Recruitment, learning and development: how Exemplar Health Care has adapted to the challenges of Covid-19

29 June 2020

Female colleague sat at a computer

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has challenged us to think differently and creatively about our recruitment and training delivery.

Here, Claire Fretwell, Head of Learning, Development and Talent, shares how we’ve overcome these challenges, what we’ve learned and her thoughts for the future.

Meeting staffing challenges with a new Associate Carer role

When the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic started, we developed a new temporary Associate Carer role, designed for those who work in the hospitality, leisure or travel sectors, or students, who might be looking for extra work over the coming months. Since mid-March, when we started a recruitment drive in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19), we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of applications and offers of employment, of almost double that of the same period in 2019.

Many of our new starters have been a great fit in the homes, and we hope that they will continue in employment after the pandemic ends. Sharing the success of her new starters, one of our Home Managers said:

“I have had good success with new starters. At my home, we’ve had 8 new starters in the midst of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and they are loving their new jobs and have settled in fantastically. Despite these challenging circumstances, their energy and enthusiasm has been fantastic.”

Monitoring and maintaining staffing levels during Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As well as introducing the new Associate Carer role, we also have a large reliable team of bank and agency staff, as well as non-direct care and central team colleagues, who are in place to support our homes if needed. This has helped us to cover any staff shortages due to sickness or isolation during the pandemic.

We’ve introduced a new online dashboard that provides real-time information about staffing levels across our 32 homes, which is powered by signing in apps in each of our homes. If a home falls under their target staffing level, the dashboard highlights this and we can explore the reasons why. This has helped us to monitor staffing levels more easily, and enabled us to be more responsive if there appears to be a staffing issue in one of our homes. 

My colleague, Selina Wall, Senior Director of Operations, is responsible for ensuring safe staffing levels across our homes and shares:

“One of my key priorities each day is ensuring that we have the right amount of colleagues working in our homes. Our homes are staffed 24/7 and I need to know that we have always got the right amount of people to support our service users. The implementation of the dashboard has provided me with real time information and importantly reassurance.”

Going online with the full recruitment process

Due to travel restrictions, we’ve implemented a full online recruitment process which starts with an online application asking candidates about their values, experience and why they want the job. If a candidate’s online application is successful, the Home Manager or Recruitment Team conduct a video interview via Zoom, FaceTime, Messenger or Skype. If the candidate is successful at this stage of recruitment, we accept verbal references over the phone to support people to start work in as little as 3 weeks.

Changes to our induction process for care home colleagues

Before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we delivered 4 day face-to-face inductions, every 4 weeks, for all new recruits. However, due to lockdown restrictions and social distancing, we’re now running virtual inductions 3 times per week. 

This induction is 2 days long and involves a blended approach of online learning, presentations and activities, to introduce new recruits to the organisation and our values, and to support them to complete the relevant mandatory and statutory training (MAST).

Once the new colleague has completed the corporate induction, they're supported by a buddy in the Home who welcomes them and mentors them to achieve their local induction.

Introducing Care Certificate eLearning modules for Support Worker inductions

In April, we introduced new eLearning modules to support recruits new to care in completing the theoretical elements of the Care Certificate online, which are hosted on our eLearning platform - Exemplar’s Learning Management System (ELMS). Their buddy or line manager will carry out observations, Q&A’s and witness testimonies to assess the practical elements of the Care Certificate.

Lauren Brooke, Learning and Development Lead, supported the implementation of the modules and says:

“Given the current challenges that the care sector is facing with delivering training, it’s inspiring to know that our new colleagues are being given the best opportunity to succeed. Our eLearning modules provide an excellent foundation of the knowledge and skills that all of our care workers need.”

Find out more

Find out more about the measures that we’re taking to reduce the risk of the virus across our homes here.

Make a referral 

Exemplar Health Care has 32 – and growing – homes across Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West, North East and Midlands. Find out more about our homes here.

If you want to speak to someone about making a referral to one of our homes, please contact our Referrals Team on 01709 565777 or email

Careers at Exemplar Health Care

If you or someone you know is interested in working with people who are living with complex needs, Exemplar Health Care offers a range of rewarding careers. Find out more about your career options and our vacancies here