How one company tackled chronic talent shortages
While there is clearly a shortage of healthcare professionals nationwide, the impact of this is particularly worrying in the light of Singapore’s rapidly ageing population, where it is anticipated that with 960,000 Singapore residents over the age of 65 years by 2030, one in three expected to need eldercare services.
Over the past five years, we have had a front-row seat to the manpower woes facing the elderly homecare sector in Singapore.
This scarcity of talent became apparent to us when we witnessed an exponential demand for our eldercare services just within the first few years of launching and were tasked with finding ways to attract the right candidates to meet Singapore’s specific eldercare needs.
In order to have a sustainable talent pool, we needed to not only establish our own recruitment network across the region but also make the prospect of working in Singapore appealing, to compete with the demand from the other ageing Asian markets.
But there were a number of issues that we had to address. The key contributing factors to the shortage of skilled and willing workers stems from a worldwide “image deficit” problem, where there is a misconception that home-based eldercare requires less skills and is less professional than institutionalised care.
Other challenges include long and arduous recruitment processes that fail in meeting the urgent requests that are typical of home eldercare assistance, as well as the lack of ongoing training and support in helping caregivers fulfill their demanding role.
Enhancing image to attract talent
As an industry, we need to communicate the advantages of a career in eldercare such as the opportunity to have a real impact on lives, the flexibility of working in a home setting, scope to implement new initiatives for the betterment of patients and the reward of giving patients a much better quality of life in their silver years.
Among the steps that can be taken to enhance the image of the profession include:
- Charting Out A Career Path – Setting a clear path for progression with goals and opportunities for advancement within the organisation can be powerful in attracting and retaining talent.
Experienced caregivers, for example, can work towards becoming a trainer to impart the knowledge and skills that they have gained.
- Clearly Define Roles – Properly defined roles and responsibilities help in setting boundaries and expectations from the onset, which not only improves efficiency but also leads to a greater respect and appreciation for the service of a caregiver.
At Active Global we ensure that all our local nurses, foreign nursing-trained caregivers and Home Care Attendants are well regarded, are placed in the right working conditions and have clearly defined roles that are agreed upon and understood by patients and their family members.
- Ongoing Training – More than just imparting knowledge and upgrading skills to better equip caregivers for their duties, the culture of continuous learning and sharing reflects well on forward-thinking organisations that advocate life-long learning and self-improvement.
In the effort to ensure that our staff deliver a consistent standard of service, we have developed our own in-house training and assessment programme that is constantly being evaluated and improved by our nurse trainers.
Swifter recruitment process
To address Singapore’s acute shortage of available nursing and care-giving professionals, we have accelerated the recruitment process to quickly and cost-efficiently identify suitable talent from around the region through a digital recruitment strategy.
This involves the usage of three digital platforms – the company website, Facebook and Skype – to attract, filter and process applicants quickly.
Seamless and cost-effective, our digital recruitment tools have allowed us to measure the effectiveness of our efforts almost in real-time and make adjustments as necessary.
We are now able to compress our recruitment process from two months to just 10 days, assessing and processing more than 200 potential candidates a month.
It has also brought our recruiting cost down by five times in comparison to traditional hiring methods.
As the primary source of information for caregivers seeking employment, our website clearly states the recruitment process and showcases employee testimonials, which plays an important role in engaging prospective candidates.
The online application form helps to speed up the application process and the detailed information provided on the website has helped to attract high-calibre professionals locally and from abroad.
Available in multiple languages, our Facebook page has served as an essential tool in reaching out to potential candidates in a very targeted way.
The easy access to updates, share-ability of information and candid responses to queries on Facebook has allowed our existing employee network to share experiences, link up and attract potential candidates from their home country.
Regular social support
The care-giving role is a demanding one from all aspects and the benefits of social support is often underestimated. Equally as important as attracting new talent to this sector is regular engagement and support initiatives that can help caregivers release, recharge and go the distance.
Be it monthly training sessions, cultural celebrations, or group chats, making connections with other caregivers helps to create a sense of camaraderie and of banding together in the continued effort to provide quality care for our elderly.
We’ve managed to take this out across many levels, and the prospect of supportive work environment with strong team spirit has also allowed us to reach Singaporeans who have long considered making a career switch to something more meaningful, many who have come forward to join us as part of our respite care team.
At the end of the day, it is an equation of balance, where everyone wants to give and receive the best care possible, and this is something that needs to start with a mindset change as to how the role of the professional caregiver is viewed.
After all, it is a role that comes with great responsibility — and should therefore get the support and respect that it deserves.