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The Top 5 Senior Care Employee Retention Strategies In 2021

Jenna Berris

The Top 5 Employee Retention Strategies In Senior Care (1)A recent survey conducted by AHCA found that 94% of all nursing homes are short-staffed — with 73% saying their organization’s overall workforce situation has gotten worse when compared to 2020. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nursing homes lost 1,500 jobs in July 2021, bringing the total number of workers lost since the onset of the pandemic to 380K. Unfortunately, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News reports, this is in spite of the increase in wages many organizations have implemented in response to crippling staffing challenges.

This confirms that retaining staff must go beyond just an increase in wages. While higher pay can definitely move the needle, organizations must round out their approach by offering the perks and benefits that are most meaningful to today’s workforce. Here are the top strategies providers are putting in place to better support employees, improve retention and attract new hires to the industry. 

Offer Flexibility For Better Work-Life Balance

Many hourly employees have multiple jobs, are working on a degree, juggling childcare and tending to many other responsibilities outside of work. That’s why flexibility is non-negotiable for this group, and if they can’t get it from you, they won’t hesitate to look elsewhere. In fact, an OnShift survey of more than 2,800 frontline workers found that 25% cited flexible work schedules as a top perk.

Working with employees to build best-fit schedules is one of the easiest methods for preventing turnover, as well as gaps in the schedule since employees are more likely to show up for shifts that they’ve agreed to work.

Keep in mind that flexible scheduling is not just a one-and-done practice. Be sure to regularly touch base with employees to review their scheduling preferences, as situations may change over time. Additionally, offering mobile access to schedules further promotes flexibility and adds an additional level of accountability. With OnShift, employees can view and manage their schedule right from their phone and can swap shifts, request PTO and pick up open shifts anytime, anywhere.

Despite everyone’s best efforts, there will be times when an employee simply can’t come to work—be it a family emergency, a childcare issue or illness. It’s important to be understanding when this occurs and have a system in place that allows you to quickly fill a last-minute need. The communication tools within OnShift allow you to notify all eligible and available employees of a last-minute opening with a click of a button. Staff can receive these notifications via text message or push notification and instantly reply if they are interested.

Providers find this collaborative approach to scheduling improves overall staff satisfaction and engagement. It can also dramatically decrease the amount of time schedulers spend filling shifts. 

Build Structured Career Paths & Stick To Them

Today’s mostly millennial workforce is eager to learn and grow professionally. That's why offering career paths not only helps providers retain staff but can also be a huge differentiator in attracting talent.

Start discussing career goals during initial interviews and make sure managers make them a regular part of the agenda during one-on-ones with employees. Key performance milestones and timelines should be established, tracked to and refined as necessary to ensure employees are making progress toward their goals.

For those employees that might not show interest in a specific career path right off the bat, offer cross-training opportunities and lunch and learns to expose them to different areas of your business.

An additional benefit—career development and cross-training diversify employees’ skill sets, making them more valuable to your organization.

Regularly Reward & Recognize Contributions

Frontline employees do important and often challenging work. That’s why it’s critical that providers regularly show them how much they are valued. These efforts really resonate with employees, as OnShift research found that 29% of workers say a rewards and recognition program is the most valuable perk an employer can offer.

The best way to ensure that rewards are fair and unbiased is to directly tie them to employee behavior that supports the community’s stated mission, vision and values. This could include punching in and out on time, not calling off, picking up open shifts and going above and beyond to care for a resident or help a colleague.

A systematic rewards program makes it easy for management to distribute rewards, gives employees visibility into their progress and encourages friendly competition with next-in-line leaderboards. OnShift Engage, our employee engagement software for senior care, uses an automated points-based rewards system that tracks employee behaviors so contributions can be rewarded.

Be sure to also publicly recognize those top performers during morning huddles and larger team meetings. Many communities highlight an employee of the month on in a common area for employees and residents to see. Sharing these kinds of successes shows which contributions are valued and encourages other employees to mimic such behaviors.

Support Employees Like Never Before

Providers really stepped up to support staff during the pandemic and a consistent effort of this front will become a mainstay long after it subsides.

As a quick win, make sure all employees are aware of your EAP (employee assistance program) or rainy day fund and how they can access it should they need to. Other popular support measures include offering access to mental wellness apps and free counseling, transportation stipends and access to earned wages between paychecks. In fact, with OnShift Wallet, employees accessed nearly $50 million in early wages in 2020, helping them to avoid late fees or high-interest payday loans to cover bills or unplanned expenses.

Additionally, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives create inclusive environments where all employees feel seen, heard and valued. Eclipse Senior Living is doing some incredibly innovative things in terms of DEI, which you can check out here.

Remember, anything extra you can provide to improve quality of life for your employees builds loyalty and serves an excellent retention tool.

Keep Lines Of Communication Open

Communication between staff and management also increased exponentially during the pandemic, with many providers citing this as a silver lining to recent events. Organizations are sharing information and words of encouragement, and, most notably, listening to their employees like never before. Our customers alone tripled the number of custom surveys they sent to staff at the start of the pandemic to gauge how employees were coping and learn how management could help.

OnShift users also more frequently sent messages to their staff to keep them up to date on policy changes, new regulations, case counts and other vital information.

The automated pulse surveys in OnShift Engage help facilitate these open lines of communication. These simple satisfaction surveys provide staff the ability to leave feedback, promote transparency of issues for management and encourage open and honest discussions. Many of these conversations that unfold can contribute to process improvements at communities. You can learn more about establishing consistent communication in this blog.

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About Jenna Berris

Jenna Berris is a Content Marketing Manager for OnShift.

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