While every home care business owner works hard to keep their operations running smoothly – with optimal staffing levels – the reality is that life is unpredictable. Sooner or later, despite your best efforts, you’re likely to be faced with the challenge of understaffing.
This may be a short-term challenge due to unavoidable employee circumstances – like a family emergency, health problems, vacation time, or transport issues – or as a result of a sudden, unexpected increase in client needs and/or referrals. These short-term understaffing issues are typically temporary and will resolve themselves when the employee returns to work, or a new hire is onboarded.
On the other hand, longer-term understaffing typically results from far bigger concerns within an organization – for example, a continuing shortage of qualified applicants, lack of training, caregiver stress and burnout, high turnover, or insufficient planning/forecasting. These ongoing situations will not fix themselves and require strategic action from management to resolve successfully.
Whether you have short- or long-term staffing shortages, your home care business will be impacted. For example:
- Your current employees will have additional workloads and may leave if this is a persistent problem due to chronic stress and burnout.
- You may lose clients due to the decreasing quality of care – and you won’t be able to take on any new clients to grow your business.
- You’re more likely to see reduced referrals and poor reviews that can damage your business reputation.
- You’ll bear the brunt of excessive costs associated with increased turnover (recruitment, interviewing, training, onboarding, etc.), loss of productivity, and pricing problems.
It’s clear that knowing how to handle staff shortages – and ideally avoid them altogether – is crucial to keep your business stable, prosperous, and in a strong position for growth.
In this article, we’ll explore several solutions you can employ to effectively navigate any short-term staffing shortages you’re experiencing right now – but first, let’s look into how you can utilize technology to ensure you’re never in this position again.
Four ways to utilize technology to avoid staffing shortages in the future
Staff shortages are growing in many industries, not just the home care space.
This challenge is likely to persist, so business owners must start looking for strategies that help them effectively maintain optimal staffing levels, to guarantee long-term stability and sustainable growth.
Here are four ways technology can help your home care business achieve just that.
1. Accelerate recruitment, hiring, and onboarding
Attracting, hiring, and onboarding staff in today’s highly competitive job market can be really tough (and expensive) – and is one of the main reasons why so many home care providers are struggling to maintain optimal staffing levels.
This is a problem that can be solved easily utilizing innovative tech solutions tailored specifically for the home care market. Technology that combines ease of use, speed, high engagement, and accurate tracking.
Home care software that includes integrated communication and engagement tools will ensure your home care business delivers an outstanding candidate experience. This will significantly improve key metrics like applicant-to-hire, time-to-hire, and cost-to-hire ratios.
Tech tools, like Smartcare’s ENGAGE Hiring Hub, can deliver all of this to help you beat the competition and effectively grow your talent pool, while also saving on time and cost.
Other features that will improve your ability to hire top talent quickly, enhance your employer brand, and maintain optimal staffing levels, include:
- Sharing job posts across multiple channels at the click of a button
- Tracking and managing applicants at every step of the process on a single platform
- Delivering clear and consistent communication with each applicant
- Moving candidates more quickly through the stages of the hiring process
- Maintaining all hiring and employee information in one place for easy access
- Converting candidates to employees with a single click
Smartcare’s comprehensive applicant tracking system (ATS) also integrates seamlessly with the platform’s complete employee management toolset, giving you total mastery over each employee’s journey with your company.
2. Increase staff retention
Caregiver retention remains an ongoing challenge for most home care providers, and while retention strategies can be costly, not taking action will increasingly affect your staffing levels and end up costing your business more in the long run. Having secured the new hires you need for optimal staffing levels, it’s crucial that you keep hold of them.
Choosing the right software tools to deliver an excellent caregiver experience is the simplest (and most cost-effective) solution to preventable turnover.
A complete home care platform, like Smartcare’s, will give you everything you need to simplify care management, keep your caregivers highly engaged and connected, and improve retention rates.
Smartcare’s innovative tech solutions for caregiver retention include:
- Advanced matching algorithms for perfect client-caregiver matching, increasing client and caregiver satisfaction.
- Dynamic scheduling with automated caregiver notifications for daily scheduling and open shifts.
- Mobile point-of-care apps and industry-leading workflows to simplify care management and reduce the time needed to complete routine tasks.
- Communication tools to keep your team (and your clients) fully informed, connected, and engaged – with HIPAA-compliant messaging and chat.
- Recognition and reward tools that leverage gamification principles to generate high motivation, engagement, and loyalty.
- Integrated training and development to promote and support career growth pathways and opportunities for advancement.
- 360-degree, real-time satisfaction tracking to monitor caregiver satisfaction levels.
- Customizable KPI dashboards to capture, view, and utilize quantitative data insights, to measure and monitor retention strategy success (or areas needing attention).
Smartcare Software customers see some of the highest caregiver retention rates in home care – up to 3x greater than the industry average – notably preventing issues like short-term and long-term staffing shortages from arising.
3. Maximize workforce efficiency through automation
Another strategy to help you avoid staffing shortages is investing in technology that allows you to do more with your existing staff!
By streamlining operations and automating routine processes, you can maximize the capabilities of your existing team – which is significantly cheaper than hiring new staff.
Systems like Smartcare Software enable you to operate a more efficient and loyal team that delivers high-quality, consistent care even through challenging times.
Routine day-to-day tasks like scheduling, care coordination, time tracking, filing care reports, and payroll management can be hugely time-consuming and tedious. Simplifying many of these mundane processes will increase workflow efficiencies, give your caregivers and back office staff more time to focus on other tasks – and reduce the need to take on extra staff.
4. Utilize data with real-time visibility into key metrics
You can’t fix what you can’t see!
This is where business intelligence tools for tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) come to the rescue – and prevent you from having any unpleasant surprises regarding staffing levels and capacity.
Implementing a digital KPI management strategy can illuminate key metrics from absenteeism and on-time client visits to client-caregiver ratios, total billable hours, and caregiver retention rates – helping you better understand both operational and individual capacity.
Tracking KPIs to produce real-time insights enables you to analyze data and performance metrics, visualize trends, monitor progress, and improve operations – so you can address any staffing issues proactively and make timely interventions. Gaining this visibility into critical metrics can also give you a window into a world of opportunities to optimize workflows, enhance productivity, and maintain optimal staffing levels.
With the right technology in place, like Smartcare’s customizable KPI dashboards, you can access the metrics and find all the answers you need in real time to guarantee your business’s success and manage sustainable growth – without adding complexity or increasing your workload.
Five ways to effectively navigate a short-term staffing shortage
1. Offer more hours to current employees
One of the quickest and easiest ways to mitigate a short-term staff shortage is to offer more hours to your current employees. Many caregivers will welcome the chance to work additional hours and increase their income, especially if you can provide higher overtime rates and/or extra incentives, such as a paid day off to redeem when the staffing crisis is over.
In order to prevent caregiver burnout with this approach, it’s essential to be mindful of ways to continue promoting a healthy work-life balance. For example, you could give your caregivers the option to work more hours over fewer days, i.e., ten hours a day (with sufficient breaks) for just four days a week. You could also introduce an element of ‘self-rostering,’ which allows staff to specify the extra shifts they can comfortably take on, to fit around childcare or other personal commitments.
2. Utilize upskilling initiatives
Frequently, understaffing can result from having a team with a limited skill set, i.e., you might actually have a full caregiver team available but no one that can deliver the specialist care needed for particular clients. For example, those with dementia or that need to be lifted daily.
In such cases, upskilling can be utilized to help team members acquire the necessary skills to step up and fill the gaps – and pretty quickly.
For example, interested caregivers can complete a 3-hour online training program with the Alzheimer’s Association. Those who pass the exam are certified in essentiALZ for two years, demonstrating their commitment and knowledge of providing personalized, client-centered, quality dementia care.
If you need caregivers who are trained in correct lifting and transferring techniques, there are multiple course options available online and in-person that can be completed in a day.
So, identify where you have skills gaps, and ask your current staff if they’d like the opportunity to upskill or reskill to take on new (or changing) responsibilities. Many will be delighted to have a chance to take on a new challenge and further their career – while easing your staffing shortage at the same time.
3. Take advantage of a staffing agency for temporary workers
When you know your staffing shortages are temporary, for example, due to caregivers taking vacation time or maternity leave, staffing agencies can help alleviate the time and expense it would otherwise require to find qualified replacements.
Using these agencies to hire caregivers on a part-time or fixed full-time basis to best suit your immediate needs will ease the burden on your permanent team until their coworkers return.
Using temporary caregivers in this way can offer a quick and effective solution for short-term staffing issues. A staffing agency will do all the heavy lifting on your behalf to find and screen candidates that have the skill set you need, plus you’ll avoid the high costs of full recruitment and hiring processes – and other costs often associated with contractual employees, like benefits, taxes, and liability insurance.
That said, this should only be used as a short-term fix! Temporary staff may have less loyalty to your company, require additional training, or not align with your company culture and values.
If going down this route, be sure to use a staffing agency specializing in home care, read reviews and testimonials to check for any red flags, be specific about what you need, and always review contracts before signing any agreement.
4. Look to attract a broader selection of applicants
While this might not provide an immediate fix, if you have a few weeks to resolve a shortage of caregivers, it can prove a successful strategy. It involves reconsidering what you actually need for optimal staffing and then widening your search to meet those needs.
For example, advertising to recruit and hire people who are trainable rather than highly qualified will bring you a broader selection of applicants. You can then use your existing team (or training programs) to upskill and mentor new hires to bring them up to speed, fill any skills gaps, or diversify into specialty care areas.
Knowledge and skills can be taught. By placing more importance on softer skills and personality traits (e.g., interest, motivation, adaptability, responsibility), you will benefit from access to a wider variety of potentially great candidates who, with some training, can become major assets to your business.
5. Implement automated systems
Working with your caregiver team and back office staff, identify daily tasks and activities that are the most time- and resource-intensive for them. This will help you to pinpoint where you need to either change a process or reduce the burden, for example, through automation.
Better workplace efficiencies in areas such as scheduling, care coordination, client and family engagement, caregiver management, and communications can free up a significant amount of time for your existing staff. They may even negate the need to take on more staff, even if you’re looking to grow. Problem solved!
Look to invest in technology tools that can automate as many processes as possible and maximize your current team’s capabilities – which will be considerably cheaper than hiring new staff.
Home care platforms like Smartcare Software will enable you to recruit, hire, and operate a more efficient and engaged team that can deliver high-quality, consistent care for your clients – whatever the circumstances.
Remember, it’s crucial to train staff in how to use any new technology introduced to maximize its benefits – even when it’s as intuitive and user-friendly as Smartcare.
While staffing shortages might be particularly challenging for your home care business right now, the reality is that being prepared for the natural ebb and flow of the economy and your workforce is always a smart strategy.
Implementing Smartcare Software’s digital solutions will help you optimize your business operations and significantly improve efficiency to overcome any staff shortages – now and further down the road.
If you’d like to know more about the Smartcare Software tools mentioned throughout this article – which can solve 99% of the current home care staffing challenges – please call our dedicated team or request a demo today.