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“2023 Top Trends in Aging Services.”
Leaders in the senior living sector, including skilled nursing and assisted living, continue to pound their heads against the wall to figure out solutions to the ongoing staffing challenges that have remained prominent almost three years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some providers have seen a bit of relief and are now able to hire; however, staffing shortages are expected to persist through 2031. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2021 to 2031 there will be an average of 1,193,100 job openings per year in the senior living sector, including certified nurse aides, home health aides, licensed practical nurses, and registered nurses, with 59.8 percent being home health aides.
Providers have attempted to curtail the staffing crisis by increasing wages, advocating for better reimbursements, offering sign-on and referral bonuses and other short-term incentives, such as extra-shift bonuses. However, many providers are still relying on staffing agencies to fill the “holes in the schedule,” which of course comes at a much higher cost, impacting profitability.
There is no magic wand, no silver bullet, no single solution that will solve this staffing crisis that has plagued the industry since even before “COVID-19” entered our collective vocabulary. Yes, advocating for increases in reimbursement is a must to ensure senior living providers can offer competitive wages to compete with other health care sectors and industries. Yes, benefits and other perks must be attractive and affordable to steer employees your way. However, wages and benefits are extrinsic motivations, which may lure employees to your front door but unfortunately may not keep them in the long term.
The pandemic has impacted the world in many ways, and how it has impacted employees has had a profound impact on employers. Employees are now more intrinsically motivated, meaning their behavior is motivated by an internal desire to do something for their own sake, such as staying home to care for children or aging parents because that is more important to them than a job.
Wages are still important to employees, but just as important is working for an organization with a culture that is respectful and supportive. Employees are no longer willing to stay in unfulfilling jobs or work for employers that don’t treat them well. Employees want to work for leaders who care about them as people more than they care about them doing a job. They want developmental and training opportunities to allow them to grow within the organization, and they desire feedback and open communication. They want their boss and the company to understand that they have a life and responsibilities outside of work that are very important to them, therefore they need flexibility in how they work.
Leaders who have been around for a long time, including myself, tend to wrestle with what employees are looking for today from employers. To combat the staffing crisis, assessing your company culture and making needed changes to attract and retain today’s worker should be a top priority for every CEO, COO, VP, and any other person who has been entrusted to care for our residents and the employees who are charged with carrying out this responsibility.
Competitive wages will always be a priority, but are you, your organization, and your leaders creating a workplace culture that prioritizes employee well-being? Are you leading with open and genuine communication? Does your culture convey a sense of purpose, and are values embraced by all? Is your culture one of trust—trust in leaders, trust that the organization will do what it says it will do, and trust in its employees? Do your employees have a sense of belonging, and are you growing and developing them both personally and professionally? Do your leaders, including your frontline leaders, have the skill set to motivate, encourage, and show compassion and empathy toward their employees?
Employees are seeking out organizations with effective leadership, transparent communication, flexible work arrangements, and a culture that cares about their well-being. A strong workplace culture is attractive to candidates and improves retention. In addition, employees are more engaged, and it can lead to increased productivity and profitability. It can differentiate your organization from others, giving you a competitive advantage. Culture change is not a quick solution to the staffing crisis, but it can be a sustainable one to rebuild and re-engage your workforce.
Health Dimensions Group (HDG) has experts who can assess your organization’s culture and identify opportunities to leverage your company’s strengths to stand out in the field. We also offer leadership and professional development services to enhance leadership capabilities through assessments, team development, and training opportunities. If you would like to learn more about how HDG can assist you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at 763.537.5700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julia Eiland,MBA, SPHR
Vice President, Consulting, People & Culture