Retention Strategies

Published research and project reports provide a range of different strategies that services can use to build a culture that supports staff and increases their commitment to the organisation.

However, it is important to remember that the aged care workforce is diverse in terms of its people and its roles.  Direct and indirect care roles include health professionals such as nurses and allied health professionals, personal care workers, administrative and managerial staff, hospitality catering and maintenance employees, and education and pastoral providers. As the roles require different skill sets and education levels, organisational strategies for attracting and retaining these staff must acknowledge these specific needs and expectations as well as organisational strategies that support the whole workforce and employee life cycle.

Research studies have shown that individual factors can influence workforce retention. Age, location, labour market conditions, and ongoing availability of work were all important considerations influencing care workers intentions to leave or stay. Retention was more likely when care workers felt supported by peers and supervisors and when they had the time to be able to deliver person-centred care and establish meaningful and compassionate relationships with residents. Reducing sources of care worker stress also helped.  Organisational factors also appear to play a role. A positive leadership style and the ability to influence staff rosters, shift lengths, split shifts, and roster management were valued organisational approaches. Workplace health and safety processes, access to training, and workplace culture, including good communication, were also seen as important. A supportive organisation promotes hope, self-efficacy, and resilience, thereby increasing psychological capital. Job design needs to protect nurses and care workers from risk by ensuring workloads are manageable, preventing stress, depression, and anxiety.

Managers and services should also consider specific circumstances that can affect the attraction and retention of the workforce such as rural and remote locations or providing care for specific populations or older people with high care needs. Retention strategies need to also address the reality of an overall shortage of staff in the aged care sector. Awareness of government initiatives around workforce is therefore important.

Aged care services can also enhance the workforce environment by making use of technology. Digital systems can streamline administrative and human resource processes enabling better monitoring and reporting and reducing workload for the organisation. Roster performance management, financial reporting and book keeping, as well as audit and quality indicator management, are examples where digital systems can improve efficiencies. Technology can also improve communication within your organisation and with other providers and support enhanced care delivery through ongoing clinical monitoring. This can provide care staff with more time to engage with clients and residents and improve workplace culture.

A Checklist of Ideas for Workforce Retention

  • Build engagement:  Appreciate staff feedback and welcome suggestions. Offer opportunities to try new roles.
  • Acknowledge performance: Think about quality and/or excellence awards for social recognition of doing a good job and about incentive schemes that may provide monetary rewards.
  • Support wellbeing and self-care: Review your HR policies and check that staff are making use of leave entitlements. Think about self-care activities and encourage staff to take their breaks.
  • Recognise and celebrate diversity: Having staff with different backgrounds and views can lead to new initiatives in service design and delivery. 
  • Reduce staff burnout: Montior workload and think about job redesign to provide manageable workload and offer satisfaction and career opportunities. Provide staff with the time to do meaningful work.
  • Facilitate flexibility: Support flexible scheduling and staff involvement in rostering. Recognise and accommodate work life balance.
  • Consider digital systems: HR and audit systems can reduce the workload associated with data entry, reporting and compliance.
  • Provide development opportunities: Investing in staff helps them see a future with your organisation.
  • Emphasise teamwork: Provide time for teamwork and team activities. Facilitate peer support and team learning.
  • Share the vision: Be positive and build a workforce that is respected for the work they do.

Find out more

  1. ACCPA has outlined career pathways across some of the diverse employment areas in aged care. Helping people see a future with career progression can be a powerful motivator for commitment to the sector.   
  2. The Department of Health and Aged care has put together a list of initiatives and programs relating to the aged care workforce.
  3. Check out the resources in our Technology in Aged Care priority topic.
  4. You can browse the Workforce Retention resources
  5. Look for research evidence within the PubMed database by using one of the PubMed searches provided here. PubMed contains brief information (‘citations’) on millions of research studies. It can therefore be challenging to search. Our librarian has made finding highly relevant information on this topic as simple as a click of a button. Click on All to see everything in the database on the topic or choose Full text to view only articles immediately available to you free of charge in full text. 

Connect to PubMed evidence

  • Battye, K., Roufeil, L., Edwards, M., Hardaker, L., Janssen, T., Wilkins, R. (2019). Strategies for increasing allied health recruitment and retention in Australia: A Rapid Review. Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH).
  • Burgess J, Connell J, Nankervis A, Dhakal S, Fitzgerald S Developing sustainable career pathways for aged care workers: A WA case study BCEC Research Report No. 13/18 April 2018
  • Pariona-Cabrera P, Meacham H, Tham TL, Cavanagh J, Halvorsen B, Holland P, Bartram T. The buffering effects of psychological capital on the relationship between physical violence and mental health issues of nurses and personal care assistants working in aged care facilities. Health Care Manage Rev. 2023 Jan-Mar 01;48(1):42-51.
  • Pearce, F, Livingstone, A, Gould, G, & Alexander, G 2023, ‘Digital Maturity in Aged and Community Care: The Current State and Resources Required’, Aged Care Industry I.T. Company, Australia.
  • Thwaites, C.; McKercher, J.P.; Fetherstonhaugh, D.; Blackberry, I.; Gilmartin-Thomas, J.F.-M.; Taylor, N.F.; Bourke, S.L.; Fowler-Davis, S.; Hammond, S.; Morris, M.E. Factors Impacting Retention of Aged Care Workers: A Systematic Review. Healthcare 2023, 11, 3008.
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