I recently attended the LeadingAge Ohio conference in Columbus. This yearly event plays host to several hundred association members who come ready to learn and connect with their aging services peers. This year, I ran into a few of our customers, caught up with old friends from my days on the provider side and walked away with plenty of new insights and strategies to share with the OnShift team. Here are a few key takeaways from the three-day event.
- Focusing On Our Own Well-Being Helps Us Better Connect With Others
I really liked one particular message woven throughout the event: the idea of connecting with ourselves and those around us. And, how when we do that, we improve our lives and are better equipped to care for and form relationships with others. This theme is right in line with what we promote on the Ohio Person Centered Care Coalition.
The opening keynote speech really hit the nail on the head. The speakers, Justin and Patrick, are two best friends that trekked 500 miles across mountainous terrain in northern Spain. Impressive, right? But what’s even more impressive is that one of them, Justin, did so in a wheelchair.
The story, which is covered in their film and book “I'll Push You,” is one of overcoming adversity, accomplishing the unthinkable and the power of friendship and human connection. Completely unplugged from the distractions of the modern world, the two were able to focus on the task at hand (which, as you can imagine, was challenging beyond comprehension at times). The journey was one of personal growth and took their friendship to a whole new level. Patrick – and several other people they encountered along the pilgrimage – pushed him the entire way.
It's pretty unbelievable what you can accomplish and the connections you can make when you focus and stay present in the moment, especially when it comes to caring for residents.
In another session titled “The Mindful Caregiver,” Valerie Houseknecht of Innovative Care Solutions talked about the signs of compassion fatigue and burnout in caregivers. She discussed how meditation and being more mindful in the present moment can help reduce burnout.
This practice can really benefit caregivers, who are often juggling multiple responsibilities in chaotic environments. Not only does practicing mindfulness help them better adapt to stressful situations, but it allows them to show greater empathy and compassion for those they serve.
- Providers Continue To Get Creative With Retention Strategies
As always, employee engagement and retention were hot topics, and many innovative ideas for bolstering it were shared. However, a few ideas really stood out.
One community instituted what they call “Mission Moments,” where they start each day discussing a real-life scenario that matches a section of their mission. It helps get staff to buy into their mission and starts each shift on a positive note. Another community, to combat high turnover on the third shift, celebrates National Third Shift Workers Day. The annual holiday falls on the second Wednesday in May. This community also provides a “welcome to third shift booklet” to make new employees feel like valued members of the team and quickly get them up to speed.
As a perk for employees, one provider offers what they call “Code Lavender” – a special cart for staff that’s available when they need it. If they’re having a stressful day, they can say “code lavender” on their overhead paging system and a cart with essential oils, puzzles, journals, stress balls, snacks, lotions, and other soothing items will arrive.
Another speaker told the audience that their organization sticks to the philosophy that no employee programs should be developed without getting the employee involved. This might seem like a no-brainer to a lot of people, but is crucial if you want staff buy-in. It was a good reminder to everyone in the room, myself included. The best way to build a culture employees love is to get their input into the programs you provide.
Many providers who stopped by the OnShift booth cited OnShift Wallet as a successful retention tool. Our employee financial wellness software offers staff access to earned but unpaid wages to help them when they need it most. I spoke with several customers that were excited to implement OnShift Wallet and a few others that said their staff had heard about it through the grapevine and were asking for it. It was great to see that so many employees and providers find it useful.
We also got to share the success of OnShift's All-In-One Mobile App, which allows employees to easily access earned but unpaid wages, view their schedule and pick up open shifts, and track their rewards and performance. Providers have seen exponential value from combining these three things, including a 63% increase in shift pick-up requests - leading to decreased overtime and agency usage.
What many employees are doing is going in to the app to check their OnShift Wallet balance, seeing that a shift needs filled, and requesting that open shift to increase their earned wages. This is helping schedulers fill scheduling gaps, allowing organizations to provide consistent, quality care and giving employees a sense of control over their schedules. Transparency into their reward points balance also keeps employees on track and incentivizes behaviors like clocking in and out on time, picking up open shifts and not calling off.
- Technology Is No Longer A Nice-To-Have For Providers
One session focused specifically on how tech benefits residents, staff and organizations as a whole. Today’s consumers and workers are demanding it and the government has even started mandating certain systems for better patient outcomes. However, the industry has been slow to adopt new technologies – either due to cost constraints or competing priorities. One thing is certain: if you’re not going to change, you’re not going to improve. When looking at technology, it’s important to prioritize solutions that not only improve operations, but quality of life for their number one asset – their employees.
The speakers of the session reinforced the importance of employee-centric technologies like OnShift. Caregivers and other hourly workers in particular want to know their employer is up and running with the latest technology – the kind that makes their job easier, keeps them engaged with your community and supports work-life balance.
All in all, myself and my colleagues that attended found the conference extremely valuable and couldn’t wait to get back and share what we learned with our team. I’ll leave you with a fun fact I learned: Ohio has the sixth largest population of older Americans in the nation. That makes proactive organizations like LeadingAge Ohio all the more critical in this ever-changing industry. So many people need our care and we must continue to ensure they receive it. Until next year!