Helper agencies face a complex challenge of matching employers and helpers. Two crucial factors which can determine the rate of success: matching expectations and matching personalities.
The process of matching is not easy but is vital for both the family’s satisfaction with the helper and their work, and for the helper who is under pressure to maintain a good employment record. The responsibility of accurate matches rests with the agency and this is reflected in its reputation among clients, helpers and its Ministry Of Manpower stats. The number of helpers who do not stay in their contracts and require a replacement is high – as transparently reflected on MOMs Employment Agency directory.
This creates pressure for agencies to make the best match possible, so they can maintain and improve their reputation. But how well do Foreign Domestic Worker agencies manage to do this? MOM’s directory makes this information very plain and clear to clients. The estimated average retention rate in recent history has been as low as 47%. This means that there is room for vast amounts of improvement in terms of matching helpers to families.
One factor to discuss and improve is how the matching begins. The most common way of introducing helpers to families is through biodata. However, the practice of looking at biodata alone to shortlist helpers is flawed. An A4 piece of paper is not an effective way of explaining a helper’s abilities.
First, it is unfocused and contains unessential points such as the number of siblings they have, their height, weight and a star-based rating from one to five of their skills. This type of information is almost useless for clients. The focus must be on the soft skills, personality traits and most of all – expectations. When the expectations are not aligned between what the employer wants the helper to achieve and what the helper wishes to do, the relationship will begin to break down.
For example, a helper’s biodata may comment that she has previously taken care of three children with a 5-star rating. However, this does not describe if she is comfortable picking them up from school, helping with homework, being left alone with the children for extended periods of time, or going away with the family on trips. It is unrealistic to expect helpers to create an extensive written document about her experiences and future ambitions. This is why more agencies are using video interviewing as a crucial tool to ensure that clients ask questions relevant to them. Helpers are then given the opportunity to express themselves more clearly as well as in a time and cost-effective way for all parties.
What Should You Ask?
It is always good to understand who the helper is beyond her job role to help with mating. Good questions to ask a helper include asking about what she hopes to be doing in the future and what she used to do back home. Also asking what she likes to do in her free time so you will help clients understand how she intends to spend her days off. Encourage helpers to speak about things they enjoy and enable them to use their own words to describe themselves so that their personality can shine through.
In addition, agencies can build a scenario or example to the interview questions so that helpers can discuss what they will do in real-life situations. This is especially useful for helpers without any experience and will allow them to understand what is expected from them. A great example which we discovered after talking to families with young children was to set a scenario to determine potential helpers confidence level with looking after very young children. A good way to do this would be to ask what the helper would do if a baby was choking.
Another common issue is cooking. Employers have a different understanding of what food the helper can and wants to cook. Therefore, a good question to ask the helper would be: “We will require our helper to assist in the preparation of a variety of meals which are healthy for the whole family. Please talk about what dishes you can cook and tell us your favourite recipe.”
By giving the helper the opportunity to really describe who she is and what she is looking for you are creating an environment where clients feel like they can really get to know the helper and make informed decisions easily. This helps your agency to not only create better matches between helper and families, but to achieve high retention rates.