staff,” Ms O’Neill told Australian Ageing Agenda.  

“There were some comments of unregrettable losses so that sometimes people left who maybe didn’t fit the sector, and that was okay. But what we’ve got to do is see people that do fit the sector  come in,” Ms O’Neill said.

Retention strategies

The report shows top motivators to work in the sector include resident and client interaction (19 per cent), good location (11 per cent) and good reputation (9 per cent).

Conversely, the top four reasons why aged care employees left over the 10 years are retirement (11.4 per cent), low pay (9.3 per cent), poor management (9 per cent) and excessive workload (6 per cent).

The report recommends providers consider strategies to encourage staff to stay, such as providing flexible hours and training and development opportunities.

Aged care providers should listen to their staff and adapt to their needs, Ms O’Neill said.

“That doesn’t mean to always cost more, it might be just changing what they’re currently doing and the way they’re presented to workers,” she said.

Providers should also look at what work, career and training opportunities they can provide so workers feel valued and supported and  they can see a career pathway, she said.

On a positive note, there is an increase in the proportion of workers who believe their employers are doing more to address training and skills issues in 2017-29 (62 per cent) than at the beginning of the decade (50 per cent).

Workforce getting younger

The other key themes in the report include leadership styles and priorities, management competencies, consumer expectations and the changing age of the workforce.

As found by the 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census, the report shows the workforce is getting younger, with 45 per cent of aged care workers under the age of 40 years in 2019 compared to  compared to 29 per cent at 2009-2011.

 “It’s very encouraging to see that we now have a growing younger group as well,” Ms O’Neill said.

She said the ACWIC is currently looking at initiatives that target migrants and school leavers to encourage the right people to work in the sector.

Ms O’Neill hopes providers use this report to develop an enhanced appreciation of the key contemporary workforce issues and build sustainable solutions to address them.

Access Aged Care Workforce Narrative

This story first appeared in Australian Ageing Agenda.

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