Throughout the pandemic we’ve talked a lot about how we can better support caregivers. After all, this is the group that is on the front lines, risking their lives to care for residents. The fear and uncertainty they must be experiencing each day is unimaginable. But as this crisis continues, a new conversation has begun around another group in your workforce that’s taken on their own set of challenges and could use some attention --- newer members of your leadership team.
These are the folks that have been in leadership positions for about 1-3 years, many of whom came to long-term care from other industries. I can guarantee they did not sign up for the situation they are currently faced with; none of us did. And odds are, this experience has led some to reconsider this line of work.
They’re incurring increased workloads, experiencing more stress and are having to develop new procedures on the fly while dealing with the staffing challenges that have only grown and exacerbated the situation.
In a column for McKnight’s, William McGinley, a former administrator says, “My heart breaks when I see Facebook posts from administrators saying that they are drowning and that they feel like they cannot go on. Many have voiced a desire to leave the field when the crisis is over.”
How can providers communicate to these employees who are relatively new to their leadership positions that the current chaotic environment is an anomaly and brighter times are ahead? Here are a few ways that organizations can work with these employees to provide additional support and hopefully retain new leaders when the crisis subsides.
Be open and honest about where your organization stands in fighting the virus. Communicate any problems your leaders should be aware of and how you intend to solve them. This includes updates on PPE and testing, staffing measures, and protocols you are putting in place. Make sure they understand their role in executing any of these new procedures and how it might affect them day to day. Finally, let them know that this will not last forever and you appreciate their ability to adapt to the situation, as well as the sacrifices they are making.
When the pandemic hit, OnShift was thrilled to see a huge increase in communication between management and employees. We saw a 28% increase in messages sent through OnShift Schedule and 300% increase in the number of surveys sent in OnShift Engage. These communications helped management gain insight into how the current situation was affecting employees personally and gauge how they were feeling about their jobs. I encourage communities to apply this level of listening to your newer leadership. The conversations might be different, but the concept is just the same.
Candidly ask them how they are doing and how they feel about all they have experienced over the past few months. In what ways has their personal situation changed? How has their job been affected and how are they feeling about any additional responsibilities they’ve taken on as a result? And finally, ask what you can do to support them during this time. While you may not be able to accommodate every request, simply asking and working toward a solution shows you care about them as a person and want to help.
Discuss Career Goals
While it may feel like you’re in the thick of the pandemic and just trying to get through today, it’s important to continue to discuss career goals with this group. Ask your leaders how they are feeling about their decision to work in long-term care and if anything has changed because of the current situation? Again, assure them that things will eventually go back to some semblance of normal. Ask where they see themselves in the next few years and if there’s anything they’d like to begin working towards. You probably have a few newly instated COVID-related initiatives at your community. Get them involved in a project that aligns with their goals or a skill set they’d like to learn.
Frame This Time As A Unique Learning Opportunity
Along the lines of discussing career goals, encourage your newer leaders to think of this experience as a learning opportunity. They are finding new ways of doing things and thinking outside the box, turning obstacles into solutions that can be applied in the future. They are taking on responsibilities they may not have otherwise had and learning different aspects of the business. They will be better at their jobs and more equipped to handle whatever comes their way post-pandemic.
I like McGinley’s perspective. He says to administrators, “You are now uniquely qualified in a way that those who came before you and those who will come later are not…No one has ever done what you are doing. Do not let this experience go to waste. This situation will be over someday, and you will be much stronger for it.”
Hold Regular One-On-Ones
Make all of the above regular topics of discussion during frequent check-in sessions. I encourage you to schedule these out in advance on your calendar, so they don’t take the back-burner during this time of so many competing priorities. Take a few minutes during these sessions to thank them for their hard work and even highlight something they recently did that deserves praise.
In the end, we will all get through this. And just like the frontline workers, our newer leaders will come out stronger, as both employees and people. In the meantime, we must continue to provide them with the support they need. It’s the organizations that prioritize their employees--at all levels--during this time that will enjoy a more stable workforce and better outcomes in the future.