Many home care agencies are tightening their budgets in an increasingly competitive market and looking to fill caregiver skill gaps through temporary contract workers or new hires. This might seem like a practical solution, but it can cost agencies more in the long term.
Another approach to consider is upskilling.
While upskilling still requires investment, it’s important to remember that no onboarding is needed. In addition, the skills gained remain a permanent fixture within your agency, and it positively impacts caregiver retention, client/patient satisfaction, referrals, business growth, and more.
In Part 1: Could Upskilling Play a Key Role in Improving Caregiver Retention? we looked at examples of caregiver upskilling and the long-term benefits it can offer home care agencies.
Here we offer 7 upskilling techniques your home care agency can use to bridge skill gaps and empower your caregivers. The most effective upskilling strategies combine several of these approaches to make the most of existing internal skills and external resources.
1. Peer-to-peer learning
Peer-to-peer learning, where two or more colleagues collaborate in teaching one another, is a hot trend. Whether as one-to-one or peer-group learning sessions, your caregivers can learn a lot from each other and explore relevant issues together, boosting the learning process.
Upskilling in this way also allows your caregivers to put their new skills into action on the job safely. Effective learning should always include an interactive element, enabling supervised hands-on practice, where caregivers can try out new skills in real-time as they progress.
This is an excellent – and cost-effective – option to build and refine skills and solve problems, as much of the taken-for-granted knowledge of caregivers comes from their personal experience and interactions with colleagues.
Peer coaching also offers the opportunity to develop leadership skills such as active listening, effective feedback, clear communication, and the ability to teach/mentor. As such, it can be a great way to upskill your caregivers’ soft skills.
You can incentivize caregivers with recognition and rewards for leading/completing successful peer-to-peer training sessions.
2. Mentoring programs
Peer coaching and mentoring programs have similarities, but they are not the same thing.
A mentoring program involves matching more senior caregivers with those who are less experienced and is often used during onboarding. Mentors can teach on-the-job knowledge and skills and provide daily guidance. Upskilling in this way allows caregivers to expand their skill set in line with your agency’s needs and promotes a learning environment that makes the best use of internal skills already at your disposal.
Mentorship programs are increasingly on the rise, and for a good reason. As well as being successful in upskilling caregivers and fostering a sense of community, they have a lasting impact on employee morale. A recent Workplace Happiness Survey found that 90% of employees who have a mentor are more satisfied with their jobs and happier in the workplace.
It’s important to consider that, typically, caregivers with the most experience to share are often the busiest. Therefore, a successful mentorship program must be valued, supported, and rewarded by your home care agency leaders, with dedicated time allocated for mentors and mentees to connect.
3. External training providers
In some cases, you will not have the in-house knowledge and experience needed to upskill caregivers through peer coaching or mentoring, or you may need caregivers to acquire specific skills more rapidly.
One solution is to hire freelance specialists to bring the exact skills, competencies, and experience you need to create an upskilling opportunity. Teaming up with external experts, your home care agency can quickly build the caregiver skillset you lack so you can offer better, extra, and/or specialized services to your clients/patients.
Group sessions carried out on-site, led by external training providers, are a great way of upskilling hard and soft skills, with the bonus of bringing your remote team together to strengthen connection and teamwork.
Many agencies are also increasingly looking to hire training providers for stress management and mindfulness skills – to avoid caregiver burnout. These are vital skills that should not be taken for granted in the ever-changing, highly demanding world of home care.
4. Self-guided and personalized learning
Another way to enhance caregiver upskilling is to promote a bottom-up approach to learning. For example, through regular appraisals or coaching sessions, managers can ask caregivers about the skills they’d like to develop to improve and build their skill set and create personalized upskilling pathways.
Your home care agency can be proactive in supporting caregivers to develop their own learning paths by building incentives and removing barriers, for example:
- Help them to design and develop personal development plans.
- Allocate paid training time.
- Provide any additional resources needed.
- Allow flexibility to attend workshops and seminars during work hours.
- Provide rewards or added benefits for caregivers who upskill in their own time.
- Create promotion opportunities from within your agency for caregivers who successfully upskill.
- Gamifying the process to reward employees who achieve certain upskilling milestones.
Empowering your caregivers to devise their own learning plans and take a self-guided approach – based on their specific needs, interests, and aptitudes – is a key to success in upskilling training programs.
5. Online learning tools
Home care agencies looking to upskill caregivers with minimum disruption can utilize online learning tools that offer a flexible, cost-effective upskilling approach. In addition, E-learning has made it possible to deliver upskilling from a distance, with many courses being a good match for busy caregivers as they are often self-paced and affordable.
Accredited online learning providers are available for almost every business sector and offer structured programs leading to recognized qualifications.
You can also consider short one-off courses, such as specialized certificates, aligned to developing trends in the home care industry or your agency’s specific needs.
In addition, virtual tools like webinars and video conferences not only offer great opportunities for upskilling your caregivers but are also a cost-effective way to keep your remote teams connected and engaged.
It is also possible to create your own e-learning programs, from short web-based training units covering a topic in 5-10 minutes (microlearning) to full-length webinars. While you will need to develop documents, presentations, and videos, these pieces of content will be an asset to your agency. All the content you create will be fresh, accurate, and tailor-made for your caregivers. You can also repurpose this content to create training manuals and quick reference guides to upskill new hires.
You could even generate a new income stream for your home care agency!
6. Seminars and events
Another popular upskilling strategy is to allow caregivers time away from work commitments to attend relevant in-person seminars, courses and events. For example, most industry events have educational sessions led by sector experts that can prove highly valuable to your team.
As well as gaining exposure to home care trends and developments and learning from sector leaders, your caregivers will also have the chance to network and exchange ideas and information with industry peers. While there are costs involved in this approach, caregivers attending seminars, workshops, and other learning events will be bringing back valuable new skills and insights that can benefit your whole home care agency team.
7. Custom in-house training
Many professional bodies offer educational courses and industry-recognized qualifications that can enhance the existing skills of your caregivers, but they typically come at a high price.
Rather than sending ten caregivers to an expensive seminar or course to upskill, consider sending one representative with excellent communication skills and have them bring the knowledge back and share it with colleagues through an in-house seminar or video conference. This type of ‘training transfer’ method keeps costs down, is highly effective, and your caregivers will cement their learning through training others.
Look to select caregivers who have the required skills and a history of performing well with your agency. You can provide incentives for those who want to become in-house trainers, for example, a small salary increase, extra paid holiday, promotion or other benefits.
Continued learning and development have always been vital for home care agencies to grow and succeed in a competitive market. A stagnant caregiver team in an agency that does not move with the times will find itself lacking the necessary skills to advance and grow and will struggle to attract and retain top talent.
To avoid this scenario, your agency needs to continually evaluate future needs against current capabilities and look for training opportunities that ensure continued caregiver upskilling.
Whichever techniques you choose to upskill your caregivers, they need to become part of your business strategy and your agency’s culture. Home care agency leaders and managers need to build an environment where learning happens on a day-to-day basis – providing formal training, on-the-job guidance, and regular feedback.
Allowing employees to learn and grow – both personally and professionally – is key to optimizing and retaining top talent. Your caregivers will become informal leaders and influential champions who can serve as change agents within your agency. Take the time to invest in upskilling so that they stay with you and help your agency grow and thrive.
SMARTcare software can help you simplify your home care agency’s operational functions so that you can focus on caregiver training and upskilling. Call us today to find out more.