How to Approach Staff Turnover in Senior Living

Over the past few years, the assisted living industry has seen improving staff retention, with employee churn trending downward. For community owners and operators, this is great news! It is always more economical to retain staff as opposed to hiring and training new employees. Also very importantly, continuity in the workforce helps foster meaningful relationships between your residents and among staff.

Even though the overall numbers are trending in a positive direction, retention rates for caregivers and CNAs still remain a big concern for community owners and administrators.

We talked to some highly respected administrators to get their insights into adapting to the realities of staff turnover and ensuring their communities are successful. Here’s what they had to say…

Provide Value

As most community operators know, the biggest contributor to staff departures is competitive pay. This has long been a difficulty in the senior living space– caregivers and nurses often leave for higher pay at more expensive communities when other ALFs cannot afford to raise salaries due to relatively low margins.

Fortunately, the nation-wide trend of raising minimum wage is beginning to help with this, especially among caregivers. The idea is that with a higher minimum wage there will be greater pay equity within the industry. And all things being equal, caregiving staff will choose to hold their positions longer. This projects to be especially true for the states vying for a $12-$15 minimum wage.

One manager at AmeriCare Health and Retirement remarked that this increase, in conjunction with the new federal overtime law, will likely cause communities to get creative when thinking about incentivizing employees.

“We believe staff stability and reliability comes with having the right management staff in place, and incentivizing employees to do well.” – AmeriCare Health & Retirement

If you find your community is not in a position to increase the wages of your care staff, be sure you’re providing value in other ways to attract (and keep) new talent. Many Millennial workers are eager to gain skills and experience, and prove they can exceed the expectations of their superiors. Try involving different levels of staff in your decision making processes, and challenge them to grow their knowledge base. Not only will this help everyone feel part of the community culture you’re cultivating, but they’ll be grateful to know their voices are being heard.

Another big draw to senior living is the chance to actually connect with residents, hear stories, learn life lessons, make friends and meaningfully engage with people one wouldn’t normally get a chance to in other industries. This is what people often imagine going in, and feeling like they’re just providing the bare minimum service with no human connection can be disenchanting and cause to look into other work.

Are you working to foster strong bonds between your staff and residents? This can be a key component not only to keeping staff happy, but massively enriching the lives of the residents in your care.

Develop Strong Hiring and Training Techniques

A big reason administrators are so eager see higher retention rates for their nursing staff, according to Florie Kuperman, CEO of Roseleaf Senior Care, is because the hiring process for these very unique and critical positions can be extremely challenging.

“Being a senior care provider is not easy. Finding the right person with the right skills, the right attitude, and someone who can meet the demands of the job are some of our biggest challenges that we face in staffing our facility.” – Roseleaf Senior Living & Memory Care

Senior care is an especially demanding job, and successful communities run a stringent screening process and comprehensive training plan. Roseleaf provides a great hiring model. New potential hires are peer interviewed and later enrolled in a mentoring program. This guarantees that new team members are educated by experienced and trusted staff on the job, learning to model techniques and behaviors and embody company values. In a larger sense, this type of training helps to cultivate a true culture of care within a community.
New caregivers are introduced to residents by the established nursing staff, which builds trust and solidifies existing bonds.

“We have qualified managers we can trust to find the right candidates for each job. Our management staff averages 10+ years with us.” – AmeriCare Health & Retirement

Holding regular staff orientation meetings, wherein managers and administrators effectively communicate the mission and values of the community has in the past been a key component to AmeriCare’s success. They’ve found this helps to ensure the standard and style of care remains consistent, and smooth out possible staff turnover.

Establishing a strong and clear mission statement, company vision, and team values is crucial to get everyone on the same page from the start. As many companies have found, it is not enough to simply state these on your website, but try to reinforce them as much as possible, through both words and the actions of your leadership team.

Utilize the Right Tools

Regardless of the techniques you employ to attract and keep the right people for the job, the reality of running a business is that you’re bound to see turnover at some point or another. Finding a good way to cope is key in minimizing the time and effort lost filling a new position.

Considering all the necessary licensure and regulatory training staff must go through, you want to be sure your day-to-day processes don’t take too much time to learn for new staff.

Software can often ease the transition between staff (as long as it isn’t too dense and confusing) as it formalizes strategy and operations during periods of staff turnover. Not only that, but it maximizes the time and talent of caregivers already on your staff, allowing them find more meaning in their work and cut down the time spent on repetitive paperwork. In talking with the team at AmeriCare, they noted that they “believe ALIS is improving the quality of work and skill levels of [their] current employees.”

“Our community is ahead of the trend when it comes to the use of technology in senior care and our staff are proud that they work in a state-of-the-art community.” – Roseleaf Senior Living & Memory Care

Your community’s assisted living software can be an extension of your company’s practices and values. It can be a source of stability in the wake of employee turnover, and a tool for developing a strong sense of continuity.

At the end of the day, some staff churn is inevitable, but your standard of care and your community’s values can remain constant.

To learn more about how ALIS can help your community deal with staff churn, click here.