Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

How to retain your best staff


Any organisation wishing to deliver the highest quality of support for people with learning disabilities needs to retain its best staff over the long term.

“Without access to growth and development, motivation hits rock bottom: sickness absence and staff turnover are high, confidence levels low and the lack of connectivity to company culture and values become very evident.” 

Staff retention in the social care sector is not only business critical, it is a badge of quality. The employer led workforce development body for adult social care in England, Skills for Care, report in ‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England, 2017’, that staff turnover rates of directly employed staff working in the adult social care sector was 27.8%, approximately 345,000 leavers per year.

Although the report goes on to say that almost three quarters of all workers remained in their roles this figure is high compared to the UK average employee turnover rate, which is reported by the recruiter Monster as being at 15% a year.

Long-term employed staff don’t just provide consistency of service, they provide necessary comfort in an environment where trusting and productive relationships between team members and the people they support are created and cherished.


Speak to a handful of carers or support workers about their roles and the majority will say it isn’t just a job it’s a vocation. Many are deeply committed to their roles and more importantly the people they care for.

Yet staff motivation is still low. Skills for Care research found that good communication with staff, appropriate training arrangements, and allowing staff to have autonomy over their work are key points in attracting and maintaining a stable workforce.

Lack of staff retention falls into many categories, and my first hand experience very definitely apportions it to limited or no access to personal or career growth and development. Without this, motivation hits rock bottom, sickness absence is high, confidence levels low, staff turnover high, the lack of connectivity to company culture and values become very evident. 

Employees that don’t buy-in to company values are highly likely to leave. It is critical that the workforce is supported with a development strategy and talent management programme that supports participants to enrich their roles. 

Doing just that we co created the Aspire Career Development Programme with Dimensions UK, one of the UK’s largest not-for-profits, who support people with learning disabilities, autism, challenging behaviour and complex needs. The programme provided staff with access to coaching which helped them achieve their personal and career objectives, and create a workable development plan.

Providing individuals with the opportunity to ‘craft’ their current job role into something more meaningful resulted in employees being more hopeful about the future, believing their job role and responsibilities had been enhanced or changed as a result.


Creating a culture of enrichment can result in incredibly empowering transformations. My recent work with Dimensions UK supports this.

On completion:

  • 83% of participants report career growth
  • 94% are more motivated as a result
  • 92% are confident they can progress their career
  • 90% feel more connected to the work
  • 87% feel the company is a better place to work than other organisations in the sector
  • 88% feel the company offers good opportunities for career growth
  • 40% lower sickness absence
  • of those considering leaving, 100% changed their minds

One of the most significant ways coaching had an impact on culture and individuals was through an uplift in personal confidence. Confidence levels jumped from 60% to 94% in the first three months. The impact of this on the lives of the people being supported can’t be overstated.

Prior to our work, a Dimensions UK staff survey found that two thirds of their workforce felt that there were few opportunities for career progression at Dimensions. Within a year of the introduction of the Aspire Programme, a subsequent staff survey showed a 14% increase of people with good prospects for promotion and development. our career growth percentage, although other measure such as turnover are stable. At completion, 94% participants are more motivated as a result of being on Aspire and 92% are confident they can progress their career at Dimensions.

And what about retention?

Average annual turnover of participants is just 6%.

The proof is very definitely in the pudding but it’s clear, by applying person-centred principles to the care of employees, it isn’t just lip service. Just like you want your service users to flourish, extending that opportunity to your staff can result in a positive impact that supports a positive company culture of raising standards in care.

Angela Sabin FCIPD FCMI FInstLM of Executive Life Coaching is one of an exclusive league of executive coaches in the UK to achieve accreditation at Master Practitioner Level to the European Quality Standard for Coaching www.executive-life-coaching.co.uk


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