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What aged care recruiters can learn from Donald Trump’s election success

Donald Trump stunned the world last year when he beat the most qualified candidate in history, Hillary Clinton. How did he do it? By demonstrating a clear understanding of the values and beliefs of a large number of American people. Clinton’s political machine was all over the data, but data doesn’t drive behaviour, people’s values and beliefs do.

Love him or hate him, those hiring frontline staff in the aged care sector can learn from Donald Trump. As the values and behaviours of their employees directly impact the care and support outcomes for clients, gaining insights into an applicant’s behaviours and values before they are hired is critical.

With the sector in the midst of the Consumer Directed Care (CDC) rollout, relying on traditional methods of recruitment, such as interviews and resumes, is no longer enough. The new empowered consumer environment presents a unique opportunity to organisations in the sector. Those that are nimble, innovative and able to recruit the right frontline staff will own the market.

Behavioural screening tools that use a values-based approach provide specific insights into the individual’s performance, motivation and engagement. For an industry grappling major change, building strong foundations for an effective workforce by properly screening frontline staff represents the easiest and best return of any workforce strategy/intervention.

But let’s first take a look at why the sector needs to embrace a more innovative approach to the recruitment of frontline staff.

Whether you love Trump or loathe him, make sure you learn from him: Ross Bell.

Whether you love Trump or loathe him, make sure you learn from him: Ross Bell.

The new, empowered consumer

Today’s aged care sector operates within an empowered consumer environment.  Frontline staff, as the voice and face of the organisation, has a direct impact on the day-to-day experience of clients. Faced with ongoing negative interactions with staff, perceived negligence or even elder abuse, clients can now simply find an organisation that offers better solutions.

From the staff’s perspective, an aged care workplace can be a difficult environment requiring specific sensitivities and interpersonal skills. It’s essential frontline staff are fit for purpose and can cope with the specific challenges presented to care staff in their roles.

According to a survey by Leadership IQ, 46 per cent of new hires fail within the first 18 months; 89 per cent of the time because they didn’t have the right personality traits. Relying on resumes and interviews isn’t providing the necessary insight into an applicant’s behaviours, values and beliefs.

Recruitment of frontline staff now a critical business issue

With staff costs amounting to the vast majority of operational expenses, getting the recruitment of frontline staff right is now a key driver of commercial performance. The recruitment of frontline staff, once a risk management exercise, is now a critical business issue.

Consilium Research and Consultancy’s 2016 Study into the impact of a values based approach to recruitment and retention, commissioned by UK-based Skills for Care, has shown that fit for purpose candidates – those with the personal values and behaviours suited to the sector – stay longer, are more reliable and perform better. Attracting and retaining these candidates is critical for business sustainability, growth and client retention.

Research has shown that using a values-based approach to recruitment and retention delivers a return on investment of up to 23 per cent. Apart from a significant improvement to the bottom line of an organisation, hiring effective frontline staff impacts positively across the business – employee engagement, turnover, disciplinary issues – as well as positively for clients through better engagement, support, stronger relationships, recommendations and retention. 

Elder abuse and improved screening

One of the most significant challenges facing the sector is elder abuse. It is an issue that’s not going away. The World Health Organization World report on ageing and health (2015) reports that the prevalence of elder abuse in high and middle income countries ranges from 2-14 per cent.

Incidents of elder abuse, particularly when played out in the media have always been damaging but they are now potentially a death knell to an organisation.

Groups such as Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) are calling for the development of a national awareness campaign to educate and change attitudes towards our older population. They recognise the impact values and beliefs have in the treatment of some of most vulnerable citizens.

In ACSA’s report Elder abuse, it’s recognised that while mandatory police checks are now in place in aged care, “not all perpetrators of abuse will have criminal records, so other forms of staff screening should be considered”.

A values-based approach to hiring frontline staff

With a staff member’s behaviour driven by their values and beliefs, and the experience of clients directly impacted by the staff member’s behaviour, it’s clear a values-based approach to recruitment is going to identify staff who are fit for purpose to work in aged care.

What is a values-based approach? It’s one that actively identifies and encourages values such as empathy, compassion, respect, integrity and friendliness; individual values shown to be hugely beneficial when working with aged care clients and residents. Staffmembers with these values greatly improve the experience of residents, leading to improved client engagement and relationships, and a significant reduction in the risk of complaint, abuse and serious misconduct.

Psychometric screening for frontline roles?

Psychometric assessments have generally been used within the aged care sector for management and executive recruitment and development; to gain insight into behaviours, style and fit; to assist hiring decisions.

Historically, there has been far less take up of assessments for frontline roles. This was because many of the tools available were not care sector specific, were seen as costly, and not suitable for volume recruitment. In addition, because of the range of education and literacy levels within the applicant pool, psychometric testing was often not seen as appropriate for frontline staff. These concerns are no longer valid.

Proven results of a values-based approach

A values-based approach has been proven in numerous studies to be more effective than the more traditional reliance on resume and education alone. One recent study by Consilium Research and Consultancy on behalf of Skills for Care surveyed 112 social care organisations. Undertaken in October 2014, the survey revealed that 72 per cent of organisations believed that staff employed and trained using the values-based method have higher performance levels and less absenteeism than those employed using traditional methods.

Employers using a values-based approach also reported clear financial benefits such as a clearly identifiable reduction in absenteeism and better than 20 per cent reduction in staff turnover.

Look beyond the resume to identify the right care staff

Today, HR and hiring managers have access to an unprecedented amount of data on applicants. However, the average frontline staff turnover for the industry remains stubbornly at 25 per cent. With the cost of placing and mobilising an employee estimated at being around 20 per cent of that employee’s annual salary, it’s clear HR and hiring managers need to go beyond the resume and embrace a broader approach to recruiting their frontline staff.

Using values-based psychometric assessment tools to recruit fit for purpose staff is a quick, cost effective and minimally disruptive intervention for an organisation meeting the challenge of a disrupted sector. Effectively identifying risky applicants and poor performers before they are employed has potential significant efficiencies for the recruitment process, and tangible, longterm results.

With the sector still in the early stages of CDC, now is the time for organisations to review and renew their methods of recruitment. As growth in demand for staff in the care sector attracts a much higher proportion of inexperienced applicants, embracing a values-based approach to screening applicants is far more likely to deliver frontline staff that are fit for purpose for the care sector.

Donald Trump and his campaign team knew that a person’s values and beliefs are a powerful predictor of behaviour, and was a clear factor in winning him the election.

The new, sixth generation psychometric assessment tools currently available provide an opportunity for organisations in the aged care sector to harness the benefits of a values-based approach and take a leading position in our new consumer empowered environment.

Ross Bell is the director of Care Source Group and has more than 30 years’ experience within the recruitment and consulting sector and 10 years specifically within the aged care sector.

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