How to Retain Home Care Workers Without Breaking the Bank

High caregiver turnover rates continue to plague the home care industry, but implementing a program focused on employee recognition shows considerable promise in helping agencies retain quality staff.

Caregiver turnover is the biggest threat to home care providers in 2015, according to results from the 2015 Private Duty Benchmarking Study conducted by Home Care Pulse, a firm specializing in satisfaction management research and quality assurance for the home care industry.

This year, 62.8% of providers listed caregiver shortages as one of the top threats they face in their home care business, compared to 48.9% who felt this way a year ago, according to the 2015 study.

“That’s alarming to us,” said Erik Madsen, chief operations officer at Home Care Pulse, during a recent webinar. “It’s alarming because we as an organization are starting to hear more and more about home care owners and executives having to turn away business because they do not have enough qualified caregivers to take care of those clients.”

There are some small initiatives home care agencies can put into practice that can go a long way and better their chances of retaining staff, all without putting a strain on already tight operating margins, Madsen said.

What it boils down to is simply recognizing one’s caregivers and creating a program that not only acknowledges staff performance, but also promotes satisfaction and longevity within one’s organization.

“Caregivers want to be told they’re doing a good job and they want their successes to be celebrated,” Madsen said.

Based on research from its 2015 Private Duty Benchmarking, which polled 701 home care providers representing over 1,000 locations, Home Care Pulse found that caregivers view verbal recognition (36.9%) more importantly than perks like vacation time and bonuses (20.4%).

Verbal recognition even triumphed over pay raises (14.%), recognition by client (13%) and company-wide recognition (12.3%).

Creating a caregiver recognition program should be based on four key principles, Madsen said. These include being specific when commending caregivers on certain tasks; providing timely feedback; being consistent in evaluating or recognizing caregivers’ performance; and rewarding them with something that is meaningful to them.

Some best practices for home care providers can be something as simple as expressing caregiver recognition via handwritten notes and certificates, or reward-based systems such as giving gift cards or other prizes, Madsen said.

One home care provider who spoke with Home Care Pulse in the 2015 Benchmarking Study noted a significant improvement in its retention rate after having implemented a points-based system in which caregivers received points for certain performance metrics, which they could then accumulate and cash in for certain prizes.

“Someone who was very close to earning a reward didn’t want to leave the company. They wanted to stick around and it just added additional benefits to what they could offer,” Madsen said.

Increasing caregiver retention is critical for providers, especially given the current high turnover rate the industry grapples with in the face of a looming demand.

The aging demographic in the U.S. is poised to represent a sizeable chunk of the population never seen before in the coming years, with the Census Bureau projecting that more than 20% of the total U.S. population will be 65 or older by 2029.

At the same time, the nation faces a shortage of caregivers to care for this increasingly aging society—only further stressing the importance of increasing caregiver retention.

“We’ve got to get ahead of what’s happening in this industry in order to survive,” Madsen said.

Written by Jason Oliva