Happy belated new year! One month down, 11 to go. Senior housing operators may have felt a sense of dread going in to 2019. Occupancy is at a low point, labor expenses are surging amid sharp workforce challenges, there’s new competition and construction costs are up. To top it all off, a good portion of our target market, the baby boomers, are staying at home longer.
It’s those organizations that use resources and data to strategically address their workforce challenges that will set themselves apart and make great strides in the next few years. It’s going to be tough, but it can be done. If there’s anything that I believe in it’s the mission of this industry and our ability to overcome just about any obstacle in our paths.
I wanted to share with you some practical strategies to put into place today to achieve some of the most common senior living provider goals.
Goal: Hire More Caregivers
We all knew the workforce shortage, high turnover and competition for talent would follow us into the new year. It’s unfortunate, but now is not the time to throw our hands up in the air. With residents to care for, there’s work to be done.
Steps To Take
This year, many operators will examine their recruiting process, start to get creative, and most importantly – look to technology on the market for help. The “post and pray” approach just isn’t cutting it. Tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Snapchat are not only great for showcasing life at your community but can be used to share job openings that reach your target audience.
Providers can no longer risk losing job candidates by not following up fast enough. It’s a first come, first served market out there. That’s where text-based recruiting software like OnShift Text2Hire will come into play. These technologies not only allow hiring managers to connect with candidates using their preferred communication method -- text messaging -- but they leverage AI to quickly follow up and secure an interview.
Goal: Improve Employee Engagement & Retention
Employee engagement is still a hot topic for the industry. This year many providers will focus on creating a visibly satisfied workforce. Why? Because happy employees beget happy residents and won’t leave to go work at the community down the street.
Steps To Take
The US added 304,000 jobs in January, far more than the expected 172,000. As operators navigate a low unemployment rate and competition – new and old – they will be required to focus on employee culture and truly invest the time and resources to make it the best it can be. Simply talking about improving culture is not enough.
To create a culture employees love, operators need to put their ears to the ground. Consider asking your employees directly what would make your community a great place to work. Collecting staff feedback and involving them in process improvements builds engagement and makes employees feel valued and connected to your company.
Make sure your culture is one that rewards hard work and celebrates success. Employee engagement platforms with capabilities like new hire tracking, automated rewards and staff satisfaction surveys will become increasingly important to help management be consistent.
It’s also crucial to keep in mind that engagement starts at the top. You must be strategic about who you put in C-suite and mid-level management positions and then ensure these folks have the resources they need to be effective in their roles, communicate with their teams, cultivate relationships with all levels of staff and live your mission day in and day out.
I think that if we invested as much energy into taking action and at least trying things out as we do talking about how to solve for the workforce crisis, we’d be in much better shape. However, we need to be okay with the initial monetary sacrifice that must be made. Just like a stock purchase, this is an investment and the return is not immediate. But with a continued commitment and regular assessment, organizations will reap the rewards over time in the form of lower turnover, happier employees that provide top-notch resident service and a thriving business.
The Goal: Master Margin Management
Senior living operators will focus on how to remain viable amidst occupancy challenges. A recent National Investment Center (NIC) blog post revealed that occupancy during 3Q18 for CCRCs was 90.8%, and non-CCRCs came in at 85.8%.
Steps To Take
Mastering margins starts with better managing your largest expense: labor. Unfortunately, paper schedules and Excel spreadsheets don’t offer the level of visibility needed to do that. Scheduling software that’s specifically built for shift-based care environments can help providers spot overtime before it occurs and saves schedulers and management a significant amount of time when creating and managing the schedule, specifically when handling call-offs.
It’s also crucial to examine your staff utilization. Costly agency use and overtime resulting from call-offs can often be avoided when your staff is working the hours they signed up to work.
Turnover is another sure way to drain your bottom line, with the average cost per lost employee running you up to $4,000. So, as you see, reducing turnover becomes crucial for more reason than one.
Goal: Provide Quality Care & Drive Occupancy
Our mission matters. Caring for the elderly is some of the most incredible, rewarding work out there. Unfortunately, certain factors like staff instability resulting from high turnover can impact the level of care operators are able to provide.
Senior housing occupancy rates nationwide remained near historic lows in Q4 2018 and labor wages, mainly on the assisted living side, continue to place pressures on operators looking to grow net operating income (NOI).
Steps To Take
Consumers want to know that they themselves or someone they love will be safe, comfortable and happy when they move into a senior living community. Operators will need to adjust their marketing strategy, weaving in residents telling their own positive stories, showcasing the wonderful environment they’ve created on social media and responding promptly to any negative PR.
Your good reputation will also help you recruit the best staff members needed to provide quality care and service. Better care leads to better resident experiences, which drives your occupancy and bottom line.
I wish you all the best of luck this year and can’t wait to see what we accomplish. In the meantime, all of us at OnShift are here to help you meet your workforce management goals. Please reach out to me via email if you’d like to learn more.