How employee engagement can help care businesses tackle staff shortages

care staff engagement

Staff shortages are a significant issue in care right now. In Care England’s recent workforce sense check survey, it was found that over 96% of members reported workforce shortage as being a primary concern this winter. 

There are currently more than 105,000 vacancies in the care sector. In a survey conducted by the Homecare Association, over three quarters of providers said that recruitment was the “hardest it has ever been”. Many have experienced a 75% reduction in job applications since January 2021. 

Industry bodies are calling for more support from the government to help with this recruitment crisis. But what can you do as a care business in the meantime to attract recruits and keep your existing employees?  


The benefits of employee engagement 

Standing out from the crowd and making your care setting one that people want to work for over the rest is important right now. And one of the most effective ways of doing this is employee engagement.  

Engaged employees are more productive, loyal and happy at work, which boosts your business’ performance and reputation. Word-of-mouth and referrals could make all the difference in drawing candidates to your door over the door of another care setting, particularly when budgets are tight and you can’t offer the most competitive salary out there.  

So, how do you achieve great employee engagement – particularly when current pressures on staff and budgets are so significant? 

Our HR and care experts have given their top tips using their experience in the industry.  


New employees: Provide a welcoming induction  

Role – Clarify job expectations and targets. Research shows that employees who don’t know what’s expected of them from an early stage are less likely to stick in the role for a long time. Manage performance from day one to ensure your new employee can succeed and learn quickly. Enabling success will motivate confidence and, in turn, happiness.  

Purpose – Explain their fit within your organisation’s broader mission and values. Make sure they understand how important their contribution is to the business.  

Provide support – Make sure they know who to go to for help and support. Establish those key relationships early and open the lines of communication. The more supported an employee feels, the more likely they are to perform well and stay with you.  

Integrate – Encourage teamwork and try to provide a sense of belonging. This feeling of value can outweigh better pay. 


Existing employees: Respect, reward, recognition 

These are the cheapest and most engaging management behaviours. It’s quite simple – give praise, thanks, and show how much you value your people.  

Listen to your staff  

Encourage involvement and participation in decision making. It’s incredibly valuable for staff to feel part of the decision-making process. Plus, involvement will mean they’re less likely to resist change. Listening costs nothing, AND you’ll get the input of staff ideas and solutions you might not have thought of! Plus, your regulator will be looking for evidence of staff engagement and for you to prove you are well led when an inspector knocks at your door. 


When it comes to building trust with employees, honesty is the best policy. Managers who are honest and open (even when the message is negative) are more likely to gain the trust and support of their people. Being secretive (for example, about changes to the business or challenges you’re facing), keeping information from staff and not following up on promises will undercut trust and cause disengagement.  


Manage performance and let your staff develop and progress. Even if there is no career path possible, development is essential to keep people investing in their roles within your business. Where there’s no room for promotion, expanding responsibilities can be a great way of showing employees that you trust them and their development matters to the business.  

Support, encourage, inspire and empower  

Inspirational line managers will make their team want to achieve more, feel confident and great about the work they do. Great managers won’t control or crush. Say ‘thank you’ when there’s good work. Research shows that appreciation can be one of the most important factors in retention. Training your line managers in this and other good management behaviours can make all the difference – find out more about our training courses here.  

Encourage social bonding  

One of the highest reported influences on staff retention is having a friend at work. Employees who have friends at work will stay with a company longer, report lower levels of stress and take less time off on sickness leave. Allow staff to take breaks with friends (where possible), use mentors in an induction, and organise social events (you don’t always have to foot the bill!) and opportunities for team bonding.  


Allow your staff freedom and discretion over their work and show confidence and trust in them. Don’t micro-manage – people need control over their work for job satisfaction. Give responsibility where possible – providing challenges and stretching potential is vital.  

Generate pride in work  

Most people are strongly driven by the need to feel their work is meaningful and important. Create a powerful sense of meaning, purpose and pride within your team. Perhaps highlight team and individual successes in team briefings or a weekly email. After all, looking after your service users is incredibly meaningful and important – drive pride and you’ll find that the sky’s the limit! 


How we can help  

Citation’s team are experts in the care sector and have relationships with a number of professional industry bodies including Care England, Scottish Care, UKHCA and over 25 regional care associations. In these unprecedented times, we have a unique insight into the pressures you face and we’re here to do everything we can to help your business stay compliant and succeed.  

If you would like to partner with us and benefit from 24/7 access to our HR and Health & Safety experts, as well as a wide range of compliance services, please call 0345 844 1111.  

If you are already a Citation client and would like to speak to an expert about the challenges your care business is currently facing, please call 0345 844 4848.  

Recruitment and retention in care

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The core foundations of employee engagement

Our HR experts' top tips for creating a highly engaged workforce so you can benefit from increased motivation, higher productivity and boost your business' bottom line.

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