At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, the labor market is now hotter than Death Valley in July.

That apparent reality might be a welcome development for those considering a career move. But should you find yourself trying to keep a senior living community fully staffed, it’s a cold reality.

More people than ever are quitting their jobs to pursue greener pastures. In fact, more than three and a half million people (3.56 million, to be accurate) left positions in May, according to new data from the Labor Department.

That pushed the “quits rate” (those leaving as a percent of those who are working) up to 2.4%. To layer on some perspective, that’s the highest percent recorded in 17 years. More frightening still, the April total was just a smidge lower, at 2.3%.

This follows an announcement by the department that job openings hit a record 6.7 million in April. In practical terms, that means there are now more job openings than unemployed people available to fill them.

So what does this mean for you as a senior living operator? Perhaps the least painful answer is that this is a time of challenge and opportunity.

The challenge will be to keep the keepers (along with those who are barely adequate) from jacking up the quits rate. To do that, you are probably going to have to step up your game in the area of the Three P’s: Pay, Perks and Promise.

The first two P’s are pretty straightforward. Pay and perks are finite things that can be easily measured against real and potential competitors. But what about that third P, Promise?

That basket can carry to a wide range of items, such as overriding culture, mentoring, educational assistance, career development, scheduling options, job security and psychic rewards, to name a few. And it is here, frankly, where your opportunity may really lie.

The sense of Promise you can instill in existing or potential workers just might be your community’s secret sauce. Play this hand well, and you might find that the staffing challenge you keep hearing so much about must be somebody else’s problem.

Mangle this opportunity, and it might feel like the heat is just getting turned up.

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living. Email him at [email protected].