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How to Improve Employee Retention in Senior Living

One of the biggest challenges senior living communities face is attracting (and keeping) new hires. Learn how to improve employee retention in senior living…

Amanda McGrory-Dixon, 27th September 2022

As anyone who works in the senior living industry knows, one of the biggest challenges that communities face is attracting new hires and then keeping them for the long term. This has always been the case, but over the last three years the problem of solving staffing challenges has become even more acute. The COVID-19 pandemic hit senior living communities harder than just about any other industry, which contributed to massive staff burnout as employees had to worry about the health of residents, their own health, and the well-being of their families at home.

It was a perfect storm for people to leave their jobs, and many communities were not able to replace them in a timely manner – or at all. First came the Great Resignation, which saw more than 22 million Americans simply walk away from their jobs in the first half of 2022, followed by “Quiet Quitting,” a trend that Harvard Business Review defines as people “opting out of tasks beyond one’s assigned duties and/or becoming less psychologically invested in work.” The latest wave of employee detachment is “Resenteeism,” a new term used to describe people who hate their jobs but stay on solely for a paycheck. In light of these fundamental changes in how people approach work, how can senior living facilities solve their staffing challenges and implement workforce management tools to improve hiring and retention?

Employee Retention in in Senior Living

Today, senior living facilities are still facing staffing challenges, however, workforce management software is proving to be useful in managing and improving retention for existing staff.

A Look Back at Staff Turnover Rates in the U.S.

While the pandemic fundamentally changed the world starting in 2020, the shortage of qualified employees in senior living predates COVID. Back in 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the industry needed to recruit and retain 300,000 new employees by 2026. Needless to say, as an industry we are far below that target. An executive survey conducted by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care revealed that while shortages have improved, staffing is still a major concern. As a result, operators of senior living facilities are casting a wide net and implementing new ways to attract and retain staff.

Senior living has one of the highest turnover rates of any industry in the United States. According to Workstream, the number is right around 50%, which is far higher than hospitality, retail, and construction – industries that have reputations for constant staff churn. This number is even higher than it was in the previous year, which saw a 39% turnover rate throughout the industry.

In the wake of a prolonged staff shortage, how can senior living facilities stay ahead of the curve and keep their staffing levels at acceptable levels? As it turns out, integrating their HR systems with their corporate technology platforms can play a major role in keeping headcount up. Workforce management software has become increasingly popular in helping facilities keep employees happy.

How Staff Turnover Affects Senior Living

People who go into senior care do so because they have a passion for helping the elderly, but all too often they leave their jobs – or exit the profession entirely – because of the immense pressures and demands that they face. And one of the biggest issues is scheduling. All you need to do is spend a few minutes on Reddit to read personal stories of people who are forced to work for weeks on end without a break and are pressured into giving up their days off to cover shifts for other workers. This is a recipe for disaster; but something that can be fixed before it becomes so problematic that employees walk out the door.

The Importance of Employee Retention in Senior Living

The consequences of high turnover go far beyond inconvenience. For starters, companies may spend $3,500-$5,000 to onboard every new team member. That can quickly add up for companies that replaced hundreds of employees annually. In addition, human resources department often have to adopt a “siege mentality” because they are constantly trying to bail out the canoe rather than cross the river. High turnover can also affect reputation, because residents and their families grow justifiably concerned when they find that their trusted caregivers are suddenly no longer there. But perhaps the most significant challenge is the adverse effects on the quality of care that senior living facilities can offer. Expertise doesn’t just happen – it comes from experience, and perpetual turnover prevents organizations from developing the kind of institutional knowledge they need to offer services at the highest level.

Strategies for Employee Retention in Senior Living

Pay higher wages

It’s no secret that many people who work in senior living facilities are underpaid, and the pandemic has only exacerbated that. According to USA Today , wage growth in the industry didn’t keep up with inflation, meaning that people to provide care for seniors actually made less in real dollars in 2022 than they did in 2019. Staying ahead of the curve on salary can play a major role in lowering attrition rates.

Prevent burnout

If you want to know why people are resigning or quiet quitting, look no further than the fact that more than half of senior living employees reported feeling burned out during the pandemic. Everyone has their limits, and people who are working in high-stress environments for long periods of time are eventually going to buckle under the pressure. One of the best ways to do this is by making sure that employees are scheduled to work shifts that allow work-life balance and that they can take days of without last-minute requests to work overtime.

Offer career advancement opportunities

As in every industry, people work for more than a paycheck: they want to build careers that offer the opportunity for growth. Senior living facilities that provide opportunities for promotions, training, and skill development have a much better track record of retaining team members long-term.

The Aline Solution for Fighting Employee Retention

More and more, senior living operators are turning to workforce management software to improve staff productivity and reduce the time they have to spend on documentation and paperwork. While technology makes the workday easier, it can also be a valuable tool in making sure your staff isn’t overscheduled.

In many senior living communities, work shifts are organized by shift leaders, meaning that executive management has no visibility into how employees are being scheduled. This is a massive problem, because by the time a burnout situation escalates to the point where employees are unhappy and quitting, it’s too late. By integrating scheduling systems into operational platforms, management can see and correct issues before they become intractable. For example, alerts can inform management when a particular employee is working more than five consecutive days or is asked to cancel days off. Software can also track and determine if managers are allocating work equitably and to the right people without overscheduling them. Data can also point to areas where more staff is needed.

The Resource Balancer feature of Aline Care was created to help fine tune schedules to ensure that staff members aren’t overworked, labor costs are contained, and residents receive the best possible care.

  • Assess Workloads at a Glance. An intuitive, color-coded heat map gives a complete picture of how your staff is allocated for every shift and pinpoints times when caregivers are overscheduled or underutilized.
  • Forecast and Fine Tune. Reschedule or reassign tasks to ensure that 100% of scheduled time is optimized and that every task and room is assigned, without overloading individual caregivers.
  • Align Staff with Resident Needs. Adjust times allocated for tasks or staff assignments to deliver the best individualized care for your residents.
  • Keep Your Budget in Check. Glennis integrates with your workforce management software to track scheduled and actual work hours against budget. Tools such as this give you the insight to meet your residents needs without going over budget or overscheduling your staff.

There is no single magic bullet that is going to fix the acute staffing shortage that the senior living industry faces – and is expected to face for years to come. But by deploying modern technologies to monitor and improve how staff is utilized, organizations can give themselves an edge when it comes to keeping team members happy. Because in an industry with critical labor shortages, employees are in the driver’s seat, and they know that there are dozens of other companies that would love to have them on board. Don’t give them an excuse to start sending out resumes.

To learn more about how Aline can help your senior living community achieve an even higher level of performance get a free demo.

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