No matter what type of business you run, it’s important to constantly work on employee retention.
Caregiving positions are no exception. According to a study conducted in 2018, over 57% of caregivers who left an agency each year, do so within their first 90 days of employment.
So, why exactly do so many caregivers leave an agency after only a short amount of time working there? Many reasons come to mind, including caregiver burnout, finding other opportunities, and/or not being serious about the position in the first place. Some of these causes tie back to the recruitment process, and the need to identify the most committed candidates while hiring.
On the other hand, many caregivers who quit in the first 90 days, do so because of the absence of support from their agency.
Thousands of caregiver interviews were conducted this year, which reflected an overwhelming response regarding caregiver retention rates. The majority of the caregivers interviewed, stated they decided to leave their agencies due to a lack of communication and lack of clear training. A powerful solution to address both of these problems, is to implement a caregiver mentor program for new caregivers, as well as your seasoned ones.
Simply put, caregiver mentor programs are organized in a way that empowers more experienced caregivers to look after new caregivers. In order for the program to work efficiently, veteran caregivers must be available to aid with training, answer questions, and provide any additional support the new caregivers need.
What are the Benefits of a Caregiver Mentor Program?
If you invest time and energy in creating a caregiver mentor program, you can expect powerful benefits as a result. These benefits include (but are not limited to):
- Higher caregiver retention rates at all levels of experience, by demonstrating that their success is a priority to you
- A greater level of respect and a stronger feeling of unity in your agency
- An aid in attracting better caregivers who are genuinely motivated to develop in the caregiving field, as opposed to someone who will take any job in order to “get by”
- The quality of care your agency offers its clients will increase, as your caregivers will be better-trained and motivated to stay longer hours
- Experienced caregivers will work for your agency longer, because you’re providing them with opportunities to advance within the industry
- Reducing turnover among newly hired caregivers, by providing additional support
Caregiver mentor programs can be set up in various ways, depending on the needs of your agency. However, we’re going to discuss one common and effective way to structure your mentor program.
For starters, there are three levels of employee status in this program. They include the following:
- New Caregivers
- Caregiver Mentors
- Mentor Leads, or Mentor Leaders
Generally speaking, you should keep a New Caregiver in the mentor program for their first 60 to 90 days of employment.
Promoting Success: Caregiver Mentor Role
When it comes to selecting the right caregiver for a mentor role, you’ll want to look for a few things. For example, a Caregiver Mentor should be experienced, trustworthy and have strong communication skills. In addition, this individual should be reliable and have a history of at least 6 months consecutively working for your agency.
Caregiver Mentor duties include:
- Communicating with new caregivers on a regular basis
- Acting as a “training assistant” for an average of 3-5 new caregivers at any given time
- Clearly communicating with the Mentor Lead regarding the progress of new caregivers
- Being available and open to questions from new caregivers
- Providing advice and encouragement to all caregivers
In most cases, Caregiver Mentors continue spending the majority of their time caring for their own clients. However, several industry experts advocate for the idea of a full-time Caregiver Mentor position, so as to provide even greater support to the other caregivers.
As the caregiver turnover crisis grows worse every year, agencies would be smart to explore the possibility of using full-time Caregiver Mentors. Of course, this is fully dependent on the specific needs and adequacy of your own agency.
Leader of the Mentors: Mentor Lead Role
Whether you choose to promote a caregiver, or use a member of your office staff for this position, keep in mind that it is a very important role.
The Mentor Leader(s) should be experts in the Home Care Industry. Look for an individual who has exceptional training abilities, and who inspires those around them. This role will have a powerful and significant impact on the culture and attitude of your agency.
Mentor Lead duties include:
- Alerting the correct member of management regarding any major problems or issues that arise with new caregivers
- Confidently assisting Caregiver Mentors with any issues that arise with new caregivers
- Having general leadership skills
- Providing Caregiver Mentors with regular training on how to effectively monitor other caregivers, tips on how to listen, ways to provide more thorough training, advice, etc.
- Managing anywhere from 3 to 10 Caregiver Mentors and providing them with all the support and advice they need
Steps to Create a Caregiver Mentoring Program
Below is a list of the basic steps required to set up a Mentoring Program:
Step 1: Preface
The new caregiver meets their Caregiver Mentor with an introductory presentation.
Step 2: Introductory Training
The Caregiver Mentor attends the first 2 hours or so of the new caregiver’s first appointment. This gives the Mentor an opportunity to introduce the new caregiver to the client, to get them started off on the right foot. Depending on needs of the new caregiver, Mentor’s may also take a role in other aspects of the new caregiver’s training.
Step 3: Mentors and New Caregivers Participate in Weekly Calls
Besides meeting regularly for trainings or other events, the Mentor should call the new caregiver for a few minutes at a specific scheduled time every week. This gives both parties a chance to talk about how things are going, answer any questions, and take any suggestions or ideas that the new caregiver has on how to provide better care to clients.
Step 4: Calls between Caregiver Mentors and Mentor Leads
One-on-one, Caregiver Mentors and Mentor Leads should talk to discuss the needs of their clients and caregivers. These calls can be scheduled weekly, or once a month, depending on the needs of your agency.
Step 5: Mentors Receive Continuous Training
Ongoing leadership training should be provided to all Caregiver Mentors in order to help them more effectively assist their caregivers.
Step 6: Graduation
All of your new caregivers should be able to graduate after their first 60 to 90 days of participation in the Mentoring Program. Once they’ve worked for your agency for a couple more months, these caregivers can apply to become mentors themselves.
Industry Standard: Implementing a Caregiver Mentor Program
Due to the fact that Caregiver Mentor Programs are created to address the specific needs and concerns of your caregivers, feel free to alter and experiment with your program – based on your agency’s circumstances. Keeping that in mind, here are some of the “best practices” you could implement in your program to deliver the best results possible:
Consider giving a raise, or another form of compensation, to Caregiver Mentors and Mentor Leads.
Although giving a raise to several employee’s add to your spend-out, a high quality mentoring program is likely to save you thousands of dollars on turnover costs annually. Some agencies implement an incentive-based pay structure that pays based on the number of caregivers in their stewardship who graduate from the program.
Award caregivers with a physical token of achievement upon graduating from the program
Anything from a physical certificate, simple pin, or a small token unique to your agency. This is important, as it symbolizes hard-work and dedication to your agency and the clients therein. Handing out inexpensive gift cards or other perks with a graduation certificate may also incentivize your new caregivers. Everyone involved in the Mentoring Program should be rewarded and recognized.
Realize the benefits of a Caregiver Mentor Program, without allowing it to replace standard training
While a Caregiver Mentor Program can be a very powerful tool, it shouldn’t be used as a substitute to your primary training program.
Bring All of Your Team Members on Board
It’s important to realize that your Caregiver Mentor Program will only be as successful to your home care agency as your team members commit to it.
In order to get everyone on board with this program, you’ll need to present the idea clearly and consider all employee feedback. By doing so, your team will have increased enthusiasm and participate more willingly. It’s key to demonstrate how the program will help them succeed personally in their roles, and how your agency will be able to reach the next level by prioritizing the growth and success of your caregivers.