Lessons from the US: Recruiting the over 55’s

by Neil 19 April 2017 0

Filling frontline care vacancies is getting harder; as we heard in the media last week. This situation is not limited to the UK of course. All nations with a developed social care market are also feeling the unrelenting forces of ageing, together with pressures on the supply of labour, and are starting to adapt their recruitment efforts in response.

For example, in the United States care providers are seeing success targeting a more mature pool of potential care staff.

Here in the UK we can see similar potential with The Guardian stating that nearly three-quarters of people over 55 will be planning to work past state pension age. In addition, the employment rate for 55 to 64 year-olds in the UK stands at around 60%, but there are many countries that record employment rates of around 70% or above for this group. That 10% gap represents a further opportunity to bring new workers into the sector.

Older workers are an appealing demographic to US care providers because this cohort are commonly said to display characteristics of flexibility, loyalty, reliability, ‘life skills’ and an empathy with the challenges of ageing. They also tend to be more settled in the community than younger people.

In fact, the care sector can be equally attractive to the over 55’s because it offers low barriers to entry and flexible work patterns. Older workers in the US have also cited much less perceived age discrimination displayed by care employers than might be experienced when applying for an office-based, hospitality or retail role.

US care providers are finding that a different approach is required to attract this group. They have had most success when their recruitment messages align care work to the perceived goals of workers at this life-stage: that it keeps you physically active, it’s socially good, it enables you to feel valued and useful and allows you to build meaningful social relationships. Word of mouth recruitment is also seen as particularly effective, especially if an enthusiastic older team member is willing to spend time on community outreach.

Employers who have succeeded in bolstering their workforce from the over 55’s plan on building up a larger workforce working fewer hours with much more flexibility than they might have considered previously. With a greater choice of staff they can allow older workers to pick and choose when they work and what they do. They also report that up-front efforts to match the preferences of the worker to the client and drawing out shared experiences can quickly build strong bonds between the carer and their clients, which seems to help retention.

Whilst no single intervention can address the workforce challenges facing social care, this international experience does seem to highlight an opportunity that care providers here could well benefit from.

Note: It is important that employers avoid discrimination in their recruitment advertising. More information can be found here: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/advertising-good-practice-checklist-advertisers-and-publishers

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