In this second of three articles about how we strive to achieve high customer satisfaction rates, I describe our process for selecting the best Home Care Aides for employment with our company. Part one described our strategies for achieving the best Client – Caregiver “match.” In my concluding article, I’ll discuss the roles played by our nurse supervisors and administrative personnel.
“[Mary] treated my husband as she would have treated her father and she was like family to us.” “I have never met kinder or more thoughtful people.” “I can’t say enough about Charlotte. She was great.” “Jocelin was a joy and provided indispensable assistance to our father and our family in what proved to be the final months of his life.”
These are a few verbatim quotes from the scores of notes and letters Ready Hands Home Care receives every year from the clients for whom we provide in home care assistance. Our goal is to achieve a delighted client every time, and that requires that we provide our clients with wonderful Home Care Aides. How do we find such great employees in the first place?
Our approach when hiring new Home Care Aides is to bear in mind the factors that are most likely to predict good performance on the job. Sure, all applicant must be properly credentialed and legal to work in the U.S., and yes, we do perform criminal background screening and check references. But these basic steps in themselves offer no assurance that an applicant will do a good job with our clients. Even technical competence and work experience, though valuable, are not of primary importance to us.
The factors that are very important have to do with character, interpersonal skills and attitude. Ready Hands seeks to hire aides who are cheerful, show initiative, exhibit a track record of reliability, communicate satisfactorily in English and display an engaging appearance and demeanor. Even the most “qualified” applicant is unacceptable to us if the foregoing characteristics are lacking.
To find such applicants, Ready Hands never has to advertise. In contrast, we are privileged to have a constant “pipeline” of Home Care Aide applicants calling us for employment. One reason is that we insist upon courteous, respectful treatment of all our employees and employment applicants. Treating them well pays huge dividends, because it promotes our reputation in the aide community as a sought-after employer. As a result, we can be selective in whom we hire, because many more applicants contact us that we could possibly ever employ.
Every time a job-seeker contacts us we enter key information into our large applicant database. This includes not only name and contact information, but also things like preferred work schedule, driving ability, special skills, comfort around pets and much more. We also capture certain objective information by telephone that helps us to preliminarily rank each caller on a three-point scale. One of our most useful telephone screening tools is what we call our values question.
In putting the values question to an applicant, we simply ask the applicant what he/she feels it takes to do a good job as a home care aide. We consider it a promising response if the applicant can articulate some of the key interpersonal and attitudinal factors we are looking for—treating clients respectfully, performing tasks without prompting, reporting to work on time, staying off the cell phone, etc. etc. If the applicant simply lists a series of tasks—“You need to help them with their bath, dress them, cook for them…”– , or if the applicant simply doesn’t understand the question, then we become cautious.
Each time an applicant contacts us for an update on the status of their application, we review their entry in our database and refine it by updating any changes in work availability and adding new relevant information. Then, when we are called upon to hire a new Home Care Aide for a particular client assignment, we comb the database for just the right prospects. We invite the best candidates in for careful interviews, perform our usual reference checks and verify training, licensure and legal work eligibility. Often these candidates are individuals with whom we have had an ongoing telephone “dialogue” for months or years. If based on all of the foregoing, we feel that the applicant would be a great addition to our team, then we offer employment.
That’s an overview of our process; there’s more to it, but I have described the essentials. To conclude, here are a few more observations we have gleaned from years of experience hiring hundreds of Home care Aides:
- We believe what we observe. If an applicant fails to appear for an employment interview but does not call in advance, we NEVER consider that applicant for employment. If an applicant is rude or argumentative with us, we assume that behavior could carry over to clients, and we likewise deny employment.
- We differentiate those things that can be taught from those things that cannot. We can teach skills like glucose monitoring and use of a transfer lift. We cannot teach personality traits like friendliness and initiative.
- Once employed by us and working with clients, we understand that our Home Care Aides are in a sense customers of those of us who perform administrative and supervisory functions. Our job is to make it possible for them to do their best and hopefully to make their job rewarding and enjoyable.
- Employment references are grossly overrated. In this litigious age, businesses frequently refuse to share performance information on former employees.
- The best references are obtained from families for whom an applicant has worked in the past. Family members are usually very forthcoming about their experiences. We earnestly seek such references.
- Finally sometimes we make mistakes. If a newly hired aide does not meet expectations, we cannot continue to employ that aide.