4 Ways to Tackle Senior Living Staffing Shortages

The senior living industry is grappling with a severe staffing problem. According to a 2021 American Health Care Association survey released June 23rd, more than 80 percent of senior living providers have reported struggling to combat staff shortages. As a result, any post-pandemic recovery in market value is likely to be slow. 

Confidence in the senior living industry’s workforce has been shaken. This same report found that 60 percent of senior living providers thought that their organization’s workforce situation had gotten worse. In order to stabilize senior living communities, community leaders must work to re-energize and retain their depleted workforce. 

Here are four ways to attract and retain talent while ensuring your organization delivers the best care possible.

1. Integrate More Technology into Your Community to Get the Most Out of Automation

Technologies and platforms – like smartphones and Zoom – enable senior living community residents to remain connected with their families. This presence of these digital tools, rightfully, is a deciding factor for families as they find the right community for their loved one. But technology can also serve as a key motivator for attracting and retaining staff.

Automation and digital processes free up staff to focus on tasks that require a human touch. For example, technologies that enable residents to interact with devices like the Amazon Alexa save time because of their ability to independently provide updates on the community.

Other technologies, like Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Electronic Medication Administration Records (eMARs), can automate the tracking of residents’ health regimens and medication schedules. 

By automating various tasks and implementing technology, senior living staff members can focus their time on tasks that require human-to-human interaction, like administering medication or overseeing in-person events. 

2. Develop a Culture of Feedback to Improve Employee Satisfaction

Recognition drives employee engagement. Eighty-three percent of HR professionals said employee recognition programs had a positive impact on employee engagement. While easier said than done, it is important for leadership to ensure the staff feels recognized and heard. 

This recognition and feedback should function as a two-way street, however. If employees express an idea to you, whether it is a concern or affirmation, act on it. 

Let’s say an employee requests additional flexibility with scheduling to accommodate their second caregiver role. Because of current pay rates in the senior living industry, many staff members hold second or third jobs

However, it’s also important for you to protect your residents. With a second or third job comes additional potential exposure to COVID-19. So, you must thread the needle of curbing exposure and valuing your employee. 

As a leader, if you’re capable of increasing pay rates to reduce the number of employees taking second or third jobs, you’re likely to see morale improve. But, if this isn’t possible, it’s important that you communicate an employee’s value to the organization through your actions, e.g. working with an employee to schedule around other jobs while remaining safe. 

Whether you’re in a position to increase compensation or maneuver schedules, an already established culture of feedback will make this easier to accomplish. 

3. Implement Continuous Learning Programs to Engage Your Senior Living Staff

Ninety-three percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. Buying into the continuous learning of your workers additionally demonstrates how you value them. Once again, employees appreciate feeling appreciated. 

The perk of implementing learning programs may soon turn into a must-have as younger generations enter the workforce in larger numbers. Gen Z and Millennials now make up 46 percent of the full-time U.S. workforce. And these younger generations deeply value learning. Internal training is considered the most important benefit for 42 percent of Millennials when deciding where to work.

Outside of any built-in professional development opportunities it may create, continuous learning improves workflow and the caliber of care at your senior living community.

4. Increase Career Growth Opportunities to Boost Staff Retention

A consistent through-line with retaining or attracting talent is value. Promotions convey to the employee, and the whole organization, that they have gone above and beyond. This pays dividends in retention. Employees who are promoted within three years of being hired have a 70 percent chance of staying on board.

Unfortunately, the strain of providing satisfactory care without promotions and changes in compensation will lead existing staff elsewhere. The lower compensation caregivers receive in the senior living industry has already started to push them to previously unforeseen places. 

In a recent MSNBC article, Robin Dale, the CEO of Washington Healthcare Association, expressed, “We used to compete with other sectors of the healthcare industry. Now, we’re competing with McDonald’s and Wendy’s who are paying $18 an hour to start.” 

You should never feel as though you’re competing with fast-food restaurants to retain your staff. Broadcasting clearer promotion paths can help prevent this. 

The Senior Living Staffing Shortage Won’t be Solved Overnight

While boosting occupancy is important, appropriate staffing is a prerequisite for the senior living industry to bounce back. Fortunately, boosting staffing can often boost occupancy. The link between a happier staff and higher profits is clear. An engaged workforce doesn’t just benefit the employee, it benefits your business. 

It takes time to stabilize a workforce and improve retention rates, though. This is why it’s important to execute repeatable practices that showcase a devotion to staff and residents alike.

Senior living community leaders must foster cultures that reward hard work while implementing technology to automate various aspects of their staff’s duties. By automating the more tedious aspects of your senior living staff’s workday, you can show them you value their time.

If you’d like more information about how technology can improve retention in your community, don’t hesitate to

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