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Improve Caregiver Engagement & Retention By Helping Your Caregivers To Set And Achieve SMART Goals

Published on April 6, 2022 by Sharon Morrisette

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Retaining caregivers continues to be a significant challenge across the entire home care industry as we move through 2022 – with average turnover rates still exceeding 65%.

Home care agencies understand the need to improve key areas in the caregiver experience they offer – including onboarding, training, flexible scheduling, and clear communication – to beat the competition in attracting, engaging and retaining top talent.

Many agencies are choosing to focus on working with their caregiver teams to set and achieve goals, which can tick a lot of boxes when trying to improve caregiver engagement and retention. This strategy not only enhances caregiver engagement and motivation but can also help to align your caregivers with the bigger purpose of your agency.

Similar to gamification, the process of setting and achieving goals is known to trigger factors that support intrinsic human motivation and higher performance, including:

  • Progress/Competence: provides clear markers for caregivers to set and track their achievements and directs them to future actions to make further progress.
  • Autonomy: caregivers feel they have more control over what they’re doing.
  • Value/Purpose: caregivers feel they are making a meaningful contribution, aligned with agency culture, in areas that might otherwise be considered somewhat repetitive or mundane.
  • Feedback: encourages caregivers to continue to the next milestone or identify changes they need to make to get back on track.
  • Recognition and reward: offers incentives for caregivers to set and achieve goals, which are known to be highly motivational and engaging.

How to set SMART goals

Work-life balance and setting SMART goals - Smartcare Software

Setting goals is key to creating a clear path for your caregivers and staff, ensuring they are engaged in their work and always moving forward in the right direction. Goals also serve to measure progress and keep your team motivated and accountable.

According to one study, individuals with clear goals are ten times more likely to succeed.

It’s important to ensure that the goals you set with your caregivers are SMART, to position your team for maximum success:

S = Specific

When setting any goal, it’s essential that it is well-defined and that you focus on what you want the outcome to be (not on what you don’t want!). The goal needs to get to the heart of what you want to accomplish, be clear on who is responsible for it, and identify the steps necessary to achieve it.

For example, rather than setting a vague goal ‘No more late check ins/check outs,’ a more specific goal would be ‘Caregivers will check in/check out within five minutes of the scheduled shift, 80% of the time, over the next four weeks.’ (The 80% can be increased once the initial goal has been met.)

M = Measurable

Making sure your goals are measurable means you can easily identify and quantify trackable benchmarks – so you and your caregivers can see progress over time and know when each goal has been reached.

For example, using the same goal of improving shift check in/check out times above, caregivers’ can log their check in/check out times daily to see if progress is being made towards the four-week goal. You will easily be able to see if more caregivers are arriving/leaving on time for their shifts.

If there is limited progress, tracking and measuring means you can identify problems quickly and take any steps necessary to help your caregivers get back on track.

Tracking and measuring progress for many caregiver goals is clearly more cost- and time-efficient if you use home care software that can track caregiver KPIs, such as Smartcare Software.

A = Attainable

If your caregivers aren’t confident that they can achieve the goals set, human nature will guarantee they lose motivation quickly. Goal-setting success relies on a careful balance between not aiming too high but not setting the bar too low either!

Identifying potential barriers to achieving specific goals, ahead of time, means you can scale back to ensure your caregivers can complete the steps in the specified time frame.

Breaking main goals down into smaller, actionable steps also helps your caregivers feel more confident they can attain them. It is also essential to ensure they have all the tools they need to succeed.

R = Realistic/Relevant

Ensure the goals you set together reflect what is important to your caregivers and your agency – both in terms of their roles and personal career goals. When helping your caregivers set goals, greater success will be achieved if they (and you) can see why particular goals are being set and how they connect with the agency’s bigger picture.

For example, if you are aiming for no missed shifts within your agency, you have to be realistic when setting the goal because things can happen that are out of a caregiver’s control, like a car breakdown. You also need to ensure your caregivers understand the relevance of the goal and its aim, for example, to increase client/patient and family satisfaction and referrals.

A more realistic goal might be that any missed shifts will be communicated to the scheduling team at least three hours in advance. This is realistic for your caregivers and still ensures your schedulers have time to find someone else to fill the shift. A win-win goal!

T = Time-based

Setting specific, measurable goals has the advantage that you can track progress over time – whether written down on a goal sheet or recorded automatically through a home care software platform. The timeline should include a start date and an end date to help create a sense of urgency.

Each goal needs a specified and achievable time frame for completion, so your caregivers can monitor if they are on track and know when they have finished. For bigger/longer goals, agree on dates with your caregivers for progress updates to keep engagement and motivation up.

Top 7 tips to help your caregivers achieve their SMART goals

Setting SMART Goals - Smartcare Software

1. Involve your caregivers in the goal-setting process

Clearly, the more involved your caregivers are in setting their own goals, the more motivation they will have to achieve them. While you will have agency-specific goals that you need to include for the success of your business, try to incorporate goals that also align with your caregivers’ personal goals and career aspirations.

Also, remember that your caregivers can be a great source of inspiration when goal setting. They are out in the field on a daily basis and spend the most time with your clients/patients and families, so their observations and feedback can be of great value.

2. Explain why each goal is important and relevant

When setting goals with your caregivers, be sure to clarify why these goals are being set and how they connect with your agency’s master plan. Having goals with meaning and purpose that will impact your business success and enhance your caregivers’ career paths makes all the difference to engagement and motivation.

3. Break each goal down into smaller chunks/steps

Goals can feel overwhelming. Small, manageable steps are essential to ensuring your caregivers achieve their goals. These smaller steps are easier to organize, reduce the chance of procrastination, help to build momentum, reduce stress/anxiety, and improve time management.

4. Identify potential barriers to success and address them

When supporting your caregivers to accomplish their goals, it’s essential to identify what they need in order to do so – and make sure your agency is supplying them with the necessary tools for success. This might be physical equipment, software solutions, or perhaps a mentor.

It is also vital to look at any potential barriers to reaching goals and address these before the start date. For example, do they require additional training, upskilling, training on using new technology tools, etc.?

5. Encourage caregiver goal ownership/autonomy

The way you set up goal expectations and assign responsibilities will either promote the likelihood that your caregivers perceive ownership and autonomy or undermine it. The key here is to remember that you are managing people and not tasks.

Studies show that the biggest motivation and personal satisfaction comes from goals we choose for ourselves. These goals create a specific kind of motivation – intrinsic motivation – which is the desire to do something for its own sake.When your caregivers are intrinsically motivated, they are more engaged with their work, find greater enjoyment in tasks, are more persistent when challenges arise and have higher job satisfaction. In other words, goal ownership and autonomy help your caregivers perform better and exercise their full potential. 

You’ll also realize the added benefit of higher retention rates.

6. Communicate often

Regular communication to discuss goals and progress is a great way to keep your caregivers motivated and on track and address any issues before they become a significant setback.

Communication has never been easier, with technology providing options for email, live chat, text messaging, automated record systems, and more. Find out how your caregivers prefer to receive communication and, where possible, use that method.

Whichever methods you choose, ensure your communication is two-way, both giving and receiving feedback on progress.

7. Recognize and reward caregivers that are doing well

Part of the process of successfully achieving goals is positive reinforcement and celebrating milestones along the way. Recognizing and rewarding your caregivers as they make strides towards their targets guarantees they feel appreciated and see that their efforts are worthwhile. Rewards can also provide extra motivation to focus and reach the next milestone.

Gamification tools, like Smartcare Software’s Caregiver Rewards System, can provide a cost-effective way to keep your caregivers connected, motivated and engaged – keeping track of their daily progress and delivering automated rewards at crucial milestones.

Setting SMART goals and supporting your caregivers to achieve them can have far-reaching benefits for home care owners trying to better manage and retain their caregiver teams.

If you’d like to learn more about Smartcare Software tools that will support your efforts in maintaining caregiver engagement, motivation, and retention through goal setting, please get in touch with us for more details or request a free demo. We are here to support you every step of the way.