How Can Employers Increase Staff Retention Through a Responsible Approach to the Employee Life-Cycle in the Field of Social Care, and What Are the Costs and Benefits of Doing so?

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How can employers increase staff retention through a responsible approach to the employee life-cycle in the field of social care, and what are the costs and benefits of doing so?

Introduction.

I have chosen to write on the above topic as I currently work as a deputy manager in a residential children’s home, a field which traditionally has a high staff turnover, offers unspectacular pay and few benefits. Like everybody in the sector I have seen many colleagues come and go, not just from individual companies but from the industry as a whole. I am interested in analysing ways in which the situation can be improved; as much for the benefits of the business as for providing consistency to the service users. However for the purpose of this essay I will focus on the benefits to the business. The first section of this essay will describe the current situation for employees and employers in the social care sector, focussing where possible on residential child care, then examine the costs of and reasons for the sector’s high turnover. The second section will look at how employers can seek to reduce turnover and associated costs by developing a responsible approach to each stage of the employee’s life cycle. I would define a responsible approach as one that enables all people to access work, contribute to and benefit from a company’s success regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and personal circumstances, and encourages continuing professional and personal development. The employee life cycle will be defined closer to the section in which it is discussed.

Section One

The current situation.
The Guardian (31st May, 2007), citing the Equal Opportunities Commission, highlights a 15% turnover among care staff in children’s homes due to the undervaluing of the work. In 2004-5, a pay analysis by Incomes Data Services (cited in the Guardian, 6th April 2005) found that the average hourly rate for NVQ 3 qualified workers (the minimum qualification required to work in a children’s home) in the private sector was £5.95; those in the voluntary sector earned, on average, £6.76. For comparison, supermarket workers earned between £4.92 and £5.66 per hour, though it should be noted that these figures are from before the introduction of the national minimum wage. The report also takes no account of overtime pay, particularly important as many residential care companies offer a flat rate of pay with no enhancements for weekends, unsociable hours, bank holidays or extra hours worked. The report found that staff turnover rates averaged 18%, but were as high as 40%; 68% of private providers and 74% of voluntary providers reported recruitment difficulties. A survey conducted by Community Care Magazine (Brody, 2007) found that 84% of social care respondents were looking for a job in the new year. This problem has even been discussed in the House of Lords, with Baroness Molly Meacher referring to “the endemic social work problems of high staff turnover, use of agency staff and complex team structures.” (Hunter, December 2007).

The costs of high staff turnover.
The Social Care Institute for Excellence (24th October 2005) states that “Staff retention is one of the biggest challenges facing many social care organisations”. Cited on the Human Resources Management (HRM) guide website (14th August 2006), the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) estimates the average cost per employee of staff turnover to be £8200, rising to £12000 - though it should be noted that these figures include redundancy payments. Figures cited by Brian Amble (2003) put this figure at £4301 and £6807, respectively. This is important, as voluntary turnover is known to “substantially” (CIPD, as above) exceed involuntary turnover (the figures relate to 2005). Cited in the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) article above, the CIPD suggests that costs to account for when replacing individual staff members include the admin costs of dealing with...
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