Demand for aged care candidates continues to grow
The healthcare and medical industry is Australia’s largest employer and is always open for business. Experts say the aging population and the growing investment in mental health services are just two factors leading to a strong demand for skilled candidates.

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows job ads in healthcare and medical increased by 9% from April to June year-on-year and the average advertised salary was $87,321. Job ads for general practitioners grew by 24% year-on-year, ambulance and paramedic roles were up by 1% and high acuity nursing increased by 4%.

“Demand for quality candidates is strong across all areas of the sector,” says Connie Fitzpatrick, Director at Frontline Health Recruitment. “This is a 24/7 industry and employers need to focus on their culture to attract and retain the best talent.”

Growth in aged care

Figures from the Federal Government’s 2015 Intergenerational Report shows that health expenditure per person is projected to more than double over the next 40 years. The number of Australians aged 65 and over is also predicted to more than double in this time and around 40,000 Australians will be over the age of 100 by 2055. Demand for nursing roles is also expected to grow in line with our aging population. 

The latest data from SEEK shows job ads for aged-care nurses increased by 13% year-on-year. “There’s been a huge increase in the building of residential aged-care facilities in recent years and a big demand for in-home care as the aging population continues to grow,” says Dan Hobson, Director of Hobson Health Recruitment. “This means employers are looking for qualified staff with the soft skills required to connect with clients and make a difference.”

Building a strong culture

BlueCross Community and Residential Services has 23 aged care residences and provides Home Care and Respite care across Melbourne. BlueCross employs over 2,000 people, including nurses, personal carers, hospitality staff, cleaners, clinical care coordinators, admin, leisure and lifestyle coordinators and more.  BlueCross places a strong emphasis on culture to attract and retain the best healthcare talent.

Jessica Casey, Recruitment Manager at BlueCross, explains that the business invests in its culture and clearly articulates its values during the recruitment process to ensure it builds a team that is passionate about making a difference in the lives of its residents and clients. BlueCross culture follows the ‘STARFish Principles’, a philosophy that encourages people to flourish and be engaged in the workplace. “We have four BlueCross STARFish Principles, which are ‘Make someone’s day’, ‘Be there’, ‘Choose your attitude’ and ‘Have fun’,” says Casey. “I discuss these principles during interviews and I ensure that all successful candidates display and embrace these qualities which results in a great cultural fit.”

Showing that you care

Fitzpatrick advises employers in healthcare sector to recognise and reward their top performers. “Healthcare is one of the hardest-working professions. The demands of the job can make work-life balance difficult to achieve, so employers need to take time out to celebrate achievements rather than focusing purely on the day-to-day work.”

BlueCross is one company that fosters a culture of reward and recognition. Employees are encouraged to acknowledge their colleagues with a STARFish award when they exhibit one of its key principles. “We also have our annual STARFish Awards that are presented at our staff conference,” says Casey. “Winners receive travel vouchers of up to $5,000.”

BlueCross also invests significantly in learning and development across the business. “One of our programs has a focus on succession planning through the Manager-in-Training program, which supports talented staff transition to become a Residential Manager,” says Casey. “Successful candidates participate in a 12-month trainee and mentorship program and, upon successful completion, they’re equipped to apply for Residential Manager or Assistant Residential Manager positions as they become available. The program is available to three or four people a year and we’ve had a really good success rate of people transitioning into Residential Manager roles.”

Focus on mental health

Aged care is not the only area to experience growth across the industry. SEEK data shows job ads for psychology, counselling and social work rose by 40% year-on-year in June. Hobson says this may be due to increased investment in mental health. “People are more comfortable talking about mental health and seeking help, and this is leading to a growth in demand for services and for mental health workers,” he says.

The Federal Government pledged to invest an additional $115 million in mental health programs, services and research in the 2017-18 Budget. “There is a much greater focus on the legitimacy of mental health today than in previous decades,” adds Hobson. 

The roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is also expected to increase demand for healthcare talent. “NDIS implementation started in Queensland and is spreading across the country,” says Hobson. “This means the competition for skilled candidates is sure to increase.”

As demand for talent in the healthcare and medical industry continues to grow, Fitzpatrick says more employers will need to sharpen their focus on culture to attract and retain the very best. “Promote your culture at every opportunity,” she says. “This is a very demanding sector to work in and requires people very special qualities, so make sure you show them that you care.”