30/01/2007 - 22:00

Not for profit: Keeping the best on board

30/01/2007 - 22:00

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Staff retention is an ongoing challenge for many not-for-profit human services providers in competition with the private sector.

Not for profit: Keeping the best on board

Staff retention is an ongoing challenge for many not-for-profit human services providers in competition with the private sector.

 

For Aged and Community Services WA chief executive Helen Attrill, the issue is an ongoing concern.

 

“I think the aged care industry has a history of a reasonably high turnover rate. As the potential workforce gets tighter and with the boom in WA, it’s really bringing it to the sharp end for our members,” she said.

 

Ms Attrill said part of the challenge for organisations was promoting the benefits of working in the sector.

 

“There is a view among the (generation) Xs and the Ys that jobs have to be intrinsically worthwhile. Certainly, aged care along with disability care is a worthwhile and personally rewarding area of work, but it’s also hard,” she said.

 

Last August, ACSWA submitted a proposal to the state government’s home and community care health funding round, to establish a central recruitment forum for aged care providers.

 

The project was intended to assist smaller providers in reaching prospective employees, while sharing advertising materials and costs, although it failed to receive funding.

 

“I think there’s so much federal and state government work that is outsourced to non-government bodies, particularly not for profits. If they don’t pay attention to [funding]…the end user will be the one to bear the brunt,” Ms Attrill said.

 

Disability services industry body ACROD WA state manager, Carlo Calogero, said higher salaries were necessary to attract and retain staff in the sector.

 

A report commissioned last year by ACROD and produced by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA, Workforce Planning for Support Workers in the Disability Services Sector, endorsed a wage increase for workers.

 

Mr Calogero said disability direct care workers received lower wages than those in aged or child care, and said improving wage rates was central to addressing staff recruitment and retention problems.

 

“There needs to be a significant injection of funds to get wages to compare to at least the other human services sectors,” he said.

 

ACROD has also determined that WA disability support workers receive lower wages than their counterparts in every other state.

 

“We’ve estimated workers require about a $60 per week increase. We have discussed this with the minister for disability services and we understand they are seeing it as a priority in the forthcoming budget,” Mr Calogero said.

 

While salary is an issue, attracting appropriate candidates is a major challenge for counselling provider Youth Focus, according to manager Mark Waite.

 

“We seem to get a lot of people who aren’t really qualified, who don’t understand the professionalism required, or ethics and quality of service needed,” Mr Waite said.

 

“In terms of pay parity, the not-for-profit sector is definitely lower than the corporate or government sectors – it can vary anywhere between 20 and 40 per cent.

 

"As a result, you get a lot of young staff, graduate staff and relatively new staff with two to four years’ experience.”

 

Mr Waite said that, while staff often resigned to take up higher salaries elsewhere, the organisation had various retention strategies in place, including support for counselling staff through professional supervision, external group supervisors and an employee assistance program.

 

The organisation has also introduced a staff retention program, with non-cash benefits including extra superannuation, additional rostered days off and more annual leave for long-term employees.

 

Mr Waite said a creative approach was important when forming strategies to retain staff, although the state’s economic boom had adversely affected recruitment.

 

“The biggest impact is people are simply wanting more money. We’re finding prospective staff are being more forward in regard to the remuneration package they want,” he said.

 

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