Réseau Compassion Network has struck a joint committee to tackle one of the most pressing issues in health and social services: finding and retaining qualified, compassionate staff. Director of Strategic Initiatives Paul Vermette explains, “We’ve heard from our network organisations: recruitment is getting more and more challenging. Our working group has pulled together Human Resources (HR) professionals from eight organisations to see how we can be more efficient and attract the candidates that are so crucial to the wellness of those we serve.”
Vermette, who is leading the working group, has researched the sector and recruitment as a whole. “This isn’t an issue that’s isolated to us, our sector, our province or even our country,” he reveals. “The baby boomers are retiring, and this change is going to be ongoing for another decade. Everyone is feeling it. Our HR managers are sharing that job postings that used to get 100 applications are now only receiving 10. It’s a drastic shift.”
Understanding the greater context is important, but according to Vermette, the most important thing to consider is how these recruitment trends are impacting current staff and those served within the network. “When we can’t find enough qualified people to fill vacancies, we see staff who get mandated into overtime or have heavier workloads, leading to burn out and fatigue,” he shares. “For some staff, this is leading them to leave the sector. And then who pays the price? It’s the people we care for and support in the network. That’s why this recruitment work is fundamental to our mission. If we can’t ensure we have the best possible people on our teams, then it’s care at the frontlines that suffers, despite all the best efforts of our staff, who are doing all they can to keep care levels at the highest standards.”
Vermette shares that the fundamental change for HR professionals is that they’re now operating in an arena where they need to sell their organisation to potential staff, and not the other way around. “Many of our organisations aren’t funded to do this type of communications work, so as a network, we’ve invested in the expertise of the firm People First HR Services to help us think through how to sell ourselves better. We’re starting with a pilot project at Actionmarguerite that we can all learn from.”
All aspects of recruitment are being reviewed: how and where do organisations post jobs? How do they describe the work itself? What are the platforms and strategies that work? “We need to do a better job of explaining what can be gained from a career in our network,” continues Vermette. “The culture, the intrinsic rewards, the sense of contributing to the greater good and to individuals’ lives: essentially, we have to start marketing ourselves.”
Besides the support of People First HR Services, the group is also trying to wrap their heads around building a better pipeline of future staff. “Internships and volunteerism have been really successful for some of our organisations,” explains Vermette. “We’re working on building relationships with newcomer organisations, as well, so that immigrants who are interested can serve a social purpose and have the opportunity to thrive in a new country.”
The ability of the networks’ HR professionals to come together to brainstorm and share what’s working has been encouraging for all involved. “Together, we’re making strides,” concludes Vermette.