The United States currently has nearly 29,000 assisted living facilities (ALF) for elderly residents, according to the American Health Care Association (AHCA). More than 800,000 residents have lived in ALF communities, leaving around 200,000 beds empty.
Competition among facilities is gaining momentum, while turnover of residents and staff remains high. Attracting new residents is costly, so retaining existing assisted living residents needs to be a top priority for any facility.
Your team is one of the critical factors in creating a community where residents love to live. Here is how to build and retain a team that will help your organization thrive for years to come.
The Importance of Staffing in Assisted Living Facilities
Individual state laws define what adequate staffing levels are for assisted living facilities. These regulations help to keep residents safe, provide proper care, and prevent problems such as injuries.
However, ensuring that your facility offers the highest quality of care goes beyond simply ensuring compliance. It is about hiring and retaining key staff members to help you build a strong long-term team.
Staffing can make the difference between a facility’s residents feeling supported and living with dignity or looking for alternative communities. Working in ALF communities can differ from other care-related jobs because of the unique approach to providing independent living and access to care.
To this day, ALF managers and HR staff find it challenging to recruit enough qualified staff and retain their teams. An AHCA survey from September 2021 found that more than 90% of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the United States are dealing with staff shortages.
A majority of providers felt their situation had worsened throughout the summer of the past year. To keep residents safe and provide excellent services, facilities need to follow these guidelines.
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Take a Proactive Approach to Employee Retention
Nursing and care professions have suffered from high turnover rates for years, but this problem has never been more apparent than during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. Experts found that some nursing homes experienced a more than 300% turnover rate. The researchers also believe the turnover contributed to the high number of deaths in American nursing homes in 2020.
Within the senior living industry sector, turnover remains high at 50% per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While turnover is lower than in the nursing home sector, 50% is still staggering. If your ALF employs a team of 100, you are looking at hiring 50 new staff members every year.
With recruitment come expenses. In addition, replacing such a high number of staff every year threatens the quality and continuity of care you provide. Focusing on retention minimizes costs your facility has and makes it easier for residents to form a bond with staff. These relationships are crucial to residents’ well-being.
Prioritize Employee Development
How satisfied are your employees? If you are unsure about the answer to that question, consider conducting an employee survey as your team about what they enjoy about their jobs and what would make things better for them.
Nursing and care professions take their toll physically and mentally. Lifting patients, working long hours, and covering weekends and holidays contribute to that. These positions also suffer from a lack of development opportunities for professionals. As a result, working as a carer may become a stop-gap rather than a career.
For your ALF to offer the best possible care, your staff needs to be happy, satisfied, and motivated. Offering development opportunities is one way to achieve that. Employees benefit by adding to their skillset.
Your assisted living community also benefits by having more highly qualified staff motivated and skilled to deliver the best possible care.
Consider Increasing Pay and Incentives
Development opportunities drive not everyone. It is important to ask employees what would make a difference and convince them to stay in their job.
For many, a pay increase or incentives tied to time spent with the company can be deciding factors. Consider this: if your job would barely enable you to make ends meet, would you be loyal to the company or look for a better opportunity?
Traditionally, profit margins are small in the senior living industry, contributing to low wages. However, operating an assisted living facility plagued by high turnover is expensive, too. Recruitment costs are high, and ALF managers need to weigh the cost of turnover against pay increases.
If pay increases are not possible, consider alternative incentives. Perhaps you can re-organize shift patterns to make it easier for parents among your staff to accommodate childcare or school schedules? Others may enjoy additional leave after a certain amount of time with the company.
Create a Culture of Respect and Communication
No one enjoys working in a place where they feel disrespected and find themselves “kept out of the loop.” Creating a culture of respect within your organization starts from the top.
As an owner or senior manager, if you treat your leadership team with respect, junior managers are more likely to follow your example. The approach will systematically trickle down. For example, janitorial staff members are most important in senior living environments.
However, they are often overlooked because their work is not strictly speaking medical.
Their work is essential to the quality of life your residents enjoy and the quality of care your facility delivers. Clean, well-maintained living and socializing spaces could not be more important.
Treating every staff member with the same degree of respect and establishing a culture of open communication within your organization will help reduce turnover. In addition, you may find that it becomes easier to fill vacancies based on word of mouth. Happy team members are likely to recommend your facility to their friends looking for work.
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Consider Upskilling Employees
Career development may be limited within the care sector, but there are options for employees to specialize and add to their skills.
Understanding more about behavioral and mental health is among the most versatile and sought-after qualifications within the field. As management teams understand the connection between behavioral, mental, and physical health more clearly, upskilling existing care staff in this area is becoming a priority for most.
Providing adequate staffing within senior living facilities requires more than meeting compliance requirements. To become a leader in the field, assisted living facilities to need to invest in the development and retention of their team.
Building a strong, highly qualified team will have a noticeable effect on turnover. As staff turnover decreases, residents find it easier to develop trust in their carers. They build a meaningful relationship that improves resident retention, too—the entire community benefits.
One of the most efficient ways of developing your team and creating a more desirable workplace is to team up with a strong partner.
Behavioral Health program for assisted living facilities offered by TrueCare™ can help you fill temporary gaps, upskill your team, and provide your residents the best care possible.