Be Caring is as an employee-owned social enterprise whose culture and values are at the heart of everything they do. Operating across the North of England, they have over 780 colleagues providing 21,000 hours of care to over 1,100 people every week. One of the biggest challenges in home care is culture. Many Care Workers in the sector are paid minimum wage on zero-hours contracts. This leads to high rates of dissatisfaction and turnover; 43.8% nationally (Skills for Care, 2019). Covid-19 changed the world and their business almost overnight. In an already volatile sector, the utmost priority was ensuring the safety of colleagues.
Without a doubt, Be Caring’s “Be Safe” value came to the fore as they rapidly implemented new processes and ways of working.
Worldwide demand for PPE exploded. The organisation’s Care Workers already used PPE for 95% of care delivery but their existing supply needed to be redirected to the NHS. Access to PPE was only available for emergencies, one day’s supply at a time. They had to quickly establish a new supply chain and worked tirelessly to procure supplies, including from overseas. They also donated 26,000 masks to voluntary groups, to keep their communities safe. Team Leaders delivered PPE and other equipment to colleagues, so that they were never without it and 93% of colleagues agreed with the statement “I’ve had the right amount and correct PPE and equipment to do my work” (Be Caring Covid-19 Survey, July 2020).
Be Caring increased communication at all levels of the organisation, focusing on PPE guidance, Covid testing, social distancing, infection control measures and personal wellbeing. This fostered a supportive open culture, and promoted sharing and learning. Office teams established regular check-in calls with colleagues, particularly with those who were isolating or furloughed.
Whilst many companies saw vast levels of redundancies, closures and furloughing, Be Caring saw a sustained rise in recruitment. They made zero redundancies and the average income of their Care Workers increased by 3 hours per week through more effective coordination and rota management. They offered employees who needed to shield the opportunity to be placed on furlough until they were safe to return to work. This meant they did not have to risk exposing themselves to Covid-19 at work or sustain a substantial loss of income. They also supplemented the income of Care Workers who lost working hours due to clients shielding or temporarily ceasing their care service. In 3 months, the company made 247 Covid Top Up payments, at an average of 15 hours per payment.
Attracting and Retaining Talent
The organisation quickly moved to a virtual recruitment and induction process, with video-based interviews and online learning units to replace 50% of classroom delivery. To maintain social distancing, they halved the number of attendees per induction session. They moved to values-based recruitment, changing their interview questions to attract people new to care into the sector, who reflected the organisation’s passionate, people-driven ethos. To ensure the welfare of new starters, they implemented a new onboarding process. The Service Manager conducted a Welcome call following their first day and the Recruitment Officer conducted check-in calls at week 1, 2, 4, 8 and 12 until the colleague’s first quarterly Be Supported session. Despite the challenges turnover reduced by 45% in 4 months.
In July 2020, the company sent out a survey to all staff members.
• 97.9% said they had found communication over the Covid-19 period helpful.
• 94.4% said they had felt safe at work.
• 93.5% agreed with the statement “I know what level of PPE is required to do my work”,
At Be Caring, 2.1% of colleagues have tested positive for Covid, compared to 6.1% nationally for those working in health and social care settings (.gov.uk data).
88.5% of those who had started working at Be Caring during this period agreed that the new induction and training provided was good enough for them to perform their role and 86.5% said they felt settled in the role. Onboarding time was reduced by 50%, from 38 to 19 days and the virtual recruitment process is set to continue.
During this period, Be Caring has developed greater teamwork through virtual team meetings with the Senior Management Team, Service Managers, and Recruitment Officers, as well as promoting home-working. Some colleagues will continue home-working to maintain flexibility and increased productivity.
The organisation has fostered open, honest and caring values, with 88% of survey respondents agreeing that “My work has been valued” and 95.4% that “My work has made a difference to those I support”. One colleague said: “I have never felt as appreciated as I do at Be Caring. I have worked for other care providers and feel that as a team they are never recognised for the work, hours, and stress they put into their jobs to provide the best possible care to their clients. Even during a global pandemic I feel appreciated which is a good feeling”.
Culture within Be Caring is paramount, both internally and for their clients and this is vital to an employee-owned social enterprise. Where so many businesses have struggled to keep afloat, the company has flourished and experienced an unexpected level of growth during Covid-19. In June, they rewarded every employee with a personal handwritten thank you and £50 gift voucher and a bonus of £200 at Christmas, their biggest staff reward ever.