A futuristic approach to L&D is helping Home Instead weather the care sector recruitment crisis

Using virtual reality to highlight the difficulties of living with dementia is just one way the care provider is training its dispersed workforce

A futuristic approach to L&D is helping Home Instead weather the care sector recruitment crisis

The problem 

If statistics are anything to go by, the recruitment challenges the care sector is currently facing are only going to get worse. With 110,000 vacancies across the sector and counting, demand for services is also set to skyrocket – by 2036, it’s estimated that more than a quarter of the population will be over 65.

Specialist home-based elderly care provider Home Instead – which employs more than 9,000 carers across the UK based on a franchise model – was trying to compete for dwindling talent, cope with an increase in demand and combat negative public perceptions of working in the sector. The conundrum posed a difficult question: why would candidates choose Home Instead over the competition?

“With an oversaturated employment market, we have to be the best,” says head of people Karen Dakin. “We need to be an employer of choice.” Dakin believed that L&D held the key to setting Home Instead above the competition and ensuring it was able to hire the staff it desperately needed, as well as making it compliant with mandatory training requirements set by the sector’s regulator.

The solution

Ensuring the company’s L&D offering remains outstanding and compliant is paramount to ensuring the safety of its vulnerable clients. Home Instead offers a blended 12-week training and development programme of face-to-face, virtual reality and theory-based learning delivered in line with the Care Certificate in England, as well as a suite of ongoing development tools.

The dispersed nature of the workforce means training needs to be accessible remotely, so Home Instead employs an online learning management system, which tracks caregivers’ progress and ensures every member of the workforce has had access to learning and development, wherever they are in the country.

“The theory training is predominantly face-to-face because we understand the value of people learning together,” says Dakin. “But because our staff are so dispersed, a lot is available remotely. As part of this, we offer virtual reality training so our staff can step into the world of someone living with dementia, alongside interactive sensory training so caregivers can feel what it’s like to lose sensation and touch.” 

Dakin adds that no caregiver can ever visit a client unless they’ve been signed off as competent, but the blended approach helps mature members of staff adjust back into a classroom environment. “We have consistent standards that everyone must meet,” she says. “Our engagement scores show that 95 per cent of our caregivers say they have access to training, while 92 per cent would recommend Home Instead as an employer.” 

The outcome

The organisation’s approach to training has seen knock-on improvements in other areas of the business; its retention rate has improved year-on-year by 2 per cent, but Dakin is determined to push that improvement to 5 per cent. 

Its varied and comprehensive training programme has also helped put the company ahead of the competition. While only 3 per cent of all domiciliary care providers have been rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), a huge 25 per cent of Home Instead’s franchise locations are outstanding. 

“We are independently audited by the CQC, and also have an internal audit on our franchise offices twice a year, which includes our training programmes,” says Dakin. “We want to continue to uphold our high standards across the business.”

As well as high ratings from the regulator, Home Instead also boasts a number of accolades for its training model. Its City & Guilds-accredited dementia and end-of-life training won the Princess Royal Training Award this year, making it the only care provider to hold the accolade. Similarly, it is also the only provider to receive the Queens Award for innovation in the sector.