Demand for aged care candidates continues to grow
By 2020, one in four New Zealanders will be over the age of 65 and this represents challenges for the healthcare and medical sector. Experts say employers must focus on building a positive culture to attract the best talent to this multifaceted industry.

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows job ads in the healthcare and medical industry grew by 9% from April to June year-on-year and the average advertised salary was $72,339.  Job ads for high-acuity nursing grew by 21% while paediatric nursing was up by 19% and pharmacist roles rose by 47%.

“We are seeing a very consistent demand across almost all areas of healthcare,” says Debbie Glen, Director of Frontline Health Recruitment New Zealand. “The work can be demanding and the hours can be long but people tend to work in the industry because they are passionate about healthcare and there is no shortage of roles out there for them.”

The challenge of ageing

Demand for healthcare workers is growing in line with the ageing population.  SEEK data shows job ads in aged care nursing grew by 8% year-on-year in June. “There is an increase in bed numbers in aged care across New Zealand,” says Glen. “There is also a growing demand for palliative care in the sector, so employers are looking for candidates with advanced skills in this area.”

Ryman Healthcare is one of New Zealand’s leading providers of retirement living options for New Zealanders over the age of 70 and it is experiencing strong growth. It employs more than 4,700 staff across its New Zealand and Australian operations, including a range of healthcare professionals, such as registered nurses and carers.

David King, Corporate Affairs Manager at Ryman Healthcare, says the business plans to open two new villages a year over the coming years. “We’re expanding fast and we need kind and motivated people to help run them,” he says.

King explains that the company focuses on career development to attract and retain talent. “We have a ‘grow our own’ philosophy and invest in developing our people,” he says. “For those who are interested in leadership, we run a comprehensive leadership-training program so people can improve their skills and advance their careers. We also offer a staff share scheme so that our employees can share in our success.”

Building a caring culture

Metlifecare is also a provider of aged care across independent living, serviced apartments and in-home care. It employs 1,034 people in roles such as registered nursing and caregiving for the elderly. Huma Houghton, General Manager of HR at Metlifecare, says a strong focus on culture helps to attract the best in healthcare.

“Part of the Metlifecare culture is to ensure people feel empowered and free to choose how they want to make a difference in their day-to-day roles within our overarching customer service principles,” she says.

Houghton explains the customer-focused culture is communicated to all employers from their first day on the job. “In our orientation program, we work hard to put our employees in our customers shoes. We do a visualization exercise and show videos to help bring to life what it’s like to be a 75-year old whose partner has passed away, who is fragile and who has a diminished ability to do things for themselves. We also actively engage our employees and encourage them to share their ideas of how we can improve.”

A focus on mental health

A growing awareness of mental health is leading to greater investment in the sector and this is having an impact on demand for skilled candidates. The latest data from SEEK shows job ads in psychology, counselling and social work rose by 31% year-on-year.

The New Zealand Government recently dedicated $100 million from its $321m social investment program to fund early interventions trials for mental health. “We expect to see more roles created in mental health services,” says Glen.

 “Employers will be looking for people with experience and a genuine passion for improving people’s wellbeing,” she adds. “It’s demanding work, like all areas of healthcare.”

Attracting the best in healthcare

Healthcare and medical professions are passionate about promoting the wellbeing of others and Glen says they expect their employers to have equally high standards.

“Employers must have very high standards of clinical practice and cannot cut corners,” she says. “Make sure that you express this to your candidates and let them know that you meet all health and disability standards.”

Glen adds that a strong culture is vital for attracting and retaining talent. “Healthcare is hard work,” she says. “People will leave a job if the culture does not promote the wellbeing of everyone, including employees.”

As demand for skilled healthcare workers continues to grow in line with the ageing population, employers may need to sharpen their recruitment strategies and examine their culture to attract and retain the very best.