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Leadership & Employees Agree On How To Improve Retention

March 24, 2022 | Mark Woodka

Alignment between organizational leadership and employees is essential to building a positive work culture. With that in mind, OnShift surveyed thousands of post-acute care and senior living leaders and employees to understand their workforce challenges, priorities and perspectives.

And, although the industry is facing major staffing challenges, there is a strong agreement from organizational leadership and employees on the key initiatives that will help build a stronger and more stable workforce.

Workforce Challenges Spur Retention Focus

The long-term care and senior living industry has lost over 12% of its workforce in just the last two years, placing the industry squarely in the midst of a staffing crisis. This is clearly recognized by post-acute care and senior living leaders who cite staffing shortages (79%) as the top workforce challenge they face, followed by finding and hiring job candidates (62%) and employee turnover (54%), all of which are contributing factors to the current staffing crisis.

These workforce challenges have led most providers to place a high level of priority on employee engagement and retention (83%) going into 2022. To be most effective in their efforts, leaders believe increases in pay/wages (82%), increases in staffing levels (65%), improved communication with staff members (51%) and more frequent recognition for work contributions (48%) would most significantly improve employee retention at their organization.

These sentiments were directly in line with the research findings from frontline employees. Most employees also focused on better pay, better staffing levels, increased communication, and appreciation from management, when responding to what would make their job more satisfying.

This consensus from both leaders and employees provides a clear foundation needed for senior living organizations to improve employee retention.

Expanded Competition Impacts Wages

One contributing factor to the workforce losses in the industry is a significant shift in competition for talent. In 2020, 89% of respondents cited other senior care organizations as their top competitor for employees. This year, the landscape has changed dramatically. Hospitals and health systems were cited as the top competitor. In addition, competition for talent outside the industry from segments such as hotels, restaurants, retail and gig economy services rose 81% from the previous year.

This astounding growth for competition of talent from non-healthcare segments should be considered when evaluating employee wage rates and benefits.

Staffing Levels Contributing To Burnout

Staffing shortages are leading to employee burnout. In fact, nearly half of frontline employees cite burnout and stress as their biggest personal challenge. This is often caused by employees being routinely asked to pick up extra shifts. To help alleviate employee burnout and ensure proper staffing levels, many OnShift customers are creating internal staffing pools to help fill shifts. These internal staffing pools are comprised of employees shared by neighboring communities within their organization. As shifts become available, staffing pool members are alerted and can easily pick up shifts when needed. This has proven to be an effective way to improve staffing levels and has also helped many providers reduce their reliance on expensive agency labor.

Frequent Feedback & Recognition

OnShift’s research shows that today’s workforce wants a voice to influence change, open lines of communication with managers and recognition for their hard work. If your only channels for employee feedback are an annual survey or occasional outreach for suggestions, it will be nearly impossible to improve retention. Providers attune to this are supporting their employee engagement efforts by utilizing technology like OnShift to frequently collect staff feedback with pulse surveys and provide a systematic rewards program that consistently recognizes employee contributions.

By turning employee insights into action, providers create a culture where people want to work. Without action, then you might not be honest with yourself on how much of a priority employee retention is to your organization.

For more senior living workforce insights, download OnShift’s latest Workforce 360 report at onshift.com/workforce360.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 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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