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Senior living executives say that the sector will continue to face workforce and operating challenges in 2022, but they are carrying a sense of optimism into the new year, with technology and innovation driving recovery.
A panel of industry leaders shared their vision of where the market is heading, along with key trends and strategies, during an online executive roundtable hosted Thursday by myCNAjobs.
MyCNAjobs founder and CEO Brandi Kurtyka said that providers are struggling with “more people going out the back door than coming in the front door.” She said the system is broken — workers aren’t aware of the opportunities in senior living, and the industry isn’t getting its message out.
“I think we need a cultural shift in our industry,” she said. “We need to change that whole culture of care and how we think about care careers. We need to build bridges, make care jobs attractive and make sure people know what they are and that they’re a destination.”
Employee engagement is key to not only attracting staff, but keeping them, she said.
“Focus on building workplaces where people really see a path in and up,” Kurtyka said. “If you invest in training, culture, your own team, you’re still going to need to recruit and create a pipeline, but you will become more of a destination and attractive place to work, and you’ll be able to be more intentional and selective about your recruitment.”
The goal should be preventing turnover, which can affect quality and continuity of care and be reflected in satisfaction scores, Hireology Director of Healthcare Market Growth Chris Mercer added.
Retention, he said, starts with delivering a quality orientation experience, which gives workers a first impression of how a company operates. Up to 20% of turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment, he said, and 69% of workers are more likely to stay with a company at least three years if they have a great onboarding experience.
“It sets the stage for the long term,” he said, adding that allowing new employees to digitally upload paperwork, pairing new hires with mentors, and asking for feedback about the orientation experience can improve an operator’s odds of lowering turnover rates.
Having a mobile-first recruitment strategy is also a must in today’s hiring environment, Mercer said. More than 57% of applicants, he added, use smartphones to aid in their job search, and 35% of applicants reportedly have a negative impression of a company that does not offer the option to apply for a position via a mobile device.
“Career sites that are not mobile-optimized or friendly could inadvertently be turning applicants away,” he said, suggesting that operators take the time to apply for open positions in their communities to get a feel for the application experience. “There are tools and technologies you can leverage to make you more efficient.”
Marketing and sales
OneDay Vice President of Marketing Carter Severs said that 2022 will see the senior living industry continue to use more technology and innovate to deliver a personalized experience for attracting both residents and workers.
Storytelling through video works, he said.
Prospects are twice as likely to move into a community if the sales team sends a follow-up personalized video, Severs said. Although move-in conversion rates are 7% on average, adding video jumps that number to 13%, he added.
Senior Living SMART President Andrea Catizone said that 96% of searches for a senior living community begin online. Having a strong internet presence is a necessity for providers, she said. And make sure to include online events and outreach to make local connections and capture leads, Catizone advised.
“Realize there is affordable technology to produce virtual events to engage with prospects,” she said.
Legislative and regulatory
Florida Senior Living Association President Gail Matillo projected that COVID-19 and the tight labor market will continue to project uncertainty into next year. With an estimated pandemic effect of $2.3 billion to date on Florida’s assisted living communities, Matillo said, funding opportunities will be a major focus for the new year.
The president said she anticipates that workforce shortages will continue for the next couple of years, but she’s optimistic that the 88 million people in Generation Y and another 56.6 million in Generation Z entering the workforce will provide new opportunities for providers.
FSLA partnered with myCNAjobs to create an apprenticeship program through grant funding to train caregivers and create a talent pipeline. The one-year program will launch in 2022 and train workers to move into senior living, personal care and home health jobs in the state.
FSLA also is working with a coalition of healthcare providers to advocate for an extension of COVID-19 liability protection legislation in the Sunshine State. The current state protections are set to expire on March 29, 2022. SPB 7014 would extend those liability protections for 14 months, to June 1, 2023.
“Florida’s high-quality senior living options are one of the primary reasons people choose to retire here, but the pandemic has placed a great strain on the industry,” Matillo said. “Even as case counts trend downward in the state, a new variant is on the horizon, and we don’t yet know how much of a threat it will pose. We need to get through next summer and see how we fare before removing important protections for health and long-term care providers.”
Overall, Mercer said, optimism exists for the sector, but much work still needs to be done. The coming year, he added, will see senior living providers continue to battle for limited talent for new and existing jobs.
“Operators need to remain vigilant and flexible to adjust to challenges,” he said, recommending that providers reflect on what happened, what worked, and what didn’t work. “The same old strategies aren’t going to work any more. It’s time to change things up and get more creative with our approach.”