Leadership in Action

Managing a growing multicultural aged care workforce

Due to the increase in demand, the number of aged care workers is expected to double by 2050 (DoHA, 2010). In 2012, approximately 74 per cent of residential aged care workers were born overseas. Similarly, there is a significant and ongoing increase in the number and proportion of aged care consumers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

In response to this, a partnership project with the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health titled ‘Proactive Cultural Diversity Management in Aged Care’ was initiated by a large Victorian aged care provider. This provider recognised the need to grow their aged care workforce in response to increasing demand for its services and to manage to greatest effect its multicultural workforce. The project aims to identify the key information, training and support needs of migrant aged care workers from CALD backgrounds.

Data was gathered through interviews with employees from three residential aged care sites with a high proportion of employees from CALD backgrounds. Findings of this research indicate that although there was a variation in the circumstances and reasons that led these workers into aged care, almost all of the staff interviewed expressed a commitment to work long term in the industry and had been attracted to the occupation by a genuine interest in caring for older people.

The findings also reinforce the importance of providing tailored information, support and training for all workers, especially those who are relatively recent migrants. Training was rated most positively by participants in terms of providing skills but they felt support and information needs were under-developed. Of particular importance are orientation and induction programs and formal mentoring, strengthened by a broader program to develop organisational capacity to manage cultural diversity and to create a culturally inclusive work environment that not only attracts but retains employees.

[Source: Dr Joyce Jiang is the Health Promotions Manager at the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health]