Desmond Lim headshot
Desmond Lim

The COVID-19 outbreak is shining a bright light on the persistent shortage of healthcare workers in the United States.

Governors in several hard-hit areas are pleading for healthcare workers from other states to help. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer posted a video: “If you’re a health professional anywhere in America, Michigan needs you.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference: “Help New York. We are the ones who are hit now.”

In response to the shortage, swift actions are being taken — physicians are being allowed to practice medicine across state lines, nursing students can jump into the workforce, facilities can expedite certifications. It’s exciting to see fast responses in an industry that too often is stymied by regulations. But these are temporary solutions to a problem that will linger long after the pandemic. There always will be a shortage of caregivers.

The senior living caregiver turnover rate is 50%. This reality means that if you have a staff of 1,000 employees at your senior living community, you must hire 500 new employees every year to maintain the status quo. The main causes of turnover are the competitive labor market, long hours, low pay and lack of career growth.

Senior living managers need to adopt new technologies and policies to find and retain talent. Workstream works with assisted living and caregiver managers across the United States to look at their hiring process and learn what they do to reduce churn. Here’s how managers at companies including Brightstar, Morrison Living and Nurse Next Door combat high turnover.

Casting a wider net

In a competitive job market, you need to maximize job board visibility. Although Workstream makes it possible to post to 20 job boards, we recognize that they aren’t equal for every industry. Looking at our user data, we can see that the top job boards for sourcing caregivers are Indeed, Facebook, Ziprecruiter, Glassdoor and Craigslist. There are a variety of ways to post on Indeed, and the majority of caregiver applicants come from there.

Caregiver managers only hire about 1% of applicants who come from Indeed. Craigslist returns a fraction of the number of applicants, but managers hire 7% of applicants who apply via Craigslist. The reason for this difference is the mindset of people who apply via Indeed versus Craigslist: People on Indeed likely apply to more jobs than those who apply via Craigslist, so they’re less likely to complete the screening questions they receive before scheduling an interview.

So what does this mean for you? Post on more job boards, but automate the screening and scheduling process, because applicants are taking a “spray-and-pray” approach.

Flexible schedules

Multiple reports point to flexible schedules as the primary reason people switch from full-time to gig work. This is especially true for caregivers. High turnover rates mean remaining staff members often have to pick up additional shifts and training duties. This leads to burnout and more churn. It’s a downward spiral that needs to end.

Managers can break the cycle by leveraging temporary workers while interviewing for full-time ones. We’ve also seen a surge of caregiver job postings that highlight 4- and 6-hour shifts in the job title. These shifts are extremely appealing to caregivers with young children.

Incentivizing retention

It costs senior living communities $3,500 to $5,000 per hire between job boards, onboarding and training — and much more when quality of care inevitably drops. Residents are more at ease being cared for by people they know, who understand their needs. High churn rate is emotionally disruptive and leads to expensive mistakes.

Managers can reduce churn by incentivizing retention — setting regular bonuses and / or pay increases. Implement services such as OfficeVibe to get anonymous feedback from employees about morale and pay concerns.

Providing opportunities for growth

If pay bumps are out of the question, then here’s good news: Titles are cheap. Outline steps that employees can take to advance their careers, provide regular feedback and set goals.

Many senior living communities assign mentors to new employees. Doing so is helpful for both training and retention.

Leverage Facebook Business Pages to recognize exceptional employees and announce promotions. This effort builds a sense of belonging and helps with employee referrals. If you can build a successful referral program, then you’ll never worry about turnover again.

Desmond Lim is the founder and CEO of Workstream, a staffing automation platform used by senior living communities and transportation companies. He lives in Palo Alto, CA, with his wife and two young daughters, Angela and Nora. Contact him at [email protected].

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