Lois A. Bowers

It’s no secret that finding enough qualified workers to staff communities is the biggest challenge facing senior living operators — and that the challenge could become even greater as baby boomers start moving into senior living communities in large numbers.

As part of its #60CaregiverIssues public education campaign, PHI (the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute) has published “Growing a Strong Direct Care Workforce: A Recruitment and Retention Guide for Employers.” As the name states, the guide, based on PHI’s 25 years of experience, focuses on direct care workers, although the advice it offers will apply to many types of employees. Author Kezia Scales, Ph.D., PHI’s director of policy research, covers training, peer support, supervision, employment supports and more.

Several strategies can help operators succeed, according to Scales:

  1. Recruit the people most likely to flourish in their respective positions.
  2. Build into the hiring process many opportunities to assess whether job candidates possess the right attributes for openings and will mesh with the organization’s mission and values.
  3. Don’t simply rely on lectures, videos, reading assignments and tests to train workers, as tempting as it would be to do with limited time and resources.
  4. Help workers manage issues that may challenge their ability to remain in their jobs, such as childcare, transportation, housing, immigration and healthcare.
  5. Use peer mentorship as a way to help newly hired employees — and any worker — gain the confidence and skills to complete their duties well.
  6. Train managers on the coaching style of supervision, through which they can support subordinates’ growth while also setting high standards for worker performance and accountability.
  7. Develop opportunities for staff members to learn and grow in their jobs in order to maximize their contributions, reward their dedication and improve retention.
  8. Allow employees to make decisions about their daily work to boost job satisfaction, performance and commitment. “It also capitalizes on their insider knowledge and insight,” Scales writes.
  9. A living wage and good benefits are essential to improving worker recruitment and retention, the report notes, but even if your company is operating on slim margins, be sure to show employees that they are appreciated.
  10. Find ways to measure the effects of your efforts so that you can celebrate your achievements or adjust your approach.

The 29-page guide, downloadable here, provides more detail on the importance of these strategies as well as how to develop and implement them.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers. Email her at [email protected].