How to Avert the Recruiting and Retention Crisis in Senior Care

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While many industries have faced worker shortages in recent times, senior care providers have found it especially difficult to attract and retain quality talent — and the COVID-19 crisis is only making the situation worse.

Managers struggle to find candidates who are passionate about the field and meet the unique requirements necessary to properly serve our elderly. Complicating the situation further, the industry has a dramatically high turnover rate of 67 percent. It’s not just a matter of finding new caregivers, but also convincing them to stay.

What can senior care organizations do to successfully navigate this precarious landscape?

It Starts With a Mobile-First Recruiting Strategy

According to a report from PHI released earlier this year, assisted living communities will need to fill more than 1.2 million direct care jobs over the next ten years. Meeting that demand will require some innovative strategies — including, first and foremost, making senior-care recruitment mobile.

As Glassdoor notes, 58 percent of people use their phones to look for jobs. If care providers want to end the worker shortage, they cannot afford to miss out on this massive candidate pool. Of course, going mobile only works if you get it right. Any mobile-first strategy needs to be quick and convenient, prioritizing candidates’ needs and giving them the option to apply fast.

The need for speed and convenience extends beyond the application itself. To capture candidate attention in the first place, care providers need to advertise their jobs using clear ads and descriptions. Put the most important information — like pay, benefits, number of hours or shifts, and starting date — right up front so candidates can easily find what they are looking for. Then, add a personal touch by including some specific details about your company, such as an account of a normal day at work or an employee testimonial.

Providers should complement this powerful digital outreach with other strategies, too, including word-of-mouth recruitment and employee referral programs. In fact, referrals from employees, clients, or even visitors can make for the best hires. Research has shown that referred candidates are often hired faster, perform better on the job, and have lower turnover rates.

Speak to Younger Workers

Senior care recruitment traditionally fails at reaching younger workers, which may help to explain the current talent shortage. For many senior care providers, it’s a matter of not knowing how to craft messages and employment opportunities that appeal to young workers. Some aspects of senior care can also be off-putting on their own: For example, senior care jobs often have strict scheduling requirements, which can deter millennials and Gen. Z-ers, who tend to prefer workplace flexibility.

The key to both reaching younger workers and compensating for the difficulties of senior care work is to get creative about the benefits you offer. Perks like more vacation time, relaxed phone use policies, and paid memberships to gyms and other programs can be alluring enough to outweigh the drawbacks of strict schedules.

You don’t have to guess at what younger workers are looking for. Connect with up-and-coming candidates directly and simply ask what they want in a job. Also, be sure to talk to your existing workers to find out what attracted them to their roles. You can then use the insights you gain to craft offers that will truly spark young candidates’ interests.

Focus on What Really Matters

Senior care is about people first and foremost. Too often, however, managers dwell on inflexible formal procedures rather than making room for individual solutions. This tendency can compound the difficulty of recruiting senior care workers: Many managers find themselves turning down hard-working, compassionate candidates just because they lack a certification that could easily be earned in a few hours.

There needs to be an urgent shift in priorities. We need to remember that soft skills are vital in senior care. Strong emotional intelligence and empathy are, in many ways, much more important than years of experience handing out medication. The former can be taught, but the latter is much more difficult to acquire through training. Rather than denying candidates who lack certain credentials, care providers should instead create in-house training programs to give new hires the qualifications they need.

Of course, if providers are going to prioritize soft skills in the recruiting process, they’ll need accurate ways to assess those skills. The best approach is a rigorous, structured interview process centered around questions that reveal how a person reacts to different situations. Questions about past experiences and jobs can help bring soft skills to light, but situational questions can also yield valuable insights. For example, Home Care Pulse’s Connor Kunz recommends questions like “What sort of a caregiver would you choose if you needed one?” and “How would you handle a client using rude language towards you?”

Invest in Retention

When it comes to ending the talent shortage in senior care, recruiting is only half the battle. It is just as important to retain the workers you already have on staff. It costs, on average, $3,500-$5,000 to replace a senior care employee — a price tag best avoided.

How can you champion team retention? It’s all about making sure employees feel valued. Higher salaries help, of course, but there are other ways to reward employees as well. Organizing workshops, showing recognition in meaningful ways, and maintaining transparent communication can all go a long way in keeping employees satisfied at work.

Care providers must also take steps to support employee well-being and prevent burnout, which can be alarmingly common in a challenging career like senior care. Give employees opportunities to relax and recharge at work and at home. You may need to juggle some schedules to make vacation time work, but it’s well worth it when your employees come back refreshed and ready to work even harder. Similarly, don’t overload workers with reports and meetings, and establish community rooms where employees can catch a quick break during their shifts.

Senior care is an industry marked by its humanity, so the recruitment strategies of senior care providers should reflect that. Employees are the most valuable part of any organization, but they can only thrive when properly invested in. By adopting modern recruiting strategies and truly supporting their employees, senior care providers can help close the talent gaps currently straining the industry.

Andy France is the director of recruitment marketing automation at Talentify.

By Andy France