Cheers to my first blog post of 2020 and the start of a new decade. This year, I will be writing a monthly column to bring thought and conversation to what's happening within the senior living workforce. I will share important news, best practices, innovative strategies and of course, any and all of the positive stories that I hear from providers like you.
I firmly believe that we have an opportunity to define what it means to work in senior living this decade simply by sharing all of the good things happening within our communities.
For the first installment of my monthly column, I wanted to brief you on what I think will be some of the key themes for the industry this year.
Cutting Unnecessary Labor Expenses
The senior living industry as a whole has typically been slow to respond to the growing challenges around technology and controlling labor costs. Historically, we have managed to be profitable and thought rising labor costs were reserved for skilled nursing organizations. Unfortunately, we have reached a point where we can no longer afford to sit on the problem.
Modern scheduling software is no longer a nice-to-have. Operators that have taken advantage of such technology have been able to significantly reduce labor costs. 2020 is our opportunity to turn things around and think differently. When we do so, we will start to change the landscape for attracting talent and managing the costs associated with labor. And technology can offset a portion of the labor expense impact.
Refining The Recruiting Process
In a recent survey conducted by OnShift, 62% of providers cited difficulty finding qualified candidates as one of their biggest workforce challenges. And 73% of people believe this challenge will remain the same or get worse over the next 3 years.
When you consider that we need to recruit 1.2 million workers by 2020 to care for the growing aging population, the grimness of the situation grows.
However, while I acknowledge that the talent shortage exists, I think many aspects of our struggles can be avoided. In working with providers, we’ve found that several communities are letting top talent slip through the cracks due to convoluted and employer-centric recruiting processes. I think we will start to see providers adopting practices and implementing systems that improve the candidate experience and make the recruiter’s job much easier.
Implementing Employee Wellness Programs
The industry’s turnover challenges rage on and the storm will not subside anytime soon. And when you consider that the average hourly senior care work is struggling to make ends meet, providers have an opportunity to show employees they care.
To combat these challenges, providers will continue to assess and refine their perks and benefits programs. We should see an uptick in initiatives that aim to improve the lives of employees – scheduling flexibility, career pathing, mental and financial wellness perks, rewards and recognition programs, etc.
Sharing The Successes
I think it will become increasingly important for us to not only share workforce strategies among ourselves, but the positive stories that happen within our industry. Think along the lines of a new direct-care worker initiative that is having an impact, a moment that highlights the rewarding aspects of what we do or even when employees are recognized for contributing to your company's mission. Not only will sharing these stories help other communities, but they will shine a light on the joys of working in senior living for all to see. Here are a couple examples…
McKnight’s Senior Living recently shared a story about a resident and die-hard baseball fan that was paid a special visit by José Altuve of the Houston Astros. Shirley Clark was a missionary in Venezuela and Altuve wanted to thank her for her work in his home country and wish her a happy birthday in person.
Further down south, McGuffey Healthcare & Rehab First in Gadsden, AL held a reception to celebrate Jewell Garret, a nurse who dedicated 54 years of her life to the community. She credits being raised by her grandmother for a lifetime of providing care to the elderly.
And finally, New Jersey-based Marquis Health Services organized an “Elf on the Shelf” and “Mensch on the Bench” photo competition to get everyone in the holiday spirit and have some fun with residents and staff. An unforeseen benefit—it significantly boosted staff engagement on social media and garnered a great deal of positive publicity.
Which brings me to my final point, be sure to share your positive stories and special moments on your community’s social channels. Doing so both engages current employees and helps to attract new ones.
I’d love to hear any stories you have to share. Email me for a chance to be featured in a future post.