Introducing the caregiver flywheel

The work doesn’t stop once the caregiver is hired.

Take advantage of the flywheel effect to grow your business through unmatched caregiver experience

What do Starbucks, Costco, and Trader Joe's all have in common?  Other than their size and reputations, they are all companies laser-focused on their employees and enjoying the positive side-effects on their customer experience.

Like those companies above, the top home care employers in the country also understand that the path to great client care leads through happy caregivers.  

“Caregivers are the face, hands, and heart of the organization - providing patient care day-in and day-out.

They are the people who can both attract more colleagues and clients through their positive experiences, as well as detract through their negative ones.”

At Levo, we believe that the way to build better home care agencies is to build better jobs. By hiring the right caregivers and treating them right, agencies can rest assured knowing that clients and their families are in good hands. When agencies develop and nurture their caregiver relationships, they attract more top-tier caregivers, which allows them to serve more clients and grow the business further.

Growing the business, however is not one-directional. The effort doesn't end once a prospect becomes a paying client or once an applicant becomes a hired caregiver. The best companies set off a virtuous cycle by using the efforts they put in one area of their business to improve everything else in the business. How is it done? This is where the flywheel comes in.

What is a Flywheel?

A flywheel is an energy storage device invented by James Watt during the Industrial Revolution that takes a lot of effort to start, but once it starts spinning, it builds up momentum and spins faster.

There are three factors that affect how much energy a flywheel contains at a given point in time

  1. How much force is put on it
  2. How much (or little) friction there is
  3. How big the disc is

The idea is that if you improve any of the factors, the entire flywheel spins faster. An important point to remember is that the faster the flywheel is spinning, the easier it is to speed up.

This is not new

The concept of flywheels in business is not new. The researcher Jim Collins coined the analogy in his business classic - Good to Great - and its most popular case study is Amazon. Jeff Bezos famously drew out the diagram below on a napkin that later described the Amazon business model.

It's this obsessive focus on the customer that drove Amazon to where it is today - how can the company improve one variable at a time to improve the customer experience, and how can that improvement grow other parts of the business?

Why hasn't this been done in home care?

The home care industry is not new. Neither is the flywheel model. So why hasn't this been a focus for the industry?

One quick Google search found that "caregiver flywheel" returned 356k results with the top matches being caregiving websites made by the managed Wordpress hosting service, "Flywheel."

Traditionally, people have thought of their businesses as funnels - moving caregivers from the top (applicants) to the bottom (hired employees). This can be shown by doing a quick search for "caregiver funnel," which returns 1.4M results (almost 4x the number of results for "caregiver flywheel") with the top three results being paid ads from home care agencies.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to improve the caregiver conversion rate, but the problem with that way of thinking is that the process doesn't end once the caregiver is hired.

“Happy, competent caregivers are the people who’ll provide your agency with satisfied clients and qualified applicants to continue growing your business.”

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How it works - home care edition

Setting up the caregiver flywheel is not an overnight task. Like the mechanical flywheel, it takes effort to get started, but once it gets going, minor improvements can lead to major results.

The thing to note about the caregiver flywheel is that improvements can be made at any point. Because there is no "end" to the process, improving the onboarding experience will help with caregiver engagement because they've established a relationship with you, but it'll also help with recruitment because word spreads that your agency offers the most caregiver-centric experience.

“This is why the caregiver flywheel is a circle.

The three phases - recruit, engage, and recognize - are all areas where you can either apply force or reduce friction to make sure your flywheel moves as quickly as possible.”
caregiver flywheel (1).gif

In the recruit phase, you bring in prospective caregivers with realistic job postings who also hear about your agency through your existing caregivers, review sites, etc. An example of reducing friction in the recruit phase is to streamline your application process so your caregivers don't have to fill out an entire application to know whether there will be work waiting for them on the other end. The key is to earn your caregiver's trust so they want to work with you, and want their friends and family to work with you too. Some forces you can apply here include utilizing video "A Day in the Life" from existing caregivers, fast-tracking pre-qualified caregivers through the application process, and showing applicants the type of (anonymized) shifts currently available for them at your agency.

What this leads to is a recruiting process where the majority of caregiver applicants come directly from the company website versus job boards. They are referred by current caregivers and prioritize your agency because they've heard of the simple application and interview process.

“Clear expectations means that when your recruiters call, they answer.”

In the engage phase, you show caregivers you're listening to them and adjusting your behavior to better fit their needs. In this phase, you're offering them as much or as little work as they're asking for and bringing up personal details whenever you're discussing a potential case. To reduce friction while engaging with caregivers, you can tailor your outreach so you're only offering shifts they'd be interested in, versus mass messages sent to everyone available and credentialed for a given client. Some forces to utilize here include "one-click acceptances" for pre-qualified caregivers, regular feedback, and intelligently staffing with client feedback and caregiver ambitions in mind.

When you engage caregivers through the flywheel method, they stay longer because your agency is where they feel valued and respected. Because you're only offering shifts they'd be a good fit for, they take the time to open your messages and listen to your voicemails.

“Your schedulers will thank you for the changes, as they now go home in time for dinner as pre-qualified caregivers pick up additional shifts without any office intervention.”

Finally, in the recognize phase, you cement your agency's culture of caregiver-centricity through thanking, acknowledging, and supporting your caregivers careers. By regularly recognizing your caregivers for going above and beyond for you agency, you're communicating to both your own caregivers and potential future caregivers that your agency is a place where their voices are heard and their thoughts matter. A way to reduce friction in the recognize phase is by setting up a system for office staff and clients to recognize caregivers, so people don't have to go out of their ways to acknowledge a job well done (note: this is where it's important to really understand who your caregivers are, as different people value different things). Some forces to apply here include verbal recognition, hand-written notes, financial incentives (gift cards, one-time bonuses), and many more.

Empowered caregivers do their best work and pursue their long-term goals. If their goals are in the healthcare industry, you'll likely see them stay working with you, barring life's surprises.

“Caregivers who feel heard and recognized are also going to be your biggest advocates when their friends and acquaintances enter the job market - spinning your flywheel even faster.”

As you can see, this is a far more efficient model of caregiver recruitment and retention that involves everyone on your team and builds off of itself. Whenever you improve one area, whether by adding force or reducing friction, you allow the flywheel to spin faster, which opens up the possibility of growing the size of your disc (business).

How do I start?

Getting started is always the toughest part. In order to get the caregiver flywheel spinning, you and your team must agree that flipping the focus onto the caregiver is good business practice. We listed some examples to get started, but the universe of possible actions to take is infinite.

At Levo, we believe that "there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time," and that large-scale culture changes begin with a single step. If you're interested in getting started, you can find us on LinkedIn or email our founder, Jason (jason@hellolevo.com), directly. If you found this helpful and want more posts like this, sign up below. We'd love to hear from you.

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