Home care agencies need to get creative and stand out from the crowd if they want to attract workers. Mark McInerney, director of Maine’s Center for Workforce Research and Information, gave that advice Monday during a webinar hosted by LeadingAge, a national organization representing more than 5,000 aging service agencies.
Enhanced unemployment benefits likely are not the primary reason an estimated 7 million workers haven’t returned to work since the pandemic started, he said. Rather, concerns over workplace safety and caregiving responsibilities were the reasons most often cited in a recent U.S. Census Bureau survey, according to McInerney.
With that in mind, McInerney urged senior service agencies to think beyond wages when trying to attract workers.
“I think people are looking for increased flexibility in the workplace to help accommodate some of those challenges that they’re facing,” McInerney said. “Think beyond the traditional schedule or just talk to folks to see if there is any kind of flexibility or reimagining the schedule to offer to your workers to accommodate the needs they face outside of work.”
McInerney also said home care agencies could have a leg up on retail and other areas of the service industry when it comes to competing for workers.
“People are looking for a purpose. They’re looking for a mission,” he said. “They want to feel like their work makes a difference. They are looking for a career path and want to see ways they can increase their skills over time and grow in the workplace.”
LeadingAge estimates the aging service industry will need to fill nearly 3 million jobs by the end of the decade. The organization said one way to accomplish that is through comprehensive immigration reform that would expand the number of H-2B visas and provide a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented workers now living in the U.S.
LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said the U.S. must act soon if it expects to compete with other nations for foreign workers.
“Almost every country in the developed world is having these very same conversations,” Sloan said. “The UK and Canada are seeing the improved economies in Eastern Europe are causing their workforce to remain in Eastern Europe, rather than chasing the previously higher paying jobs in Germany and the Netherlands.”
Sloan also pointed out that the Czech Republic recently raised healthcare worker wages 30% over five years to keep them from moving to wealthier nations.