This year’s Argentum Senior Living Executive Conference took place in San Antonio, Texas and, as always, the three-day event was chock-full of informative speaking sessions, networking opportunities and fresh ideas on how to solve senior living challenges.
The event truly was a meeting of the minds and each year my appreciation for the people (including so many of our awesome customers and partners!) and programs that exist in this industry reaches a new level. One thing I noticed right off the bat was there was this feeling of coming together more than ever before. It was as if we all understood the challenges facing senior living, but we knew we can no longer sit tight and wait for things to change. Attendees were there on business: ready to learn, share and take action like never before.
Here are my key takeaways from the event...
Work Smarter, Not Harder When It Comes To Attracting Workers
As it usually goes, much of the conversation focused on workforce issues, so naturally the idea of the supposed shortage came up several times. During a session on developing leaders, Tommy Comer, Chief Human Resource Officer at Commonwealth Senior living said, “There are enough people out there to fill the jobs, they’re just choosing to work somewhere else.” I know OnShift’s CEO, Mark Woodka, is of the same school of thought. The shortage exists, but it’s not as bad as some think. We need to be better about bringing workers into our world, which starts with making our communities desirable places to work, and most importantly, stay.
During my session, I highlighted some proven strategies for creating a winning culture to engage and retain staff. I covered how to strengthen communications, implement consistent feedback practices and cater to your employees’ preferences. The event quickly followed the release of the OnShift Wallet Visa® Prepaid Card, an enhancement to our employee financial wellness software that offers another way to access their earned but unpaid wages and a direct deposit option to those without a bank account. Everyone at the show was super excited about this new feature and the potential it has to improve the lives of senior living employees.
Argentum's Workforce Insight Report, sponsored by OnShift, will help guide providers in their recruitment, retention and compensation strategies. The report is geared toward HR and operations-decision making, who Argentum hopes will use the data for wage analyses, comparisons with providers inside and outside the industry and to build staffing plans for existing and new communities.
Career Development Is Key Any Way You Cut It
Career paths and leadership development were also heavily discussed throughout the event. OnShift is proud to be on the steering committee of Argentum's first-ever national apprenticeship for nursing assistants and caregivers in senior living. "The initiative will pave the way for caregiver advancement in the industry,” said Argentum President & CEO James Balda. “We need to continue to reward high performers and retain dedicated talent, and apprenticeship programs are an opportunity as seen in other industries such as restaurants, hospitality, and multi-family housing.”
OnShift is a founding supporter of the Institute of Senior Living at Washington State -- whose goal is to expose business students to careers in senior living – so it was great to see program leader Scott Eckstein on a panel discussing partnerships with academic institutions. He told attendees that the young people he works with want career paths, and we can capture their interest as freshman by exposing them to the senior living industry. Want proof? He’s got it. When he takes his students on field trips to visit communities, it completely changes their perspective on senior living and opens their eyes to the professional opportunities and rewarding work within the field.
Mark Woodka also continues to deliver his Executive Director Leadership Institute session on workforce best practices to a crowd of eager and excited future executive directors. It’s clear that Argentum and the industry are committed to not only offering career paths, but thoughtfully developing the future leaders of senior living.
Changing The Conversation About Senior Living
Once we’ve established a culture that employees will love doing all of the above, we have to steer the conversation about senior living in our favor. The data out there shows that we truly are a growth industry and a strong economic contributor. What we need now is a unified voice to get the national recognition and support needed to address the challenges facing senior living providers.
One of the easiest grassroots strategies for getting our message and mission out there is by promoting stories from around our communities on social media platforms. I’m still surprised to learn that many communities aren’t utilizing social media as a recruiting tool. Providers, you should be sharing the amazing things you are doing for your residents and the equally amazing things you’re doing for your employees. Doing so is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reach your target workforce and promote the senior living agenda.
Our Future Is Bright
All of us at OnShift are so grateful for our continued partnership with Argentum and want to take a second to thank them for their commitment to senior living. One of my favorite parts of the event is when we take a breather from strategizing and sit down to celebrate those organizations and individuals making an impact in the industry.
Myself and my colleagues were talking after the conference and agreed it was one of the best yet. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year. See you in Tampa in 2020!