Trouble Retaining Locums? Providing Constructive Feedback Can Help

April 2022 by Melissa Carson

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​The social work locum market has been hard hit by skilled staff shortages. While managers in the sector previously enjoyed many years of a steady supply of locum Social Workers, the tide has abruptly shifted. In what is now an extremely tight talent market, retaining your locums is more important than ever.

A key way to do this is to focus on feedback, something not many locum workers receive. As feedback is a starting point for growth, it’s a great way to show your locums they’re not just a stop-gap in your organisation, but a vital cog in its wheel.

Here’s what you need to know about giving constructive feedback to your locums that not only ensures you get the best out of your casual staff, but strengthens your relationships in the industry.

Key Benefits of Providing Feedback

Let’s first turn to the reasons why providing feedback is so beneficial, not just for your locum Social Worker, but for yourself and the business at large.

1. Enhance your employee experience

As mentioned previously, it’s not often that locum Social Workers receive direct feedback from their managers. Many managers simply ask their recruiter to replace someone whom they feel is not a good fit for the team. The result? These locums never get the opportunity to become aware of the things they could do to improve, meaning high potential people often go to waste. But by learning how to give constructive feedback, you’ll provide your locum with a chance to work on their skill set, grow in their career, and ultimately give their best to your organisation.

2. Identify areas for improvement

The best type of feedback is two-way, and in the locum field, it’s perhaps one of the easiest methods of learning more about your business and how to improve it. By inviting your locum to provide feedback about your company – be it processes, procedures or training – you can benefit from a fresh set of eyes; ones that have also witnessed how a host of similar organisations work.

3. Get better outcomes

Creating an environment of shared feedback enhances your professional working relationship with your locum. Your openness to hear their concerns or suggestions, as well as constructively share yours, builds trust. This results in a better employee work experience, which naturally translates to better work outcomes.

4. Cost-effective

The earlier you provide feedback to your locum about an issue, either directly or through your recruiter, the higher the chance it can be addressed and you can retain them. This is a smarter financial option than seeking a new locum (if you can find a suitable candidate!) and having to retrain all over again, not to mention the added recruitment costs.

5. Become an employer of choice

The Australian social work sector is small and competitive. Your professional reputation matters – with your clients, employees and the greater industry. Feedback is one road to nurturing that reputation.

By sharing feedback with your locums, you clearly show you care about their professional development. It demonstrates you’re willing to put the time in to invest in their improvement and assist them along the way. It’s a highly attractive company trait in a sector where locums often don’t receive the same support as their full-time colleagues.

While this offers great benefits for your company's reputation, it also increases the chances your locum is willing to turn permanent, if that option is on the table. Even if it isn’t, they will leave with a positive impression of your organisation, one that they will likely share with other locums and industry peers.

5 Tips for Giving Feedback

Delivering feedback can often be an uncomfortable conversation, and one that many of us try to avoid. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The following tips for giving feedback will help you frame it in a constructive and positive way, whether you’re providing it directly to your locum or through your recruiter.

1. Start from the start

Feedback shouldn’t just be something you do – ideally, it should be embedded in your company culture. When you bring on a new locum, part of their induction is setting the expectation that they will receive regular feedback, and are encouraged to give it too.

2. Schedule in formal feedback

As a social work manager, time is a precious commodity. But devoting some towards formal feedback meetings is well worth the effort. They don’t have to be long – 20 minutes is usually enough to discuss whether your locum is happy and if they need more training in a particular area or some other form of support.

If you work with a professional social work recruitment agency, like us here at Tradewind Australia, we can help you with these formal feedback sessions. When we book in your locum’s first day, we also send you a calendar invite for their first feedback meeting to discuss how they’re settling in and whether you have any issues. We then book in the next meeting for two weeks’ time, with the focus on how the locum is now performing and whether there’s anything we can do together to ensure the placement runs smoothly.

3. Aim to be solutions-focused in your feedback

There are a variety of issues that might arise with your locum. Perhaps they’re perpetually late, or their report writing skills need improvement. Sharing that feedback is vital, but so is working together to come up with a solution. Here is a real-life example:

One of our clients had a locum Social Worker working from home who had technology issues. They provided feedback to us about the challenges this presented, such as freezing during every Teams meeting. They could have taken the option of asking to replace them with another locum with a reliable internet connection, but they could see the real value the current locum gave to the team. So, they provided her with a dongle with a faster internet speed. It was a simple solution but one that had huge positive ramifications, as the staff member is now the locum team leader.

4. Prepare a script

One of the biggest challenges in providing feedback is how to frame it positively. This is where coming up with a short script can help. You might like to follow this framework:

a) Start positively (mention a few things the locum is doing well)

“I’m really pleased with your case notes and report writing skills. They’re clear and concise while capturing all they need to.”

b) State the feedback with a tangible example

“I’ve noticed on a few occasions that your tone on calls was a little abrupt, like the discussion you had with {insert client name} about {insert topic/issue].”

c) Provide a suggested outcome

“I’d like to support you to work on this. Perhaps you can shadow Rachel on a few of her calls this week by sitting down with her and listening in? I’m open to other suggestions you might have as well.”

d) Schedule a check-in

“After your session with Rachel, we’ll give it a week or two for you to work on, and then sit down again briefly to see how you’ve progressed.”

Need Extra Feedback Support?

We hope these tips give you an outline for framing and providing constructive feedback to your valued locums, but if you need some extra help, please get in touch. As a specialist social work recruitment agency, we not only have plenty of experience in diplomatically delivering feedback, but we are focused on matching the right Social Workers to locum roles, ensuring the best outcomes for our clients.