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Cultivating A Culture Of Communication To Boost Retention In Senior Care

December 2, 2021 | Peter Corless

The impact of the pandemic on the healthcare industry has been substantial in so many ways. As the “BLS October Jobs Report” shows, while many health care facilities, including physician’s offices, outpatient care centers and hospitals, have reached or are near pre-pandemic staffing levels, long-term care and assisted living communities continue to trend well below March 2020 levels. Overall, nursing home jobs are down an estimated 14% while assisted living jobs have fallen 8% throughout the pandemic. And, with the exception of a slight uptick in jobs for nursing homes in October, jobs in senior care are continuing to fall. 

And the question remains, why?

A recent study titled “Job Resignation in Nursing Homes During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of Quality of Employer Communication” suggests a new factor that may be influencing these trends.

Using data from a sample of both resigned and currently employed nursing home workers, this study showed that better quality employee communications were often associated with higher levels of preparedness. And in turn, those higher levels of preparedness were significantly associated with a decrease in likelihood that an employee would resign.

What this study proves is that the value of communication should never be underestimated. And even as life with COVID-19 has slowly become part of the new normal, it’s important that senior care providers keep the lines of communication open and transparent if they want to continue to retain the staff they have.

Establish Dedicated Lines Of Communication

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it even happen? The same rule goes for communication. If you put out an update, but no one hears it, it might as well have gone unsaid.

Effective communication starts by establishing where and how employees should expect to be communicated with. Throughout the pandemic, many of our customers relied on OnShift’s integrated messaging system to send important updates, including potential cases, policy changes, training opportunities, and even words of encouragement from management and corporate.

Many of these employees were already accustomed to receiving updates from their community through this platform, either via text or through the OnShift mobile app. And this made communicating during an emergency event all that more streamlined.

Be sure to have clear policies and procedures around how to communicate with who, where and when. Keep in mind, you may find a combination of methods works best. For example, employees could receive a text update on their phones, read a notice in the breakroom and be further updated during a daily staffing meeting. And then utilizing OnShift’s custom survey capability, management could follow up with a quick one-question survey to make sure that the message got through clearly and effectively.

Be Consistent & Provide Follow-up

In order for employees to feel safe and secure at work, they must feel informed. So in order to create a culture of communication, you must be consistent and provide timely follow-ups as required.

Particularly during these times of uncertainty, frequent updates on things like case counts and potential exposures must be provided in as close to real-time as possible—and to everyone at once. This can help reduce the development of rumor mills and the spread of misinformation as the inevitable game of telephone plays on.

Offer Transparency

Whenever possible, don’t hold back information. Employees want to know what is going on and how it will impact them. It allows them a chance to prepare for their day and any adversity that may come their way. It can also help reduce stress levels and uncertainty.

Transparency also builds trust among your team members. This is essential, as communication is only effective if it’s trusted.

Encourage Feedback & Show You’re Listening

Communication can’t be a one-sided conversation. In order to be an effective communicator, you must also be an effective listener.

Encourage your employees to share their feedback and voice their concerns. Throughout the pandemic, many of our customers used a combination of both automated pulse surveys and custom surveys in OnShift’s employee engagement software to better understand how their team members were being impacted by the pandemic. This included everything from how it was affecting their daily jobs to added stresses in their personal life.


Some customers even used surveys to gauge how satisfied their staff were with the communications they provided and how supported they felt by management. As a result, these organizations were able to implement new programs and policies to help ease stresses and show employees they were listening.


Many great communicators say there’s no such thing as overcommunicating—and they might be on to something. Particularly when it comes to urgent issues from major weather events to outbreaks of infection, it’s usually better to say more, not less. Doing so will help employees know that this is something they need to pay attention to.

With the right level of communication in place, you can help employees feel informed and prepared for whatever is coming next. And in turn, you’ll see higher rates of satisfaction and engagement.

Learn more about how OnShift is helping providers improve communication and encourage feedback. Request a demo today!


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About Peter Corless

Peter Corless is Executive Vice President of Enterprise Development for OnShift. Peter is a recognized HR leader in post-acute care and is well-known for his achievements at some of the country’s largest post-acute care organizations, including Kindred Healthcare and Genesis HealthCare. As an experienced, chief administrative and human resources officer within these organizations, he developed strategies that reduced turnover, improved recruiting and hiring strategies, and reduced labor costs.

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