Most home care agencies are acutely aware of the ongoing challenge to attract, engage and retain enough high-quality caregivers to meet the rising demand for home-based care services.
Home care industry leaders have identified staff shortages to be the number one challenge facing agencies at this time, as the shortage of caregivers continues to rise. Up to 7.8 million caregiver positions are predicted to sit unfilled by 2026.
The solution to this ongoing staffing crisis requires a multi-faceted approach, ranging from improved hiring and onboarding strategies to offering competitive pay, improved benefits, and rewards for meeting/exceeding performance goals.
Another, often overlooked, key component to consider is upskilling.
Smart home care agencies are beginning to understand that it is no longer a case of whether to upskill or not, but rather when and how – to ensure their caregivers are engaged and can do their jobs effectively, creatively, and with greater satisfaction.
“To achieve quality care to meet today’s demand, and growing future demands, there must be a change in how the home care workforce is valued… Demonstrating that value through upskilling and optimal deployment will show that these workers can do more, and deserve more than the current system imagines.”
Angelina Drake, COO at PHI
What is caregiver upskilling?
Upskilling is the process of gaining new and relevant competencies to broaden a caregiver’s skill set. It provides opportunities for caregivers to build their skillset and develop within an agency, ensures better care for clients/patients and can help grow a home care agency through specialized care.
Whether empowering new hires with limited experience to master the basics of caregiving, or providing more experienced employees with the opportunity to specialize and achieve promotion, caregiver upskilling options are endless. Common examples include training in:
- Physical/safety skills to assist clients with mobility impairment, e.g. bathing, dressing, lifting, transferring, etc.
- Symptom identification and condition management.
- Identifying signs and symptoms of worsening/emergent conditions in clients/patients, e.g. changes in sleep patterns, weight gain, or difficulty breathing.
- Home safety inspections and fall prevention.
- Enhanced social and communication skills.
- Observing/recording/reporting skills.
- Clinical knowledge to improve understanding of client/patient health conditions and to promote health behaviors.
- Life-saving skills, such as CPR and first aid.
- Attending to care plans and navigating transitions in care.
- Tracking client/patients’ medical appointments and managing/monitoring medication and other home therapies.
- Technology/digital skills.
- Specialized care for chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s, COPD, and Alzheimer’s.
- Diabetes care and nutrition – specialist care.
- Education and behavioural management, specifically for dementia patients.
Effective home care services require a diverse interplay of skills due to hugely differing client/patient requirements. Therefore, investing in upskilling for a range of clinical and non-clinical skills is incredibly important for developing your caregivers personally and professionally and ensuring exceptional care for each client’s/patient’s unique needs.
What are the benefits of upskilling caregivers?
Implementing specialized training programs can seem daunting, with many home care agencies put off by the costs involved. However, it’s important to weigh those costs against the long-term benefits upskilling caregivers can offer. It really can help to tackle multiple issues faced by home care agencies. For example:
- Upskilling opportunities are a significant attraction when recruiting and hiring new caregivers.
- Upskilled caregivers tend to have lower turnover rates and higher performance levels.
- Upskilled, internally promoted caregivers are typically less costly to an agency than external new hires (for example, they are already familiar with an agency’s culture and processes, share a rapport with other team members, and do not require onboarding for new roles).
- Recent studies show that upskilled care teams can achieve a 40% reduction in emergency hospital visits/rehospitalizations – saving up to $12,000 per client/patient – and increasing referrals.
- Additional training increases caregiver productivity, provides better care for clients/patients and improves client/patient satisfaction.
- Upskilled caregivers tend to have higher job satisfaction, more confidence in their abilities and a greater aptitude for growing into new roles/taking on greater responsibilities – all great for caregiver retention.
- Upskilling can boost revenue by offering existing clients/patients additional services or specialized areas of care, that bill at a higher hourly rate.
- Being able to offer specialized areas of care can also attract new clients/patients to your agency.
- Placing high value and respect on your caregiver team, and communicating that value through upskilling and other benefits, goes a long way towards retaining caregivers who will stay loyal to your agency long term.
The return on investment (ROI) in enterprise-wide upskilling is compelling. For example, 95% of businesses report that upskilling programs helped them strengthen company culture and employee engagement and retention.
Home care agencies that go above and beyond to upskill and empower their caregivers may find the edge they need to attract, engage and retain caregivers in a highly competitive market.
Where to begin?
Successful upskilling begins with a thorough skills gap analysis that identifies which skills your care team currently lack, as well as technical or other professional skills that can help them be more productive, confident and engaged.
The agency-wide skills diagnostic should involve conversations with your caregivers about what holds them back. They can tell you which time-consuming, manual tasks slow them down, making it difficult to focus on the higher-impact work they aspire to.
73% of employees say they know of systems that would help them to produce higher-quality care in less time. Your caregivers already know they could be doing their jobs more effectively and efficiently, and want the training and technology that will make this possible.
Ideally, the data from your analysis will feed into your training program/learning and development strategy. Depending on the model your agency uses for this, there are five phases required for upskilling:
- Analyzing training needs
- Specifying learning objectives/making a plan of action (including personalized upskilling pathways)
- Deciding training content, method of delivery and access to training
- Presenting the strategy/program to your team
- Monitoring and evaluating.
Every home care agency will end up with a slightly different upskilling strategy/plan, so the techniques chosen for upskilling caregivers will vary too. We look more closely at upskilling techniques in Part 2: 7 Techniques to Successfully Upskill Your Caregivers and Unlock Their Full Potential.
Upskilling is rapidly becoming one of the most critical ways for home care agencies to equip their caregivers with the skills and competencies they need to be future-proof. How your home care agency goes about upskilling your caregivers will depend on your specific needs, both from an organizational and employee perspective. Often, a combination of several upskilling techniques will work best.
Upskilling your caregiver team will help bridge skill gaps in your agency and empower your caregivers to perform at their highest potential. It can also help reduce caregiver turnover rates, produce greater client/patient satisfaction and increase referrals – potentially transforming your entire home care agency.
Learn more about how SMARTcare software can help you take the first step towards simplifying your agency’s operational functions, so you can focus on caregiver upskilling, enhancing the quality of care your clients receive and, ultimately, setting your agency apart.