By Alec Drew

I have been prompted to write this article by the building of a new Nursing Home that is close to completion near to where I live and by the comments of people I know in the industry who suggest that finding staff for this facility will be a serious challenge.

There is no doubt that this sector poses a challenge for those looking to recruit staff as illustrated by the ongoing HSE campaign looking to attract nurses back home. The offer of a €1,500 location fee plus a further €1,500 paid after one year but on the condition that the employee commits to a second year has received the response that you might expect from an audience where money is not the driving force with just 3 people signing up. In fact trying to lure people with money is often the first response of bosses who are desperate to fill roles but seldom addresses the more fundamental issues that creates this challenging scenario.

We live in a world where a global workforce exists and talent can be traded for a lifestyle that is aligned to the ambitions of the individual. Money for the young and agile maybe a priority now and trading it for poor work conditions or a stint in an organisation with a poor staff culture may suit their short term needs. However, ultimately they will seek a more rewarding and stable environment with an employer who understands the true motivations of a modern workforce. What is amazing is that the cost of building an organisation with the right culture is probably less expensive than continuing with the revolving door strategy where the true long term costs are never fully taken into consideration.

Returning to our Nursing Home what could be done to recruit the right staff and retain them. The site was large and perhaps a number of apartments for use as staff accommodation at a reduced rental rate could be part of a long term strategy. Quality accommodation for 4 people could be built for €240k which equates to €60k per staff member. The rental income would cover the cost of maintenance and pay for the cost of building accommodation over a 20 year period.  If you take a nurse on a salary of €30k per annum and the typical cost of losing and replacing people at 1.5 times salary you can see this has the power to be a robust solution. If this incentive alone helps you reduce your churn rate by 3 or 4 people annually very quickly the numbers make sense.

You could make life easier and less expensive for employees by introducing a subsidised canteen and as the facilities are already in situ it could be a cost neutral addition. Car parking for staff and a mini bus to take staff to and from their homes particularly those who are on late shifts is another easy to implement strategy. Make arrangements with similar establishments abroad to exchange staff as part of a learning and development programme and you now have the makings of an attractive package that has the ability to place you ahead of your competitors. All of these suggestions with the exception of building the staff accommodation which could be substituted by renting suitable accommodation in the locale are relatively inexpensive or cost neutral. The perceived value is high and makes for an attractive package particularly in a city where the cost of living continues to rise.

Of course these ideas are not new but it is often the case that old ideas can be recycled and adapted in a modern day context. Guinness provided subsidised accommodation for employees in the 19th century and this was a small part of a strategy that led to the building a global business. The past should be part of thinking outside of the box as there are proven ideas often forgotten that offer solutions for modern day problems. As part of my business offering I look for simple easy to implement strategies that are overlooked because modern thinking and language suggests that solutions must be complex to have value. Does this sound familiar and is there a culture in your organisation that has the creativity to find solutions that address your particular needs.

More about Alec:

Alec talks about business based on practical lessons learned over the last 35 years in four different sectors and how you can use that experience to increase profits and reduce costs
He is an international speaker and author and is the current President of the Professional Speaking Association, Ireland which is part of an international not for profit organisation that spans 4 continents.

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