With demand on adult social care constantly increasing the need to recruit and retain carers has never been higher. But how to you attract and keep the best talent in the face of misunderstanding about the sector? Lindsay Coulson, Head of Communications at Hertfordshire County Council, explains how they met the challenge head on, winning Platinum at the 2016 Public Sector Communications Academy Awards in the process.
Our research shows that we need to recruit 2000 carers every year just to meet the demand and replace the numbers leaving the profession. They are sobering statistics, but those of us who work in councils know just what a fantastic and rewarding career a job as a carer can be. We wanted to create a campaign that showed how exciting, fulfilling and varied care work could be, while also celebrating the fantastic work that people already working as carers do every day.
What we did
Our communications team worked very closely with the council's adult social care team to create an integrated campaign that delivered on both of our objectives.
As the need to recruit carers was so high we developed an online portal in partnership with the Hertfordshire Care Providers Association (HCPA) where people could leave their details and directly apply for care work roles rather than going through recruitment agencies. The portal contained information about what a career as a carer involved, as well as details about the different sectors of work people could specialise in and opportunities for training and progression.
We then conducted a research project into the type of people who were attracted to care work in order to understand our potential audience better. Our research suggested that retirees, parents and recent school leavers would be our ideal target audiences so we created the Good Care Hertfordshire campaign with them in mind.
We sourced case studies from across the county from people who would reflect and resonate with our key target audiences and asked them to talk about their work and the opportunities it gave them. We supported our case studies with extensive social media activity, including a large scale Facebook campaign and shared our content within the community by working with partner organisations to promote it, placing advertising posters in places such as doctors' surgeries, job centres and community centres. We also worked closely with our local regional media to publicise the campaign to our residents and other influencers.
In addition to these ongoing activities we created a Hertfordshire Good Care week and Good Care day as a direct call to action for potential applicants and as a chance to recognise the incredible work of our existing carers. For us, retaining talent was just as vital as recruiting people into the sector so we used our good care week and good care day to remind people across the profession of the vital difference they make to the lives of hundreds of people every day. We created toolkits so that care homes across the county could stage their own Good Care day events to recognise the work of their staff and give people who might be interested in a career in care work a glimpse into what the job really involved.
While the anecdotal feedback was extremely positive perhaps the most tangible outcome was that 148 people were recruited into the care roles as a direct result of our campaign. All of them came through the portal saving us almost £100,000 on recruitment fees. We also secured more than 30 pieces of positive media coverage including seven appearances on regional TV.
Why it worked
I think the combination of having highly integrated but targeted content was key as it gave us the opportunity to focus out messages and increase the exposure we got for all of our different pieces of content. Successful partnership working and the support of our members and senior managers was also absolutely essential. We had cross party support for the initiative which really helped us to raise the profile of care work not just across the council, but across the county as well. As attracting and retaining people into care work is a national issue it was vital that we appealed to people in our target audiences right across the county and we simply couldn't have done that on our own.
We definitely learnt the value of using real people in the campaign. It gave our case studies credibility and helped us to meet both of our objectives of raising awareness and celebrating our current staff. Going forward I think we'd like to keep working on the branding for the campaign to ensure it stays fresh and appealing to our target audiences and undertake some more detailed research and evaluation so we can target our messages even more successfully.
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