7 Challenges Facing Senior Living Community Staffing

The average cost of hiring a new staff member is $4,420. When staff turnover is high, these costs can cripple an operator.

Costs range from hiring expensive bank staff to spending hundreds of dollars a month advertising on job boards. You then need to spend tons of man hours sifting through applications, interviewing candidates, and training new staff up to standard.

The best way to reduce your hiring and employee costs is to provide a favorable working environment. However, that’s easier said than done: the financial squeeze on care operators is already tight.

Keep reading to find out how to avoid common community staffing mistakes that make employees leave to work for your competitors.

The Impact of High Staff Turnover on Residents (and Profits)

The cost of high staff turnover isn’t just affecting your bottom line.

The constant churn-and-burn nature of community staffing means residents cannot access consistent care. The impact this has on the happiness and wellbeing of your residents is significant – and that, in turn, affects your profit potential.

Without access to familiar faces around, residents become unhappy and restless. This is particularly true for residents with specialist requirements, such as dementia patients or lonely or depressed tenants without regular social contact opportunities.

The social support provided by assisted living carers goes beyond providing routine. It means physical or mental health problems are spotted early and monitored closely. Without regular contact with the same familiar staff, many problems such as substance abuse in the elderly can go unnoticed.

7 Common Senior Living Community Staffing Mistakes 

You can gain a reputation as a great place to work and live, though. The first step is to identify if your care organization is making any of these mistakes – and working out how to overcome them.

1. Money-First Management

Retirement living offers an attractive return for entrepreneurs. There will always be seniors in need of assisted living services. Income is guaranteed for the lifetime of the company.

However, managers who put money ahead of people always experience high turnover. Twenty-four per cent of people seek to leave a workplace when the culture is negative.

Putting people first leads to happy staff and residents. The happier the workforce, the better your retention rate.  

2. Balancing Wage Prices vs Area Rents

Wages continue to go up and the competitive care sector can draw staff away to competitors even with the slightest pay rise.

Unit rent rates, however, have an upper limit. Even luxury independent lifestyle senior communities have a maximum charge they can impose before residents seek to take their business elsewhere.

Balancing the wage rise with a rent ceiling makes it hard for managers to avoid a money-first attitude. This can be overcome, however, by finding additional revenue streams to boost services without a significant increase in expenditure.

For example, add-on paid services like beauty consultants adds value to residents. Offering these services provides extra revenue streams without increasing overall company expenditure.

3. Feeling Valued as Individual Staff Members

Assisted living care workers spend a lot of time looking after other people. Community living operators that don’t show their staff the same level of care risk losing employees at a very high rate. This puts additional strain on already-stretched time and resources in the HR department.

Staff without opportunities for promotion, or access to employee benefits, have no incentive to stay. 

Simple adjustments, such as more regular shift patterns or longer breaks between each shift, could be all it takes to improve employee happiness. 

4. Not Enough Time to Deliver a Quality 1-2-1 Service

Financial limitations combined with under-staffing issues limits the time per resident. It means care assistants can’t deliver the quality of care their residents deserve.

Most staff working in care or assisted living environments value the social elements of the job as much as the residents do. Having only a few minutes each day to help with daily living tasks limits the social interaction between care assistant and tenant. 

5. Lack of Qualified Staff Available

Senior living communities cluster in similar areas. The stereotype that people retire to Florida, for example, is actually true. This means there are plenty of employment opportunities for those working in care.

There are not, however, enough people working in care to cover all available vacancies. Under-qualified staff may be taken on to fill roles. But, the busy nature of an under-staffed workplace means there is little time for formal training.

Under-qualified staff and no time for additional training risks the quality of service slipping below acceptable levels. When staff see no opportunity for improvement, they’ll leave for a competitor.

6. Communication Barriers

Many care workers and residential community wardens are not native English speakers: instead, it’s their second or even third language. Just as there is no time to provide additional care worker qualifications, language education falls by the wayside, too.

Language barriers are hard enough in a normal working environment, but in care facilities it’s even more challenging. Residents may already be limited in their communication abilities due to deteriorating health. Add in misunderstandings caused by language differences, and important things can be missed.

7. No Staff Loyalty

All of the above problems amount to one overriding problem: no staff loyalty. Any assisted living company that can offer staff more incentives can poach them.

The problem is that many care facility operators offer the same advantages and disadvantages as their local competitors. Staff may jump ship for slightly more pay but find themselves having to work with more residents with less time for each. Disillusioned, they’ll move to yet another role somewhere else.

To combat the problem, you need to offer more than one or two advantages over local competitors.

How to Overcome Staffing Challenges in 5 Steps

High staff turnover can be challenged and turned around. It just takes some realignment of your operational processes and investment in staff development.

Remember: it costs over $4000 for every new hire. Investing in your staff may cost more initially, but as it reduces staff turnover the savings will become clear. Staff become happier and more motivated, and residents gain the consistency of care they deserve.

Here’s how to revolutionize your workforce management to improve staff retention rates.

1. Analyze Existing Staff Feedback

Ask existing staff to provide feedback about their roles and the company. Keep this feedback anonymous to make sure responses are honest.

Look for trends in the feedback to help shape your approach to improving the business and workforce satisfaction. If, for example, staff commonly feel there is no consistency to shift patterns, introduce a new policy for more considerate rotas.

2. Listen to Resident Feedback

Your customers, the residents, provide a vital soundboard for you. Listen to what they have to say about your service.

Standardize the process to monitor your continuous improvements. Ask your residents on a regular basis to complete the same questionnaire each time. This will help you to spot trends and act on them accordingly.

3. Streamline Processes to Increase 1-2-1 Resident Time

Look for ways to reduce time spent on unnecessary tasks so that staff can spend more time providing one-to-one care for residents.

Consider the amount of paperwork that must be completed, for example. Can this be digitized for easy duplication? Eliminating paper reduces the risk for error and cuts the time spent on repetitive paperwork completion. 

4. Provide Training and Qualification Opportunities

Introduce a regular training program and offer incentives for long-serving staff to achieve qualifications and promotions.

Professional development programs give staff a feeling of self-worth and show them that your company values them as an individual, as well as for the work they do. It also gives staff more confidence in their performance, increasing happiness and improving the quality of care they provide.

5. Invest Cost Savings into Incentive Programs 

Cutting hiring costs by improving staff retention rates is one way to access funds to offer financial incentives. However, there may be more ways to cut costs at a facility without compromising on service levels.

For example, consider installing solar panels to generate your own electricity. The capital outlay is worth the long-term benefit – and could even become an additional revenue stream for the business.

Instead of seeing these savings as boosted profits, reinvest them into staff incentive programs. Offer better employee benefits, for example, or run monthly social events to build team morale and social bonding.

Savvy Marketing and Management Boosts Staff Longevity

Overhauling your approach to senior living community staffing is a large project. Managing the transition period is key to your success, but can often be the biggest stumbling block to improving staff retention.

You may feel there is some irony in the feeling that you’ll need to hire people to manage the transition to new staff programs designed to reduce the need for constant hire processes. However, there are specialist companies who can step in to help.

Our team of HR experts helps all sizes of senior living care facilities to improve working conditions and retain staff longer. Contact us today to find out how we can help you find – and hold onto – the best talent around.

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