If there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that senior living providers put an extra focus on listening to and supporting their staff. And to help providers continue this effort moving forward, OnShift recently surveyed more than 2,800 healthcare workers to gain insight into their daily lives, both personally and professionally. The data we collected offers a snapshot into the life of frontline employees—their current struggles and their hopes for the future.
Here are some of the key themes we uncovered and how senior living providers can help meet (and even exceed) the needs of their employees.
A diverse workforce
Our survey confirmed what we already knew to be true: The senior care workforce is comprised of individuals from an array of backgrounds. This is something that makes this industry truly special. More perspectives lead to better innovation, and research shows that more diversity leads to higher productivity and performance.
Nearly 50 percent of caregivers surveyed identify as non-White. However, among management and business operations roles, which represented 9 percent of responses, there is a significant gap in ethnic diversity. The majority of managers and operations roles identified as White or Caucasian (69 percent).
This has led organizations to prioritize diversity and inclusion initiatives that create more supportive environments and opportunities for all team members. Many providers I have spoken with are making a concerted effort to provide career paths for frontline staff into management roles, so that organizational leaders will more closely mirror the diversity among their staff. This sends a powerful message of not only inclusion, but also of career growth potential for all employees.
The meaningful work that the senior living industry offers is not lost on these frontline workers, even given the often challenging nature of the job. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said that caring for residents is the most rewarding part of their role. This is followed by feeling a sense of purpose (41 percent), being able to put their healthcare skills to work (30 percent), and strong relationships with co-workers (29 percent).
This data confirms that communicating senior living's mission and all the rewarding aspects of this line of work has the potential to make a huge impact in recruiting efforts. Providers should continue to share special moments, success stories, and employee testimonials on their websites and social channels to showcase the amazing things happening in communities each day.
Additionally, since only 24 percent reported having an associate degree or higher, career development and educational advancement opportunities can also serve as powerful recruiting and retention tools.
Flexibility, recognition, wellness
Frontline employees have continually been asked to go above and beyond, especially this past year. Countless staff members have stepped up to ensure residents are getting the proper care and service they need and deserve. However, this has placed a lasting strain on staff members, as 86 percent of respondents indicated that they are experiencing some degree of burnout. In fact, about one-third of those surveyed expressed that they don't have enough “me time”.
When given the option to elaborate on what would make their job more satisfying, free-form responses focused on better pay, better staffing levels, increased communication, and appreciation from management.
Employees also shared which perks are most valuable. The top three include bonus pay for working difficult shifts (44 percent), rewards and recognition for contributions (29 percent) and more flexible work schedules (25 percent).
With this data in hand, our hope is that providers can make more informed decisions about the initiatives and resources they put in place to support this hardworking, dedicated group both now and in the future. Doing so can help redefine the employee experience and address two of the most persistent workforce challenges: attracting and retaining talent.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Argentum Senior Living Executive.