The aged care sector in Australia has experienced many challenges in recent years. An ageing population means there is a greater demand for care, which puts pressure on facilities, workers and resources; the Royal Commission has placed providers under a compliance microscope; and COVID-19 has further complicated the operating environment, compromising the health and safety of residents and workers alike.
In this blog, we outline the common HR-related challenges specific to the aged care sector, and how technology can ease those challenges.
- A workforce in demand
One of the biggest challenges facing the aged care sector in Australia is the ageing population. Over 200,000 people enter aged care every year, and the number of Australians aged 65 and over will more than double in the next 40 years. In 2017-18 alone, more than 1.2 Australians received aged care.
The increasing number of Australians requiring specialised services and quality care is putting pressure on the industry to do more with less. In fact, it’s been predicted that the workforce will need to grow by 167% by 2050 to meet the demand.
To keep up, providers and facilities must hire more staff and volunteers. The urgency for more workers is reflected in ELMO’s 2021 HR Industry Benchmark Report, which is based on a 2020 survey of 1800 HR professionals in Australia and New Zealand. The report revealed that recruitment was the HR activity within the aged care sector* that had the most budget allocated to it, according 76% of respondents. However, most respondents (40%) said they do not use any metrics to measure recruitment – they do it manually, in-house.
Completing recruitment activities manually on paper or via spreadsheets inhibits providers from achieving desired outcomes. Instead, they would benefit from having recruitment technology that automates and digitises processes. ELMO Recruitment and applicant tracking system (ATS) helps to streamline the hiring process and provide a seamless candidate experience. Better yet, it integrates with other ELMO solutions such as ELMO Onboarding, so that consistency, accuracy and professionalism is not compromised.
With the help of technology, aged care providers can reduce the time-to-hire and cost-per-hire, meaning they can quickly address skills gaps to build organisational capability and address industry demands.
- Competition for skilled workers
An ageing population means there is more illness and chronic disease, which requires aged care providers to offer specialised treatment and top-quality care. This is not possible without highly skilled and trained staff. The issue is, with a workforce under strain from rising demands, workers may feel overworked and undervalued. Coupled with the negative impact of COVID-19 on employee health and wellbeing, providers and facilities may find it difficult to hold onto top performers.
ELMO’s report found that the key recruitment challenge for aged care was competition for talent, according to more than one in two (55%) respondents. In order to attract and retain skilled workers, aged care providers must motivate and empower a weary workforce. To do this, employers must offer employees opportunities for professional development, such as learning & development, and be sure to recognise hard work.
ELMO Performance Management improves employee productivity and engagement through continuous feedback. It enables organisations to align individual and team goals with organisational strategies. It also streamlines the employee appraisal process by offering a range of pre-built goals and development objectives.
- Compliance and the Royal Commission
The aged care sector in Australia has been under the microscope in recent years, following the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. On 1 July 2019, Aged Care Quality Standards were applied to all aged care service providers in Australia (residential care, home care, flexible care and Commonwealth Home Support Program services). Its aim was to uncover and reform poor quality care of elderly Australians, thus putting greater emphasis on compliance. This has, in turn, resulted in tighter regulations around how aged care services are managed, and has impacted resources, funding and profit margins. A final report was tabled on 1 March 2021, which among many recommendations called for increased staffing.
In order to stay compliant with industry standards of care, aged care providers must maximise their employee learning & development offerings. ELMO Course Library offers over 400 eLearning courses covering a range of topics including compliance to ensure staff knowledge and skills remain up to date. Employers can also create their own bespoke content via ELMO Course Builder, and manage staff training via ELMO Learning Management.
- Manual processes
Manual processes are cumbersome and a drain on HR department resources. ELMO’s report found that the most time-consuming area for HR is general admin work, according to 65% of respondents within the aged care sector. In addition, 60% of respondents said they use spreadsheets to manage employee data. The absence of an automated system to reduce admin work means that HR personnel have less time to work on important business strategies and workplace initiatives.
Digital investment around employee data is sure-fire way to save time and resources and boost engagement. Therefore, aged care providers should use a technology like ELMO HR Core to centralise all employee data. HR Core’s Employee Self-Service (ESS) and Manager Self-Service functionality allows staff to find information from anywhere, on any device, at anytime. It enables employees to apply for leave and check their leave balances, and for managers to oversee absences.
Another area where manual processes are inhibiting results is around employee engagement. ELMO’s report also found that the preferred method for managing employee engagement is through staff surveys. However, the biggest reason why aged care providers don’t measure employee engagement is because they are “too busy to implement / no resources” (according to 29% of respondents).
Without adequate resources, an organisation cannot hope to track employee sentiment, which is where technology comes in. ELMO Survey enables organisations to easily conduct and manage staff surveys throughout all points of the employee lifecycle to gain actionable insights into employees’ attitudes and opinions towards work. Such a tool is invaluable, especially since the industry is in a period of flux and employees are at risk of burn out from rising demands, tighter regulations, and an additional layer of complexity born from COVID-19.
- Leadership development
According to ELMO’s report, the top people-related challenge for the aged care sector is leadership development, according to over one in three (35%) respondents. One 2020 report found a lack of quality leadership in residential aged care. The report recommended an investment in education and training to navigate the complex regulatory landscape, better career pathways and succession plans, and a focus on strategic leadership progression to better address the needs and rights of consumers.
ELMO Succession Planning is an invaluable way to retain employees, identify flight risks, determine skills gaps of high-potential employees and accelerate the development of skills.
There are many HR-related challenges facing the aged care sector, but with the help of HR technology, providers can enhance employee engagement, address skills shortages, ensure operations remain compliant, attract and retain high performing workers and streamline time-consuming HR processes.
For a concise version of this blog post, download our Fact Sheet on Australia’s aged care sector here.
ELMO Software offers people, process and pay solutions in an all-in-one cloud-based platform. This includes recruitment, learning, performance management, payroll, expenses, and more. ELMO has helped thousands of organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the UK better manage, engage and inspire their people. For further information, contact us.
* The findings are in relation to the “Health Care and Social Assistance” category under which Aged Care falls, according to Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) codes
 “Australia’s residential aged care facilities are getting bigger and less home-like”, The Conversation, 24 September 2018
 State of the Australian Aged Care Sector, Donald Cant Watts Corke, 2019
 Aged care, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019
 “Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety final report released by federal government”, ABC News, 1 March 2021
 “Aged care leaders need more support, education: report”, Australian Ageing Agenda, 3 September 2020