Tips to Tackle Staffing Shortages in Senior Living Communities

To say that senior living communities have been facing unique challenges in the past few years would be (probably) one of the biggest understatements of all time. With increased health and safety regulations and a substantial number of employees taking time off for physical and mental care, the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched communities thin.

But coinciding with that is massive growth in North America’s senior population. According to a 2021 census, seniors aged 85+, constitutes one of the fastest growing populations. Also noted, our seniors are “staying healthier, active, and involved for longer” than ever before – which is awesome!

But this calls for a greater demand in infrastructure, support, and care workers to help them as they enjoy the latter years of their lives. While ambitious and admirable individuals train to enter the industry as PSWs, CSAs, nurses, culinary or activity professionals, we have some tips to help your community prepare, tackle, and overcome staffing shortages that are occurring now.

Lead With Positivity and Happiness to Onboard and Mitigate Staff Attrition

In an interview between Justin Godderis, Chief Revenue Officer at InTouchLink, and Matt Reiners, Co-Founder of Eversound, they discussed how aligning business objectives with the “Point of Happiness” for staff, residents, and families will make your operation greater than the rest. Proving the company culture is one that listens to their constituents and supports them with tools and processes. Not only does this make your community more attractive to a prospective recruit, it also ensures they want to stay longer – they won’t find the same top-down approach at another location.

Focus On Retention

While bringing on new, qualified staff is going to help in the long run, so is focusing on retaining the experienced staff you currently employ. There are a few ways that you can increase retention in your senior living community.

Re-examine Your Company Benefits Package

A lot has happened in the past couple of years. Employees (in every industry) are looking at the health benefits that their employers are offering so they can lean on these supports for their physical and mental wellness when they need them. Review the benefits that you offer your employees and ensure they’re enticing, better than your competition, useful, and (perhaps most of all) sufficient.

Complete An Honest Review of Your Company Culture

Take time to reflect on what makes your facility special and supportive for your employees and for your residents — what makes people want to work here? What qualities are most important for new hires? Take into account the values that you want your organization and staff to uphold. Is your existing company culture a positive one, or do you have some work to do? Be honest. Culture is a huge factor in attracting and retaining high value top talent.

Manage With Empathy

Let’s start by fully acknowledging that a lot has happened in the world recently and it’s difficult for people to check their thoughts and feelings at the door when they come to work.

Now, though, we’re seeing an increasing number of employers recognizing the importance of their employee’s mental health and wellbeing, and offering them more support. In a recent interview between Matt Reiners, Co-Founder of Eversound, and Anthony Hormsbee, VP of People Operations at Civitas, the crucial topic of recruiting, burnout and teamwork in senior living operations was discussed.

According to Anthony (and we’re fully on board with him), a valuable mindset to manage with is: “How is this individual bringing their full self to the workplace today? How can I support them in that and how can I do that in a way that that’s a healthy and productive conversation?”

Be Proactive, Open, And Honest While Having Tough Conversations

Another fantastic tip from Anthony at Civitas is to have conversations about and acknowledge micro frustrations that your team is experiencing. Let your employees know that you’re aware of the issues – big and small – in your organization, and that, while change isn’t going to happen overnight, you are working on it. But for this to be effective, you really do need to address and work on the issues that are causing stress or tension for your team.

Empower Employees

The daily tasks that your employees carry out – and the overall nature of their job – can be difficult and draining. Find ways to empower your team.

Create Team Bonding Activities & Events

They may seem like an unnecessary component of your business, but that could not be further from the truth. Team bonding time boosts morale and encourages employees to grow together, learn from each other, and support each other. These are all very valuable characteristics of a positive company culture and workplace environment.

Be Clear About the Impact Your Team Has on Residents

As we’re reminded by Anthony at Civitas, sometimes employees can forget just how big a role they play and the impact they have on your residents’ every day lives. Reminding them that their outlook, demeanor, and quality with which they do their job affects senior residents can motivate individuals and teams, and help residents live their best possible lives.

One great example Anthony provides is a quick, friendly reminder: “when you respond to a resident request in under 3 mins, that means that we’re able to quickly meet their needs, provide better quality care, and help them live better lives.” Which is, really, the ultimate goal.

Create Team Cohesion & Comradery by Cross-Training

Another valuable reminder that Matt and Anthony provide is that cross training employees can help break down silos and nurture innovation, support, and team cohesion. Train teams in different areas and on unique tasks (within reason) so they can support each other. But be mindful of who is being taught what – no nursing tasks for staff who aren’t trained and licensed as registered nurses, for obvious reasons!

Optimize Your Workflows

Audit and refine your workflows to help your staff operate as efficiently as possible and see that residents are cared for quickly and accurately. That means less time spent on paperwork and more time spent taking care of residents.

Software like InTouchLink can help you optimize your workflows and processes with features that speed up the average time that tasks are completed and contribute to an overall happier experience for your residents. Take a look at our Digital Signage, Activity Tracker, Activity Calendar, Menu Manager, Meal Tracker, and Newsletters & Flyer creator for some easy, innovative, and time-saving ways to better engage your population.

And going back to empowering employees, you can make it easy for your team to get information quickly and enhance their training with InTouchLink’s Online Learning Center. Through our Online Learning Center, you can offer your employees a centralized location for standardized training, custom courses, resources, presentations, documents, and more!

Streamline Your Hiring Process

While ensuring that you have the right people on staff is necessary, don’t create or allow roadblocks to exist that draw out the hiring process. Matt and Anthony talk about a few techniques the folks at Civitas use, such as using multiple mediums to connect with people (don’t just rely on email because, let’s face it, everyone’s inbox is too crowded these days) and making sure that you’re not narrowing down your candidate profile too much.

Take a look at the positions you have open and whether you can hire different demographics than you usually look for. For example, it’s very common for people to retire from their careers, take a couple of years off, and want to get back into the workforce part time to continue to socialize, fund their everyday lives, and regain a sense of contribution to society. Perhaps there are some roles in which these types of candidates can offer support to your organization’s objectives?

Invest in Strong Leaders

Last but certainly not least, never overlook the talented individuals and team that you already have on staff. Look for the go-getters in your team and work with them on their own professional development and recruiting them to be your Community Culture Champions – employees who can help drive improvements, progress, and morale in the organization.

Connect with them to understand their professional and career goals. Focus on how you can contribute to their growth, then work with them to create a simple plan with actionable steps towards those goals.

When you invest in your employee’s development, they feel more supported, connected to your business, and invested in the work they’re doing. This helps them feel like they can come to you with any issues they experience and can, ultimately, increase retention of valuable staff members.

InTouchLink Is Here to Help

InTouchLink is the easiest way to bring your community the best resident experience possible. We are the #1 solution for promoting productivity and improving the day to day lives of staff, residents, operators, and residents’ families. While you’re there to support your staff and build a team that you can rely on, we’re here to help you save your team’s limited time and reduce their stress.

To see what we have to offer, book a free 5-minute demo with us today, or contact us with any questions you may have.