November is National Home Care & Hospice Month, and CareAcademy honors the contributions of direct care workers (DCWs) and the value they bring to their clients and families. These heroic caregivers play a central role in our healthcare system and in homes across the nation.
After caring for her grandmother at a very young age, Jessica Nobles, co-founder of the Home Care Ops community, started as a caregiver making $5.75 an hour. She went on to work as a scheduler, a manager, a homecare owner, and a franchise developer. These days, she’s operating a multi-million-dollar home care agency that just last year helped clients to reach over $400 million in revenue.
The secret to her success? She created a business sharing the home care best practices that she learned over the years, both improving care delivery and buffering bottom lines at businesses across the country.
In talking with Nobles, one thing is abundantly clear: She is extremely passionate about getting caregivers enthused about their work and their potential.
“If I can make such a rewarding career out of this calling, anybody can do it. It has been absolutely life-transforming for me, and I want the same to be true for others,” says Nobles.
Here are some of the most important tips, according to Nobles, on how to engage your company’s caregivers in order to take your home care business to the next level.
1. The big fear in the room is a lie. Don’t believe it.
Many home care business owners are scared to train up their employees for fear that they will leave. “If I help them go get college credits, they are just going to leave me,” one respondent said outright in a recent survey by CareAcademy.
While that sentiment is the standard for many home care companies, it’s a limiting belief that stymies success for businesses and their employees alike. Nobles’ philosophy and success in her business coaching confirms this.
When it comes to being hesitant to train up employees for fear of them leaving, the data signals strongly that the opposite is in fact true, according to Aaron Dun, Senior Vice President of Marketing for CareAcademy. According to the same CareAcademy survey, more than 90% of the caregivers surveyed said that access to ongoing education opportunities is a consideration for whether they're going to take a particular job.
“Will they stay forever? That’s hard to know. But they will stay longer and have a greater impact while on your team, and that's the most important part to lean into,” says Dun.
2. Remember why caregivers give care.
“Caregivers have a personal mission or a calling,” Nobles reminds us. “It’s not about the money, but instead about wanting to make a positive impact in their communities. In that capacity, however, understand that people still want to be able to advance their education, career, and earning potential.”
Nobles reminds home care business owners that their caregivers’ why is crucial to their success as team members, and that team member success is crucial to business success.
3. Ask for commitment early on, then deliver.
“Whenever a new employee commits and invests their time into joining your team, they want to know that they're going to get that investment back,” says Nobles.
“On our very first call with an applicant or a prospective employee, we ask: Could you commit to coming in for an interview this week? Then, when they come into the interview, we say ‘Thank you for investing in yourself and investing time in our team.’”
Her company’s onboarding model stresses a relationship of value that’s reciprocated between the business and the caregiver right from the start.
4. Connect to your caregivers’ WHY again and again.
“Seventy percent of caregivers say they're interested in advancing their education. The reason they want to further their education is to apply their education to make a positive impact in their communities,” insists Nobles.
Nobles suggests looking at your mission as a home care business owner, recruiter, or operations manager and engaging your employees in that same mission by connecting to their why.
“Chances are, they overlap at positive impact,” she says.
As an employer in this industry, your role is to empower employees to see the value of the work they are doing.
“You want your employees to feel in their bones: I make an impact in my community. I'm changing the lives of the seniors I help. I am giving respite and hope to the families.”
That connection to their work—their life’s calling—is powerful, says Nobles.
5. Give caregivers a clear path forward with your company.
“At orientation, we always tell new employees that our goal is to get them to care lead at our agency within the first 90 days. That position has more flexibility, more benefits, and a $1/ hour raise. Basically, we want to make sure that we are meeting new employee needs,” says Nobles.
From the beginning, her team clearly lays out their hierarchy and opportunities for professional development and growth.
Nobles agrees that tuition reimbursement is particularly effective when home care business operators make it clear how it fits into the hierarchy. “Having someone brand new coming in and right away offering tuition may not be the most beneficial,” says Nobles.
“Home care businesses should talk about educational opportunities when they are recruiting and as marketing in orientation, but should work it strategically into their company’s hierarchical structure,” suggests Nobles. “Then, employees know that once they've been with you for three months, six months, a year, whatever works best for your agency, they can pursue it.”
She recommends first focusing on getting new employees trained on becoming better care providers and better team members. “Once they do that, then you can start talking about tuition and formal education programs.”
CareAcademy offers specialized and advanced training for continuing education which can be a piece of how you support employees in their long-term learning journey. The CAREer Path Initiative, specifically, allows caregivers to earn college credit by completing their employer-provided training through a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University.
The important thing, according to Nobles, is to make the education that you're offering also a tether to your agency in some in some way. “That way they will feel like 'Well okay, this company believes in me so they're investing in me. I am sticking with them because we are a team.'”
6. Dialogue with employees each step of the way.
Ongoing dialogue is where the rubber meets the road in employee retention, according to Nobles. “As home care businesses and employers, our intent should be to make our caregivers feel valued. We see the value in their work, and they have our respect and validation. One way to indicate that you believe in employees is to invest in them.” Another is to dialogue with them, says Nobles.
In the business of home care, it’s easy for employees to become disengaged. According to one respondent on the CareAcademy survey, “I've been with my company for 15 years and I'm considering leaving for a company that will pay 80% of my education.”
What would Nobles do? She would have a conversation that might start like this: “Let’s name the respondent Evelyn. Evelyn, we appreciate what you are doing. We want to make sure that what we're doing and what we're offering aligns with your personal goals. Can you tell us more about your personal goals and how can we help you achieve them?”
Having honest, candid conversations with employees is crucial in the home care space, says Nobles. “In our business, we often aren’t seeing caregivers in an office every day, and it can leave people feeling disconnected.” The solution, she says, is to purposefully connect.
7. Make caregivers your biggest lead generators.
At Nobles’ agency, employees who refer a caregiver that stays on board for six months get a $100 bonus. “It’s surprise and delight, and it’s far less of an investment than constantly trying new ads and throwing money in the wind, hoping to God that it sticks on something,” says Nobles.
Along with the $100, her company sends a physical letter that tells the referring employee why they are getting the bonus. “The letter might say something like, ‘Thank you for referring someone who is absolutely perfect for the job. They've been here for six months and now we're celebrating them and we're celebrating you!’” says Nobles.
“Suddenly, that same employee is thinking yet again, who can I find to recruit? This means that the team is not only working for us and helping us to recruit, but they’re also working with us to make sure that our level of satisfaction and retention is up across the board.”
Nobles’ team is committed to finding the right people, and employee referrals have been one way to do it. Her team also approaches general recruitment a bit untraditionally. “We don't call our recruiter a recruiter, we call him/her a team developer…we actually train our team on how to look for talent.”
“We do this by first and foremost offering guidance,” says Nobles. When a potential caregiver comes into one of their agencies, they look to meet them where they are.
“Maybe a person is coming to us because they are looking for a position temporarily. Maybe a person is coming in because they know that they enjoy helping people, but they don't know the next step. In every case, we offer guidance, training, and educational opportunities.”
8. Train for engagement, not just completion.
Successful training hinges on caregiver engagement, according to Nobles.
One way that Nobles’ company does this is to integrate “Easter Eggs” in their trainings. “We ask employees to look for something specific, then tell them to call their lead any time of day whenever they identify it. If they do, they are entered into a drawing for a prize,” says Nobles. She suggests that the prize should be something that they want, like a chance to win a trip or a purse, not a water bottle with your company’s name on it.
Nobles also insists that if your caregivers think that your training is boring, you should ask them to tell you that. This is because at the end of the day, training is another avenue for caregivers to authentically connect to their why.
“We already know the data states that most people want training to make a bigger impact in their community. We need to help them believe that by doing this training, they can build up their skills to make a bigger impact in the community,” underscores Nobles.
“As home care businesses, we all know that compliance training isn’t just important for compliance mandates, it’s important for skill building. Engage caregivers in a way that drives that point home,” suggests Nobles.
9. Set a new standard.
If Nobles sounds radical in her approach, it’s because in a way, she is—and she has her success to show for it.
Nobles’ approach is not the norm in home care. As many as 74% of survey respondents said that their employers never talked with them about ongoing education or training, according to the recent CareAcademy survey.
“Not every employee needs the same thing. As the employer, you need to develop a good understanding about what each individual needs and then provide them with access to the opportunities that you've created,” suggests Dun.
Want to learn more? Check out the recent CareAcademy webinar with Nobles.