I was fortunate enough to attend the Strengthening the Aged Care Workforce conference in Sydney last week. It was a great opportunity to meet with aged care providers and industry groups and talk about the recruitment and selection challenges facing this critical and growing sector. The scale of the challenges in this sector cannot be overstated:

  • The proportion of the Australian population aged over 85 will increase by 83% over the next 40 years, significantly increasing the demand for aged care services
  • It’s already hard to find staff suited to the demanding personal care and nursing roles in aged care, especially in regional and remote areas
  • The expectations we have of aged care workers will increase with new standards coming into force along with responses to the Aged Care Royal Commission.

To address these challenges the sector will need to adopt a strategic approach to workforce planning, encompassing the sourcing, selection, development and deployment of staff.

My work over the last 20 years has focused on selection – working with organisations to ensure that the people coming in the door as new employees are suited to the roles they’ll be undertaking. In this area I think there is a significant opportunity for the aged care sector to build workforce capability, relational and interpersonal skills.

We know that the capacity to build effective relationships with clients and to manage issues in those relationships is essential to effective care. Workers who build better clinical and caring relationships with their clients:

  • Have a better understanding of client needs
  • Can manage boundaries issues and challenging behaviours from clients more effectively
  • Can provide care and support that is better suited to the specific needs of each client.

We can train staff in building effective relationships and interpersonal skills. But not everyone starts from the same base when they commence training. Also, some staff struggle to transfer what they’ve learned in training and apply it on the job.

An important underlying ability here is emotional intelligence – the capacity to perceive, understand, use and manage emotions effectively. People with higher levels of EI will commence training in relationships and interpersonal skills with an important advantage. And they are more likely to be able to transfer what they’ve learned in training to their day-to-day work with clients.

As an example, training might focus on how to respond when a client is distressed. A person with low EI might learn the appropriate steps in training, but – once back at work – lack the ability to tell when a client is showing signs of distress. Organisations who select employees with higher levels of EI are likely to get better interpersonal and relational outcomes from day one, as well as a better return on their training investment.

EI varies significantly between people, with some people having a high level of EI and others a very low level. People currently applying for roles in the aged care sector may have a high or low level of EI. One way to ensure that employers in the aged care sector are drawing from the top rather than the bottom of the EI spectrum is to specifically test for the ability during the application process. Revelian has two EI assessments that can be used for this purpose.

  • The MSCEIT is a comprehensive 40 to 50 minute assessment of EI which gives a detailed breakdown of a person’s strengths and weaknesses on four EI dimensions: perceiving, understanding, using and managing emotions
  • Emotify is a 20-minute gamified assessment of EI which provides a quick indication of two key EI dimensions: perceiving and understanding emotions.

In tight candidate markets where you don’t have a lot of people applying for the role, these assessments can be used prior to interview to identify the risk associated with a candidate. Candidates in the very bottom of the ability range, for example – with levels of EI in the bottom 10 or 20 percent of the population, can be flagged as a higher risk hire compared to candidates with higher levels of ability.

In candidate markets with higher levels of supply, EI can be used on application as a screening tool to quickly identify those candidates who are most likely to succeed in the role because they have very strong levels of EI.

If you’d like to talk about how assessing for Emotional Intelligence can benefit your organisation then please reach out to me or to Revelian at enquiries@revelian.com.

About author

Matthew Neale – Chief Psychology Officer

PhD (Management), Master of Organisational Psychology, BA (Honours, Psychology)

As Chief Psychology Officer at Revelian, Matt leads Revelian’s professional team of organisational psychologiststo deliver innovative psychometric assessments that give client organisations genuine insight into their current and potential talent.

Matt’s career spans leadership in HR, organisational development and recruitment in private and public sector organisations ranging from small start – ups to some of the largest organisations in Australia. Over his career his work has specialising in recruitment and selection, organisational surveys, and team development.

In addition to his role as Revelian’s CPO, Matt is also Chair of the Queensland College of Organisational Psychologists and plays an active role in promoting the profession and science of organisational psychology in Australia.

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