How recruitment tech could ease the social care skills crisis

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Social care is going to need all the help it can get in the years to come, as the population ages and the talent pool shrinks because of demographic changes and, perhaps, new immigration rules. But, says Nicola Sullivan, technology has reached a point where it can alleviate companies’ recruitment problems.

In today’s hyper competitive labour market, the challenge of finding and retaining the right talent has never been tougher. One sector that is acutely aware of this is social care.

Despite being a staple part of UK employment (the health and social care sector account for 10% of the total workforce in England), turnover rates are now so high that 122,000 social care jobs are left unfilled at any one time in England.

With an ageing population, this talent gap could soon get even larger. It’s predicted that by 2035, the sector will need an additional 580,000 workers due to the anticipated rise in the number of people aged 65 and over. This all spells an urgent need for better ways to attract potential candidates, if we want older generations to benefit from quality care.

As in many other sectors, technology is stepping in to provide a solution for organisations with growing recruitment needs. Chat-based digital platforms in particular – in the form of live group chats, interactive video Q&A sessions and automated chatbots – have the potential to massively improve not just the ratio of successful hires for organisations, but the candidate experience too.

The challenge of high-volume recruitment

The larger social care organisations often receive tens of thousands of CVs every month. The process of evaluating these applications and doing follow-up calls is obviously time-consuming and costly, but the initial screening stages can often be handled by candidate experience chatbots, which can these days answer all of the questions that candidates typically ask and serve them all the information they will need to apply for a role.

Our experience at Meet & Engage shows that candidates don’t mind automation as long as it feels purposeful, personal and delivers a benefit to them. One of the first chatbots we deployed has still got a 97% candidate satisfaction rate and candidate drop-out has fallen from 60% to 8%; proving self-service and automation – used well – are enhancing candidate experience.

Another advantage offered by an always-available solution like a chatbot is that applicants can use them where and when they want. Care workers often do shift work, which makes booking screening calls during normal work hours difficult. We’ve seen 51% of candidates are using our chatbots outside office hours for example.

After the initial screening stage, the successful applicants can then be invited to join a group chat session or live video streamed Q&A to talk with people who are already working in the role and ask them questions on what they can expect. Recruiters could set up a series of these chat events right through the recruitment process, offering applicants helpful information like how to prepare for a video interview.

This level of access and engagement means each applicant is likely to develop a real sense of the role and whether it’s actually right for them, saving valuable time for an HR department.

Keeping the candidate keen

Group chats can also be very effective at keeping applicants engaged and motivated in those moments when there might be little contact between the organisation and the candidate.

In sectors like care, there are a whole range of background checks that need to be completed, to ensure the safety of the people they will eventually look after. This takes time, and large numbers dropout in-between being offered their job and actually starting it.

This too can be avoided by technology taking a greater onboarding role – that is keeping ready-to-start employees warm by sending them alerts to tell them that more content is available for them to see, or emails with invites to further online Q&A sessions.

Ultimately, technology like this is applicable to any sector, but the potential for social care is particularly promising. About 23% of those working in care are over the age of 55, meaning when they retire, the pressures facing recruiters could be magnified even further. But this problem could be turned into an advantage by using these experienced staff in live Q&A sessions, to personally showcase to the next generation how working in care is tough, but also highly rewarding for those with the right mindset.

The challenge facing social care recruiters might be a steep one, but by using digital technologies such as live chat in a creative way, employers can give themselves the edge they need in the hunt for talent.

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About Nicola Sullivan

Director at Meet & Engage
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