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Senior Living Outlook Series: Building a Long-Term Care Workforce During a Pandemic

Many long-term care and senior living providers struggle with adequate staffing. Read on for tips to help recruit, train, and retain a committed workforce.
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Initially during the pandemic, staffing adjusted to census; however, more recently, census has had to adjust to diminished staff. Difficulties with staffing now appears at the top of all long-term care/senior living surveys as the leading difficulty.
With hundreds of thousands of staff leaving the industry permanently, it puts an exclamation point on an already difficult position for providers. Now faced with the decision to continue to use an agency or possibly close the doors, providers need a plan, because desperation is not a strategy.

Building a Team Focused on Strategy

All organizations need an interdisciplinary task force charged with recruitment, training, and retention of a committed workforce. The task force should first address the current state of affairs; second, the task force should set goals to achieve.

The purpose of this article is to provide practical suggestions to help improve your workforce.

Recruiting & Hiring

Hiring the best staff starts with hiring those who are aligned with the organization’s mission. When this happens, individuals thrive and are empowered and engaged. To accomplish this, ask interview questions that help you understand the candidate’s core value system. Job skills can be easily taught, while values are more innate.

Identifying Potential Candidates
It starts with recruitment. Consider: 

  • Working with churches and synagogues 
  • Working with local high schools and vocational/technical schools offering evening, weekend, and summer internships
  • Partnering with local CNA, CMA, and EMT programs
  • Depending on state regulations, beginning your own CNA program for training new nurse aides 
  • Using software programs to identify candidates, move through the interview process, and make offers seamlessly

Employee Engagement

Once good employees have been identified, it is important to keep them engaged, which starts with meaningful training. 

  • Offer English as a second language. 
  • Bring in the administrator and director of nursing and charge nurses into training rather than just play training videos.
  • Consider a program where each leader from each department meets each new employee within the first 90 days and “signs off” that they have met. 

Manager-on-Duty Program
A good manager-on-duty can aid with employee retention, as well as resident and family satisfaction.

Supervisor Training
Provide quarterly training to supervisors on how to coach, correct, manage, and lead a team, as the traits are not always self-evident. This training will reinforce the best in the staff and diminish those undesirable actions. 

Formalize & Promote Organizational Mission, Vision, & Values
Promoting the organization’s mission, vision, and values can get a group of disparate employees moving in the same direction. 

Teaching Employees How to Make Decisions
Each organization should put as much effort into discerning its organizational credo as it does developing its purpose, mission, values, policies, procedures, and budget.
Employee Surveys
Conduct quarterly employee engagement surveys to identify the biggest barriers to employee engagement. Focus on only one or two each quarter until a solution is implemented. Always circle back with the employees to make sure the desired results were achieved.  

Child Care & Transportation
Identify solutions for employees regarding convenient child care and affordable transportation as part of the benefits package. 

Career Ladders
Having CNAs work in all departments for at least a couple of days is an easy way to begin working on career ladders. This can then be taken further where they can be trained in infection control, dementia, and other specialties in the profession, each time advancing their skills, confidence, pay, and engagement with the organization. 

Identify and train individuals to be paired with one to three individuals they mentor, helping those individuals with questions about the organization and how to navigate a successful career. 

Use of Technology for Engagement
Many of the latest time and attendance, payroll, or human resource management systems (HRMS) have ways to contact all employees simultaneously with updates, which was crucial during the pandemic with all the changes to testing and vaccination requirements.

Pay & Benefits

Many of the HRMS systems also can be utilized to fill open shifts, allow for self-scheduling, fill micro-shifts (less than eight hours during peak times), etc.
Consider incentives such as performance-based pay. Incentivize those who have no call-offs and show up on time during that payroll cycle. 

Pay Advances
Many of the latest payroll HRMS systems offer the capability of allowing employees to take advances on their pay for hours already earned for a small fee.
Provide a transportation benefit, e.g., not just bus passes, but also paying for using Uber for work transportation. 

Planning & Monitoring

Set regular meetings, set goals, and get started. Monitor your progress on your goals and make the necessary adjustments based on feedback. This process is never done; rather, it is an ongoing initiative necessary for the survival of your purpose of improving the lives of your residents and employees. 

We would welcome the opportunity to continue the generative process with your organization. If you have questions, contact one of our FORVIS professionals or submit the Contact Us form below.

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