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How Senior Care Organizations Will Thrive In 2021

February 12, 2021 | Mark Woodka

How Senior Care Organizations Will Thrive In 2021Each year during OnShift’s annual company meeting, we unveil our “Word of the Year.” The word serves as OnShift’s guiding principle in our efforts to help senior care organizations tackle new and existing workforce challenges. This year, that word is Thrive, which means “to grow vigorously.”

Although this year’s company meeting was held virtually, the big reveal generated quite a bit of excitement from the team, as I knew it would. Never has there been a more fitting word coming off a year like 2020. 

There wasn’t a person in the world that wasn’t affected in some way by COVID-19. We all entered 2020 with the sense of hope that comes with a new decade and quickly realized that the year had other plans. And although the senior care industry was without a doubt hardest hit by the pandemic, I and my colleagues have been incredibly impressed with your response. In fact, showcasing all of the incredible things providers did for employees and residents was a major theme during our kickoff meeting. Your heroic acts were key in helping us bring to life what it means to thrive.

And while this year might feel pretty similar to last year right now, I have high hopes 2021 will eventually feel like a new beginning – and that when it gets here, it will feel even better and brighter than the one we had hoped for at the start of 2020.

Here are a few ways I see senior care organizations thriving in 2021 and beyond.

Learning From The Past

Applying the lessons of the past is a critical component of thriving. And while it’s safe to say all of us would prefer to move forward after the challenges of 2020, I think we can all admit we learned quite a bit last year – specifically about the importance of supporting employees and getting creative with resident programming.

2020 was the year that organizations really revved up their communication efforts with employees – and this is a trend that I’m confident will become commonplace in senior care communities moving forward. Across our customer base, we saw a significant uptick in messaging between management and employees throughout the year. These messages covered a range of critical topics – PPE availability, regulatory updates, safety measures, as well as notes of appreciation – and gave our customers a contactless method for connecting with and engaging their staff.

Additionally, organizations implemented new support measures to help employees during this challenging time. And these efforts did not go unnoticed – as staff comments in our employee engagement software reflect appreciation for their employers keeping lines of communication open and prioritizing their wellbeing.

Resident engagement is another area in which providers really excelled. You’d think that a pandemic would hinder these efforts, but across the industry we saw no shortage of innovative ideas as activity professionals and caregivers creatively helped residents thrive in isolation.

Prioritizing The Present

Of course, we must also concentrate on the tasks at hand. And for many senior care providers, getting each resident and staff member vaccinated is priority one, especially after gaining insight into the number of staff willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Understanding employee concerns has led to numerous education efforts, with many organizations bringing in medical experts to present the facts and answer questions. 

Others are offering incentives for getting inoculated, like a cash reward and company swag. Some providers have created PSAs showing leadership receiving the vaccine and others have called on local celebrities to endorse it. 

Additionally, Argentum and other industry organizations have created a number of resources and materials to help providers educate staff and encourage vaccine participation.

Planning For The Future

Our most recent Workforce 360 survey showed that 71% of respondents believe that the industry’s hiring challenges will remain the same or worsen over the next three years. This top challenge is followed closely by retaining employees, managing labor costs and consistently staffing to resident needs.

Fortunately, providers can see improvements in all of these areas with a focus on one thing: the employee experience.

Many providers recognize this and plan to offer perks such as rewards and recognition programs (51%), flexible scheduling (41%) and access to earned wages between paychecks to better meet the needs of their staff (26%).

Providers also indicated that their organizations are planning to make key investments in technologies that bring their workforce initiatives to life in 2021. More specifically, providers are prioritizing investments in employee communication software (68%), staff scheduling software (70%) and rewards and recognition software (51%) .

When we played a montage of all the incredible ways that providers supported residents and staff in spite of 2020’s extremely difficult circumstances, nearly our entire organization was in tears. What you all have been able to accomplish is truly admirable and inspiring. And that’s why I have no doubt that you will all continue to thrive in 2021 and well beyond.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Argentum Senior Living Executive.

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About Mark Woodka

Mark Woodka is CEO of OnShift and has over 25 years of experience in enterprise software sales and marketing, having worked for startup organizations as well as Fortune 500 companies. He often leverages his extensive background in technology-enabled process improvements speaking at industry conferences as well as authoring articles on long-term care trends and issues.

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