7 STEPS ASSISTED LIVING AND LONG-TERM CARE OPERATORS MUST TAKE NOW TO RETAIN VALUABLE EMPLOYEES
As we see incremental increases in occupancy into third quarter, the next big dilemma we face is staffing shortages. Due to a combination of circumstances, from extended unemployment that allows people to stay home, to waiting for a job that brings satisfaction; people are pivoting. Workers have had more than a year to reconsider work-life balance or career paths, and as the world opens back up, many of them will give their two weeks notice. Surveys show anywhere from 25% to upwards of 40% of workers are thinking about quitting their jobs:
- A cruise ship staffer trained and pivoted to work in a data center because the pandemic showed her the volatility of her industry.
- An insurance broker and her restaurant manager husband both left their jobs to start a landscaping company because they realized during the pandemic that they wanted to spend more time outside.
- Some are quitting because their bosses won’t let them work from home post-pandemic. Others are leaving because they miss their offices, but their companies are now hybrid or all-remote.
The big churn could ultimately be good for workers and employers. Time will tell but right now, we need to face what’s in front of us, a massive amount of assisted living and skilled nursing employee vacancies.
EMPLOYEES ARE RE-EVALUATING THEIR LIVES
In my early twenties and in college, I had a sizable corporate janitorial service company based out of Daytona Beach, Florida. My mom had started the company and I was managing a retail store in Gainesville, Florida when she called, asking me to come home and help grow the business. She had an opportunity to win a city contract and didn’t know how to complete the bid process. Living my dream at the time, I was confused about this decision, but when mamma calls, you run!
We quickly won that contract and I got excited. Each day I would go to the library and research companies to call on for our janitorial services (yes before the internet). Within a year we had contracts with Ford and Nissan car dealerships, Columbia and Chili’s restaurants, Halifax Medical Center, and a state-wide chain of dialysis centers. I loved selling contracts. What I hated was the day-to-day business itself. Between employees waxing a floor beautifully one day to barely cleaning it the next and worse, employees not showing up for work; it seemed the days would never end. I still remember my brother Troy being locked in Marshall’s for a night to scrub and wax their floors and having an absolute panic attack when he realized half-way through the night that he literally couldn’t leave the building!
I remember a 48-hour period where I ran the business during the day and went to clean the Columbia and Chili’s kitchens due to staff calling in sick and then running to a dialysis center in Bartow, Florida to wax the floors with my fiance and now husband, David.
I worked non-stop for 48 hours and it was physically exhausting. It seemed the work would never end when I owned that company. Even worse? I had to meet with the IRS about something called payroll taxes? Yep, I owed a whopping $60,000. Sadly, while I was in business school, they didn’t tell me about that!
So many life lessons and the biggest for me was that no amount of money was worth living that life. My mom and I sold the business and I moved from Daytona Beach to Tampa, Florida. I wanted to get as far away from those memories as possible. That experience ultimately led me to my passion, what I’m doing today; speaking, writing, and running a senior living consulting firm that changes people’s lives. While I’ve had ebbs and flows in my love affair with Bild & Co, I’ve never been more fulfilled in my career.
Just as I had an epiphany, so are millions of people all over the world. After a year of hell, literally; people locked in their homes, separated from loved ones, sick, dying, and finding themselves unemployed in a matter of days, you can say that it created a lot of reflection. People who historically worked 40-50 hours per week, rarely saw their loved ones, and essentially on autopilot were forced to slow down. It’s as if a great awakening also occurred because for many, their eyes were opened to what mattered most in their lives. People who were suddenly afforded time with their children realized they didn’t want to work a demanding job that limited time with family; others realized they wanted to have more flexibility to work from home or outside, in nature.
THE GREAT RESIGNATION
New data from workforce analytics company, Visier, confirms that the impending “great resignation” is real and happening sooner than originally thought. It’s worth noting the 2021 great resignation marks a departure from previous high-turnover seasons due to key gender differences and high levels of burnout brought on by COVID-19. Healthcare and high tech are the two sectors driving the upward trend in resignations.
- Resignations are rising most frequently among mid-career workers: Despite the pandemic, all age groups experienced an increase in resignations between August 2019 and August 2020, except for those ages 20-25, who saw a 20.3% decrease. Employees ages 30-35 (21.5%), 35-40 (19.6%), and 40-45 (25.1%) saw large increases in resignations, signaling that workers more established in their careers have continued to shift jobs.
- The healthcare and high-tech industries are seeing the most resignations: Resignations in the tech field have increased 4.5% between March 2020 and March 2021, while the healthcare industry saw resignation rates rise by 3.61% in the same time frame. There is a significant cause for concern that healthcare workers, facing increased job stress and burnout, are at high risk of turnover this summer.
- We’re also seeing higher resignations among women, who have been disproportionately impacted by caregiving responsibilities both at home and at work throughout the pandemic. Female resignation rates have increased year over year for the past three years, and the 2020 spike was likely due to the pandemic. Women were not jumping from one employer to the next, instead they had to leave the workforce altogether to take care of their families. The opposite pattern took place for men.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “ nearly 80 percent of healthcare workers are women, yet they hold fewer than 20 percent of key leadership roles,” said Katie Bell, Korn Ferry global account lead for the Healthcare Sector.
7 STEPS ASSISTED LIVING AND LONG-TERM CARE OPERATORS SHOULD TAKE NOW TO RETAIN VALUABLE EMPLOYEES
1. CREATE MORE FLEXIBILITY:
A large-scale international survey shows that the majority of people want flexible, remote working options once the pandemic is under control. Microsoft surveyed more than 31,000 people across 31 countries and says that the pandemic has permanently changed the way people think about work. It says, the majority don’t ever want to return to working 9 to 5 Monday to Friday in the office – but neither do they want to continue full-time remote working. Instead, they want a hybrid model.
73% percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams. To prepare, 66% of business decision-makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. The data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.
As an assisted living or long-term care operator this can prove challenging, but I’ve outlined several options that will work so keep reading.
2. CONSIDER A FOUR DAY WORKWEEK OR JOB SHARING:
With people awakening to what’s most important, a four-day workweek could be a game changer for your organization and allow for that critical weekend coverage (Saturday through Tuesday or Sunday through Wednesday). Many employees would jump at the opportunity to work four, ten-hour days; allowing them a day off during the week to do things like: volunteer at their child’s school, get caught up on housework or projects while the family is out of the home, or schedule appointments that are unavailable on weekends.
Another option is to consider job sharing. Two out of every three caregivers in the United States are women, meaning they provide daily or regular support to children, adults, or people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. This type of role would not only help you fill positions faster, but dramatically improve retention as it’s such a difficult benefit to find in healthcare, particularly assisted living, or skilled nursing.
3. ALLOW SALESPEOPLE TO WORK FROM HOME:
Most assisted living and skilled nursing staff can’t work from home, salespeople can. One of the barriers we face (and always have) is sales being pulled into operations. With assisted living occupancy at its lowest ever, 78.8%, we can no longer allow this to happen. Without residents, there is nothing to operate.
The barrier you will face and that you must work through is trust. Most executive directors are not comfortable with salespeople doing professional outreach; let alone working from home. Hiring the right salesperson, who produces consistent results, will help executive directors reconcile this shift in marketing.
If you execute this strategy, be specific and tie outcomes and performance results to people working from home. If goals are hit, they continue to receive this benefit, if not; it’s back to the office.
Another option is a hybrid. I can tell you firsthand that making sales calls and working the pipeline from home, away from constant interruptions and distractions is ideal for salespeople.
The reality is a strong assisted living salesperson should be working leads and doing outreach in the community when not on-site doing tours. While this is out of the box and probably an uncomfortable consideration, offering it will allow you to recruit the best salespeople in your market service area and retain them long-term.
HAVE A CANDIDATE YOU WISH TO HIRE BUT NOT SURE IF THEY CAN PRODUCE RESULTS? OUR TALENT ASSESSMENT PROCESS WILL ADD A LAYER OF PROTECTION TO YOUR HIRING DECISIONS.
We can HELP!
4. RE-WRITE JOB DESCRIPTIONS:
Most senior living operators needed to re-write job descriptions before the pandemic! It is critical to map out clear expectations for employees, particularly sales and executive directors as it relates to sales and financial performance.
For example, sales and marketing directors in assisted living must spend at least 75% of their day in the sales zone: working leads, conducting tours, doing outreach, home visits, and more. Executive directors must own the sales process meaning hold people accountable to performance results, coach when goals are not met, review KPIs, role play, and review leads as needed to troubleshoot and help those stalled, move forward. Coming out of the pandemic, where it was all hands-on deck, employees need to refocus on their primary role and for most operators that means spelling it out.
5. CREATE EMPLOYEE GROWTH PLANS:
With nearly 80 percent of healthcare workers being women, yet holding fewer than 20 percent of key leadership roles, creating employee growth plans that show what’s possible will not only help develop talent but increase retention. How does a department head become an executive director; how does an executive director move into a regional ops role? Creating employee growth plans not only helps team members create a plan to grow within your organization, but it also helps you develop your pipeline of future leaders. I know here at Bild & Co, nurturing internal talent is the reason we are the company we are today. It’s paid off in tenfold!
6. IMPLEMENT CONTESTS, FUN, AND RECOGNITION:
Employees are burnt out, exhausted, and some have PTSD. Everyone pitched in during the pandemic, working double shifts, covering jobs they had no training in, and while they were called “heroes” most never saw an increase in pay.
What KPI are you working to hit right now? Build a contest around it that creates excitement, motivation, and most importantly results. A long-standing client, IntegraCare, sought to improve employee attendance. They began a contest that gave two cars a year to employees with the best attendance records.
Now in its fifth year, IntegraCare’s CAR Program gives away a new car and impacts lives: “This is a reward program for all hourly, non-management team members based on perfect attendance each payroll period,” said Eric Walker, Executive Director of Sales and Marketing for IntegraCare, which operates senior living communities in Pennsylvania and Maryland. “The CAR Program has generated excitement throughout the year and boosts morale and attendance throughout our communities. The announcement is one of the most anticipated days of the year for our entire team.”
The CAR Program has made an impact on multiple fronts:
- When the program started in 2016, the number of IntegraCare employees with perfect attendance increased 46 percent in 2017.
- Turnover in the first 90 days of employment, a critical period that factors significantly into employee retention, was down by almost 10 percent in 2017 from 2016.
- IntegraCare’s overall annual turnover decreased 12 percent in 2017 from the previous year.
- Seven of 10 IntegraCare communities saw a drop in overall turnover percentage in 2017.
- The largest drop in overall turnover was 77 percent in the community where the CAR Program winner worked last year.
- Six of 10 IntegraCare communities saw employee satisfaction improve or remain steady from 2016 to 2017.
This program continues to produce incredible results for IntegraCare year after year.
7. HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE TO RESULTS THROUGH COACHING:
People can’t do better until they know better. If a valued team member isn’t getting results, don’t let them go, first set expectations, and train them how to do what you want them to do. In two decades of owning a sales training and consulting organization in seniors housing, the one thing I know for sure is that a good 90% of all employees who fail to produce results can do so with proper knowledge and education.
Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly — inclusive of collaboration, learning, and well-being to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work.