The workforce crisis in long-term care lingers as organizations desperately try to climb out from under the effects of the pandemic. The problem is so complex it feels too overwhelming to tackle, yet the current situation is not sustainable. The stress on administrators and the leadership team is taking a toll. Ensuring quality of care is simply impossible without a full complement of staff.
Human Resources professionals are working furiously to get people in and are gaining no ground due to turnover. The process of recruitment, hiring, and onboarding needs to be dramatically re-tooled to include intentional retention strategies.
A Path Toward Retention
The first hurdle is to create a new story about why someone should want to work in the aging services industry, and secondly, why long-term care?
The hard facts are important such as wages and benefits, work schedule, number of paid days off, etc. But there must be more to the picture. This industry has so much to offer that it should not be such a struggle to entice people to work for us.
Why Work in Aging Services
- The opportunity for a legitimate career. Create a narrative about the job security afforded to people working in the industry and the plentiful growth opportunities. This must be the reality for all positions. Housekeepers can become infection prevention specialists and a dishwasher can become sanitation certified. Nursing assistants can become a team leader or scheduler, and a receptionist can become the concierge. We must begin to think about the growth path for all positions.
- The work is meaningful and soul-filling. We need to talk more about the purpose and mission of our work. We help elders live their best lives toward the end of their lives.
- The ability to make a difference. Show up with a smile, hugs, understanding, and empathy, and you will get so much back in return, one person at a time.
- The gift of working where people live. Being in relationship with elders means we can hear their stories and benefit from their wisdom.
Why Work in Long-Term Care
- The ability to serve the under-served. Talk about being part of a team that cares for people who have often lost their family and friends and depend upon the care and kindness of others.
- Be an agent of change. Acknowledge that there is room for improving how we care for frail elders and need people who can help transform the way things are done.
- Specialization. Discuss opportunities to dig into specialty areas such as hospice, rehabilitation, dementia care, culture change. Build into your retention system the education and training needed to guide people in their areas of strength.
Why Work for Your Community
Find ways to differentiate your community and make it easier for a recruit to say yes.
- Competitive wages must be a component in this market, but not the only strategy.
- Beginning day one, communicate your willingness to invest in each employee by inquiring about interests, goals, and ambitions.
- Create robust career ladders for all positions. High-quality, relevant, engaging training and education is a critical component of any growth strategy.
Gather insight from your leadership team and a sample of employees with this recruitment and retention temperature tool. An effective strategy can begin with first understanding your organization's strengths and areas for improvement.
About the author:
Julie joined the AGE-u-cate team in 2020 after working 31 years in nursing home operations. Starting in social services and admissions, she moved into management and executive positions in 1990 after obtaining an Illinois nursing home administrator license. Her passion for dementia capable care came early in her career when she had the good fortune to work with and learn from culture change pioneers. Julie is also an adjunct instructor in Gerontology and Aging Services at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. She lives in the Northwest Chicago Suburb of Schaumburg, Ill.