Social Care: Engaging and retaining your best people


Towards the end of last year I was delighted to be invited to speak at the Surrey Care Association Learning Disability Provider Network Meeting where the theme for the day was retention in the sector. I hear time again from my clients that retention of great staff in a continually squeezed financial position is one of the key challenges facing Social Care organisations so this seemed like a very apt topic for the day.

Perhaps a key question for us all is: if we’re not in a position to pay our people more what might be some of the non-financial strategies we can explore to hold onto them?

The retention challenge – some facts and figures

People Count 2018, our annual HR and workforce benchmarking study in which 20 Social Care organisations participated, tells us that for social care overall staff turnover is at 26%, voluntary staff turnover is at 20% and leavers with less than 1 year’s service as a percentage of all staff is 8%.

Whilst it is the case that some turnover in an organisation is healthy and it is often important for an individual’s professional development to move organisation from time to time, my sense is that these levels of turnover are disruptive and energy intensive to manage.

What is the impact of this churn?

The impact of turnover is substantial and widely felt:

  • Significant workload for HR and line managers in terms of exit processes, recruitment, selection and induction – People Count monetises this as at least £588 per leaver on average and we fully recognise that this is understating the true costs
  • Disruption for those in service delivery roles through potential understaffing and a need to get new starters up to speed and fully operational
  • Potential impact on the people you support in terms of the quality and continuity of the support they receive.

Engagement and retention

At Agenda we are big believers in the importance of employee engagement to organisations, to employees themselves and ultimately in delivering the highest quality service possible to the people you support. This belief is at the heart of all our engagement survey work.

I wanted to explore if I could evidence a relationship between employee engagement and turnover.

The graph below shows levels of employee engagement plotted against levels of voluntary turnover for 15 social care organisations who have worked with us on an employee engagement survey and have participated in People Count in the last 3 years:



There is significant variation in both engagement and voluntary turnover and critically there is a indeed an association between the two factors. This suggests that for every 10% increase in engagement there is a reduction in voluntary turnover of 3.3% e.g. if we increase our employee engagement from 70% to 80% then we could expect to see our voluntary turnover fall from 20% to 16.7%.

If we buy the idea that higher engagement correlates with lower voluntary turnover, what affects engagement and what non-financial strategies might encourage people to stay?

We have undertaken extensive analysis on our Social Care employee engagement database to try to quantify the impact of different factors on engagement. Our key conclusions are that perceptions of leadership, quality of service and organisation values were the most impactful factors.

So organisations wishing to increase engagement and by extension reduce voluntary turnover, might wish to explore the extent to which:

  • leadership are seen as trustworthy and effective
  • people feel the organisation delivers a high quality service to the people you support
  • people feel the organisation has strong values which are acted out in practice.

These are some of the insights from the numerical data and I was also keen to explore what people are telling us in their own words through two open questions included in our engagement surveys.

What is the best thing about working for this organisation?

This might give us some insight into what people value the most and may encourage them to stay:


What one thing would you change about working for this organisation?

This may give us a sense of what could drive people away / what we could improve:

 Final thoughts

Whilst pay and benefits are a key factor for us all in our working lives they are just one element of our overall experience of working for an organisation. Reward is important but by no means the totality. Organisations wishing to retain their best people should consider the other levers available:

  • a real focus on employee engagement
  • visible trustworthy leadership
  • the quality of service to the people you support and the opportunity to make a difference
  • strong values and culture
  • supportive line managers
  • good communications
  • work life balance
  • training and career development opportunities



 We hope you enjoyed this blog. If you would like to get in touch with Tim Walters, you can do so by email or by telephone, on  +44 (0)1865 263721.

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