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Personas in geriatric care

According to the German Economic Institute, there could be a shortage of around 307,000 nursing staff in inpatient care in Germany by 2035. Fewer and fewer young people are entering the nursing profession. Many of those already working in this field are reducing their hours or throwing in the towel altogether. How data-driven personas can help with this dilemma.

What nursing staff want

Now it is very easy to say "more money solves the problem". Three recent studies on the subject show that this is not the case, but that a large part of the problem lies elsewhere: one by the Federal Ministry of Health, one by the Bremen Chamber of Employees and a study by the IGES Institute in cooperation with the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IAW) and Karla Kämmer Beratungsgesellschaft for the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG).

All three studies come to the conclusion that although adequate pay is important, it is neither the only nor the most important criterion for retaining existing nursing staff and attracting future ones. The most important points apart from pay are therefore:

  1. A digital workplace with reliable internet, electronic patient records and digital documentation, as well as the associated training.
  2. Adherence to the staff composition based on care requirements, not only on paper but also in practice.
  3. The compatibility of work and family: to the surprise of many, more free time is much less relevant than reliable duty rosters and individually tailored working hours. Company daycare, vacation and homework supervision are also cited as elements that provide relief.
  4. A good atmosphere in the team, appreciation and a pleasant management style. According to the study participants, these points leave the most to be desired and are very important to them.

Point one can be largely solved with money, as can appropriate pay. Points two and three are a bit like the chicken-and-egg problem: without more staff, there are no reliable duty rosters and no staffing ratios to meet demand, and without these, no staff. Point four, on the other hand, which the nursing staff cite as very important, could be solved with a cultural change in the minds of managers.

Supplement personas with even more insights into the candidate target group

Our experience with personas for the care sector is in line with current studies: appreciation is the be-all and end-all for people in this sector, as well as support in everyday working life and time for genuine care and human attention. These factors alone would significantly increase employee loyalty.

In addition to the results of the studies, the nursing personas we created for several hospital companies revealed other important details about the candidates for nursing positions that play a role in successfully approaching potential new employees:

Part-time models are in high demand due to the often stressful working conditions. Employers who actively offer part-time models are therefore more likely to be successful in the race for skilled workers than companies that only advertise full-time positions or "forget about the number of hours".
Furthermore, the pool of potential candidates includes a high proportion of people with a migration background as well as many older workers who still like to be approached in the traditional way. For them, simple things such as sufficiently large font and clearly visible contrasts in the advertisements, a simple design with few distractions and a specific contact person with a direct telephone number directly in the job advertisement or the option of applying "the old-fashioned way", by post, are also important. TikTok, styled young models and young but unrealistic wording, on the other hand, tend to put this group off. Instead, photos of real employees, unadorned and authentic, act as a pull factor. If you want to reach them, you should pay particular attention to the wording and avoid bureaucratic language. Another finding from our data-based candidate personas for the care sector is that many people get their information about vacancies and employers through word of mouth. Actively addressing this in the advertisement also helps in the search for candidates - for example, through bonuses for successful placements.

Since appreciation is so high on the wish list of people in the care sector, impersonal job advertisements that only list tasks and requirements are poison for recruitment success, regardless of age group. If, on the other hand, the efforts to create a good working atmosphere and pleasant working conditions are clearly presented, the job advertisement will be more attractive to the target group. In addition to the benefits, short testimonials from real employees and experience reports are particularly effective. Care facilities would do well to actively communicate when things are "going well".

As mentioned at the beginning, the working atmosphere and management style, THE major pain point for employees, are particularly lacking in many care facilities. Personas can also help here. Although personas cannot "turn around" the management floor overnight, an "actual persona" from the management floor and a "desired persona" that depicts the ideal manager can help: Firstly, when recruiting new managers - to specifically look for people who match the desired persona right from the start. And secondly, the difference between "actual" and "desired" can help to specifically coach and train existing managers with deficits so that they come closer to the desired manager, improving the working atmosphere and reducing the bounce rate.

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