EXCLUSIVE: Managing director Ram Goyal shares Hallmark’s recruitment and retention formula


Managing director Ram Goyal explains Hallmark Care Homes’ recruitment and retention policies

Having joined brother and founder Avnish Goyal as joint managing director of Hallmark in the early 2000s, Ram was initially focused on developing business systems and processes.

“My particular niche at the beginning was around finance and setting up systems and processes,” Ram told CHP.

The managing director soon went on to develop the operational side of the business and working with managers and the regional team.

“I moved into HR, looking after most of the operational side of the business and Avnish would look after the marketing side and the development of new builds and acquisitions,” Ram explained.

Having taken some time out from the business seven years ago, Ram returned to Hallmark in early 2015 and eventually took up the role of managing director in April 2018 with Avnish becoming chair.

“Having been in the joint MD role from the beginning almost, I had some time to reflect and think about what I would do differently that we could excel in further,” Ram said.

“While I had great skills around the finance and detail side, I realised, that like Avnish, I was also a people person. Avnish was very much the face of the company.”

Since his return, Ram has focused on permeating the Hallmark charter and vision throughout the business by finding like-minded people.

“Coming back I have realised a big part of being MD is the ambassadorial role and embedding the vision and the charter and finding the right people and retaining them,” Ram noted.

The MD said recruiting the best people in the industry was key to the Hallmark goal of becoming a sector leader in terms of best practice.

Ram highlighted the recent recruitment of former Gracewell and Sunrise Senior Living executive Michael Burke as regional director for Hallmark’s England homes, as an example of how it had acted quickly to secure the best talent.

“We now act very quickly to ensure we attract good people because they are in demand and don’t stay in the market very long, so the decision processes need to be very slick,” Ram said.

The MD stressed that recommendation through ‘word of mouth’ was a key component of the Hallmark recruitment strategy.

“Michael was recommended by our sales and marketing director who said he was the best boss she ever had,” Ram noted.

Recruiting head of relationship centred care and dementia specialist April Dobson, formerly of the Abbeyfield Society, was another key appointment.

“April is the most amazing human being,” Ram said. “The level of love and energy she exudes into the company is very powerful.”

Hallmark’s teams have access to the company limousine for special occasions

Ram stressed it was important to maintain close relationships with recruitment agencies in order to secure the best people.

“Agencies will only put forward good people to businesses who they feel confident will respect them and put them through a process they will enjoy,” he said.

The MD dedicates regular time to speak to recruitment agencies. “It’s important they hear the vision from the ownership,” he added.

“You can also get feedback about what’s not working so you are able to make changes.”

Ram advised that it was important not to work with too many agencies, however.

“We never go out to more than two, preferably one, because there are a limited number of good people out there and if they get a call from six agencies it comes across as very desperate and disjointed,” Ram explained.

The MD’s primary focus this year has been retention. “We see there is a direct correlation between having long serving managers and the performance of the home and the quality of the care they deliver and the opportunities for them to grow and develop,” Ram said.

“The key thing is to develop the relationship with the people you already have and to get really involved in the recruitment side.

“Our retention of good people is generally good. People buy into us as individuals.”

As part of its retention focus, Hallmark has reassessed its benefits structure.

The care home provider has continually reviewed its annual internal awards, and offers a new cinema voucher scheme and store discounts as part of a raft of new measures.

Hallmark team members also have use of the company’s Rolls-Royce and chauffeur for special occasions such as weddings.

Given, the traditionally high level of turnover within the sector, which stands at around 26%, Ram said it was crucial to retain a stable, core team of leaders, including general managers and heads of department.

“The idea is to improve the retention of heads of department, which will then have an impact on other retention levels,” Ram noted.

In terms of carer retention, Hallmark incentivises people to take on more training and skills through its pay structure which is graded according to qualification.

Hallmark is also developing champions in different aspects of care such as lifestyle, activities and dementia to offer more opportunities for the team to develop themselves.

The care provider carries out regular competitor analysis to understand where it sits within the sector in terms of pay and benefits.

“We are always aiming for the upper end of the top quartile,” Ram noted.

As its competitors, Hallmark faces a constant challenge in keeping agency to a minimum within a challenging labour market, particularly in nursing.

Ram said Hallmark had managed to deliver a significant drop in agency over the past year.

Nursing recruitment at Hallmark’s homes in Wales was a particular challenge, however, he added.

The company has introduced a ‘refer a friend’ and ‘golden hello’ scheme for nurses. The ‘golden hello’ scheme offers nurses who join Hallmark directly and not through an agency £2,000 in Wales and £1,000 in England after being successfully placed. In addition to this, Hallmark has also begun offering £25 vouchers to encourage nurses to interviews.

“It gives us an opportunity to share our vision and our charter and demonstrate our facilities and it’s starting to bear fruit,” Ram said.

The MD noted that Hallmark had reduced agency usage significantly.

“You will always have a level of agency but the culture should be that our residents are supported by our own team,” Ram stressed.

The MD said there was a direct correlation between home manager longevity and agency usage.

“The longer serving home managers know who they can call upon to do extra shifts and have bank teams they have developed,” he said.

The Hallmark leader highlighted effective rostering as a key way of keeping agency use to a minimum.

“Good managers understand good rostering, which is about knowing their team and making sure they put the right people together and also making sure that rotas are up in advance so that people can plan two to three months ahead,” Ram noted.

“One of the big issues is where rotas are going up just a month or a few weeks in advance so people are taking time off because they are not able to plan their personal lives.”

Hallmark is looking into trialling a punch-in electronic system and is speaking with various suppliers to further increase efficiency in shift scheduling.

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