Aged care employers need to be on the front foot with staff communications and messaging

Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer, Employment Hero

In this interview Inside Ageing (IA) talks with Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer at HR and people management platform Employment Hero, about how employers can best handle discussions about mandatory vaccination and staffing in general.

IA: You’ve probably seen the reaction from the aged care sector in response to the decision by National Cabinet to make it mandatory for residential aged care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Inside Ageing carried this story and it is receiving thousands of reads and many comments from aged care staff threatening to leave the industry if they are forced to be vaccinated.

Aged Care can ill afford to lose any staff and we’re interested to learn more about what employers can do to ease staff anxiety around vaccination?

Alex: Misinformation and fear play a huge role in vaccine hesitancy. While, as a nation, we’re all working toward the goal of achieving herd immunity through the vaccine rollout, it is important for employers to take an empathetic stance on the issue.

Employers in Aged Care should listen to their staffs’ concerns and try to mitigate these worries with factual information from trusted sources. Really hone in on why it is important that workers are vaccinated and communicate openly about its role in protecting staff and aged care residents. Finally, be a role model. Employers should proactively educate themselves on the latest news, concerns and updates around the vaccine rollout and seek to get vaccinated, themselves, as soon as possible.

IA: Why is it important for employers to be on the front foot in identifying and helping staff navigate issues?

Alex: Employers need to lead in times of crisis, which we’re experiencing at the moment. When there is a lot of uncertainty, conflicting information and concerning statistics, people can tend to become fixated on the negative.

This is why employers need to be on the front foot in helping to navigate the concerns that their workforce is experiencing. The sooner issues are addressed, the less likely they are to be blown out of proportion and the key, again, is really to inform staff and take a proactive approach to communications.

IA: I can see that your business works with employers to help them streamline their HR systems via a cloud-based application.  For employers that have casual staff and rostering what type of gains can an online system such as yours offer – both for the employer and employee?   Have you seen staff retention gains through the implementation of such systems?

Alex: Yes definitely, Employment Hero offers a single platform for employment. We cover everything from HR admin and payroll through to hiring and retention. For employers with a casual workforce, Employment Hero has powerful rostering and time and attendance features, with inbuilt award interpretation and streamlined payroll processing. For casual employees, they have the ability to swap shifts using shift bidding and have access to a benefits store that includes discounts on everyday items.

IA: Aged Care as an industry needs to attract a significant number of workers to meet current and future demand, with around 1 million workers required by 2050 – about 3 x times as many as the sector currently has. What type of advice can you offer to help attract more workers?

Alex: As with other industries that have experienced similar skills shortages, incentivisation is one of the best ways to attract more workers to the sector. However, the government has a key role to play in making this happen. Training and income support should be a focus for the sector, as well as consultation with the industry to understand how much of a boost is needed in order to ensure future success.

IA: I can see that you have worked in the HR space for over 20 years.   Are there learnings from other sectors that you feel aged care can benefit from?

Alex: Absolutely – we’re experiencing one of the biggest talent shortages of our time. Nearly every sector and industry around the world is struggling to find and keep good people for their business. These are challenges that technical fields have faced for a while now and one of the ways they have approached this is by investing in building their employee value proposition and employer brand. Consider all the tech giants who create incredible onboarding and induction packages. Gone are the days where a salary is enough, employees are looking for employers and workplaces that value them and can provide more than a paycheck. Start by reviewing your entire compensation strategy and benefits.

Next, review the way you create your job ads, are you standing strong against your competitors? Have you included why you’re different and what you can offer as an employer? Your values. All these things will help you attract the right people for your business.


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