Assisted Facility Owners Continue to Feel the Crunch of Staffing Challenges: Top 3 Ways to Address It
There is no question that staffing challenges remain a serious concern for assisted living facilities. The long-term care industry as a whole has been experiencing a staffing crisis, only becoming worse post-pandemic. Fast forward three years, staffing continues to be problem for executives as they battle other challenges such as cost increases in insurance premiums.
The big question is: How do we, as assisted facilities owners, address and overcome the staffing challenge today and into the future? At ACHS Management Group, we’ve listed our top three ways to tackle these challenges.
1. It Starts at the Top: Shaping the Culture
Like they say, it really does start at the top. Leadership creates and shapes the culture. With phenomenal leadership, culture can be literally transformed into a place that will attract the best and brightest talent in each respective area. For example, our leaders go through an extensive Administrator-In-Training program for one full year prior to starting in a leadership role in any of our managed communities. They are trained in every aspect of the business and how to lead an organization to consistently provide high quality of care to residents. It is understood that the staff is key to providing this quality care as they are on the front lines with each resident on a daily basis. Employees need to know how integral they are to the facility and feel great about coming to work each day. They want to come to a place where they feel they are supported, in their home away from home. This culture has to trickle throughout your facility and this is where employee referrals will see an uptick as a result of your existing employees’ satisfaction. Leadership is a key component to the success of not only the facility, but employee recruiting and retention.
2. Be a Great Place to Work!
This sounds easy, right? OK let’s look at some data…Why do hospitals, retail, and hotels get an average of 21-25 applicants per job posting versus assisted living job posts that rake in a mere 13-15 applicants on average? This tells us our industry has work to do as a whole. We need to get creative and create workplaces just as amazing as the care we provide to residents. In order to create this reality, it takes intention. What matters to your employees? Have you taken a pulse on your workforce lately? It could be as simple as a survey to every staff member or an executive conducting informal interviews throughout the day to see what is on their minds. What do they love about your organization? They may not share what they don’t like but you can ask what their ideal workplace looks like. Let them describe those points that are most important to them. What motivates them? Once you have good insights, you then can create a workplace environment that speaks to their desires and improve upon the status quo. Taking a top spot on a Great Place to Work list helps but you can make a difference through word-of-mouth. Whether it is your current employees telling their friends, families, and former co-workers or writing an amazing review…the word does get out. Social media posts that highlight employee satisfaction through testimonials or a motivational story is another method. All of these combined is a sure way to increase the number of applicants to your facility. People value their workplace and studies have shown that money is generally not at the top of the list. Employees want to be engaged and feel appreciated at work. Waking up in the morning to go to work should not be a chore if they find it to be a positive experience. If you can stand out as an amazing place to work, your staffing challenges will lessen over time.
3. Employee Engagement
How do we make our employees feel engaged? It isn’t always a one-size fits all. If you follow #2 and you’re your facility is a great place to work then you might think you’ve already mastered it. But wait, it takes consistency to make it work all of the time on a daily basis. Doing one program here or there won’t win in the long-term game. Is there an ongoing conversation or communication vehicle that employees can use? Do you reward your employees for great work? Are you prioritizing your time on the great communities vs. only on the ones that have issues? Great employees need to keep engaged to stay so attention is needed there as well. Sounds like a tall order but again, it just takes an ongoing effort to keep employees engaged at work. The work at an assisted living facility is meaningful in nature, helping seniors live their best life as they age. However there are bad days just like in any profession, so how can we support our employees and be there for them so they can stay engaged regardless of any setbacks? Creative retention programming can help, it is all in the little things that can make a big difference their lives. A handwritten thank you or appreciation note from the director on any given day or a spotlight that goes out to the entire facility to recognize them on a heroic deed….the sky is the limit!
It’s Our Reality, and the Demand for Labor in Assisted Living will Not Slow Down…
While there are many more ways we can turn this ship around and get more candidates in our talent pool + keep our star performers onboard…these three tips will create a solid foundation to build upon. Before COVID, the employee turnover was 65% and now it’s more than 85% so retention has got to be part of your big-picture strategy. If you recruit great talent and they leave shortly after, it negatively impacts resident care and your bottom line. It is reported that approximately $275,000 is lost in net operating income per facility from employee turnover. If you can earn this back, it will positively impact your facility in numerous ways.
Roughly a third of executives say their staffing shortages are severe and despite slight fluctuations, there is no doubt we will be heading into more challenging times as the demand for long term care increases. With more Baby Boomers over 65 than children come 2034, there will be an influx of aging individuals who will need assisted living services or other long-term care. Staff shortages in nursing are particularly troublesome as we heavily rely on our nation’s nurses to care for our seniors.
This severe labor shortage seems to affect all areas of senior living whether its assisted living, nursing homes, home health, or any type of service that requires caregivers for the aging population. Nearly half a million have left their jobs since January 2020 pointing the finger to low pay, lack of upward career progression, and COVID-19 exhaustion. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/07/28/elder-care-worker-shortage-immigration-crisis-00047454
The demand will not be going down anytime soon for healthcare workers as the aging population is projected to double by 2040, as Americans keep living longer. There is a lot of talk about the severe shortages in nursing homes as they feel a huge crunch with 98% saying they have difficulty hiring staff https://www.ahcancal.org/News-and-Communications/Press-Releases/Pages/Survey-Nursing-Homes-Still-Facing-Staffing-%26-Economic-Crisis.aspx This CBS report gives more insight to this very real issue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvwPfc06ysU
In conclusion, Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) play a critical role in local economies and offer a large number of job opportunities. The total employee count for assisted living facilities in that nation is upwards of 400,000, reported by NCAL, National Center for Assisted Living, in 2019. Assisted living facilities provide 20% of all nursing and social worker employment opportunities, which is quite significant. Nursing aides, CNAs, registered nursing professionals, licensed nurses, and social workers are just some of the job titles you can find in an assisted living facility. Administration is also a key part of offering quality care with roles such as facility directors, activities directors, maintenance workers, and kitchen staff.
This squeeze on recruiting and retention of the necessary staff to effectively run assisted living facilities results in many consequences such as the ability to take in new residents. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living recently reported that 28% of assisted living facilities had shortages that caused them to limit admissions which affects the sustainability of the business to offer much needed services. This also causes facilities to put a larger workload on their existing which can lead to burnout, lower quality care, a decline in the health of residents, and employee turnover.