Ross Peet, managing partner at ideas agency Yes&Pepper, on changing perceptions of social care roles…
When public perception and industry data combined are helping to shape an uneasy reality, it’s time to make a change. Such is the lot of social care today. After reading that despite increased demand for social care, there are severe recruitment and retention issues because more nurses are leaving their jobs than joining for the first time in history. And expensive HR campaigns aren’t delivering the much needed resource this country requires. We started analysing the branding crisis that is driving people’s anxiety and concerns about the home care services sector.
To glean more insight directly from the care sector itself, we facilitated in-depth interviews with stakeholders of the social care arena and broad reaching surveys with the general public. One of our findings was that even though this profession comes with a significant level of emotional stress, the carers find great satisfaction in providing assistance to elderly people and offering them moments of companionship and happiness.
As far as society is concerned though, we massively undervalue the role and on top of that we seem to revert to out-dated stereotypes and see it is as mostly a job for women. No wonder they make up around 80 per cent of the care workforce. This is surely perpetuated by the current crop of recruitment adverts that almost entirely feature women in their imagery.
Current campaigns can't be working if the data showing unfilled roles is to be believed so why does every care advert look the same? The care industry is trapped doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
In the coming years our ageing population looks set to grow more rapidly, impacting the care sector even further. The declining youth population will reduce the pool of employees who take these roles as their first job and the uncertainty of Brexit will lessen the migrant labour force as well. And given that more elderly men need professional care than ever before and they tend to prefer to be in the hands of workers of the same sex, the recruitment of more male social care professionals seems to be a logical path to follow.
This raises the question – why not try something different? What if we work to close the gender gap in the care industry and actively target men through recruitment campaigns? Why not aim to change society’s perception of who can fill the roles that are so desperately needed?
While we’re at it let’s have the courage to be divisive. This job isn’t for everyone, let’s not sugar-coat it; it’s what makes it so special. It requires people who are up for the challenge, willing to share not only their successes but also their struggles so we can change out-of-date perceptions one day at a time and put respect back into the social care community. Let’s aim for a future where care workers are celebrated as heroes for looking after those in need and being able to embrace all of the challenges the role presents.
A great example to support this approach is the Royal Navy – they’re specifically targeting women to fill roles that up until recently were very much deemed jobs for the boys. The job isn’t advertised as an easy role or that anyone can do it. But the result is an incredibly powerful piece that will inspire those who are interested in a career within the armed forces.
Tradition is great for conserving values and emphasising what worked best throughout history. But unless this is paired with an innovative drive and the will to reframe an issue in order to solve it, it won’t contribute to the sector’s much-needed development. The answer will lie in a society that keeps an open mind and always pushes forward.