Changing perceptions of agency work


Article by Chloe Campion, Quality Lead at Cucumber recruitment 

Having joined Cucumber in July 2020, my original job role was within staff retention. I soon realised that a huge part of the role was quality of service – in every aspect of the recruitment process and job role. 

I started to gather and record complaints and compliments in order that I might begin to recognise trends and training needs. It soon became clear that some form of collaborative work with our providers was needed. 

I started to record the main themes raised by our staff. I then compiled this information and sent it to all of the providers we work with. The list was not targeted at any home in particular, my aim was to work towards a streamline approach to ensure our staff transition into new and existing settings as smoothly as possible. This information was also relayed to our staff to ensure consistency through the whole process from booking to staff completing their shift. 

  • Induction – Our staff have a minimum of three months experience working within a care home/supported living setting. This being said, every setting is unique and so are the people we support. Our expectation when staff arrive on shift is that they would be given a brief handover to familiarise themselves with the following:
    • Fire evacuation plan
    • Location of care plans 
    • Any current care needs that will require structured checks or support e.g., End of life care, catheter bag care, pressure care/repositioning, timed observations 
    • A list of standard tasks that they are expected to complete during their shift
    • It would also be lovely for them to be introduced to people they are supporting if it is their first time somewhere but we understand how precious time can be and if this is not possible, our staff are well equipped to introduce themselves and start to develop relationships – this something we now ask at interview 
  • Complaints – reported to myself 
    • If a staff member has done something that puts a person they are supporting at risk, they should be asked to leave/follow your organisational guidance – details should then be sent over to me for an investigation to take place on our side
    • If a staff member has behaved in a way that is not quite right but no one has been/is at risk of harm – send me the details and I will work to resolve this. I fully understand how busy settings can be and that confrontation can be difficult and cause friction during the shift so if it can wait, throw it over to me – add to my workload rather than your own
  • A slightly cool welcome 
    • We all know that agency staff are used in the instance that you are unable to provide regular staff and that this can be difficult for existing staff teams. When agency staff are booked in the staff are anticipating a shift where they will have to guide someone new, build a relationship with someone and work in a way that is just that bit harder than a shift with a full regular team. Although this can be daunting and possibly quite frustrating, the agency staff we send are there with the intention of helping. Several staff have spoken to me and described situations where the welcome they have received is less than welcoming and this can feel quite uncomfortable.  

It is the belief of Cucumber that, when our staff feel comfortable and well prepared, they will be at their best and look forward to returning. Our aim is always to provide regular staff and I believe that by ensuring we work towards the goals above, we can confidently move forward to achieve continuity and positive relationships. 

There have already been positive outcomes of this collaborative working. Trafford local authority have shared some information to allow us to induct staff on certain processes and documentation before they arrive on their first shift. We were able to work with a care home in Bristol to achieve a positive and fair outcome from an incredibly sad situation. Our staff retention rate has improved with results such as: 50% of candidates onboarded within 90 days took a shift back in July, now 67% take a shift, and they’re staying longer and getting shifts quicker. The average wait time for an initial shift was 20 days, this is now 9. 

We are a forward-thinking provider. We value staff as we value our clients and the proof is in the pudding. Want a slice of this cake? Get in touch…. 

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