It’s no secret that senior living has dealt with a staffing shortage for years. It remains a top challenge for communities – and a key consideration for residents and their families.
But this continued emphasis on the staffing shortage can have an unintended consequence. Like the constant whirring of a fan, people may learn to tune the staffing shortage out. Still, it’s important not to forget what the staffing shortage does to communities.
So we’ve laid out three impacts of the staffing shortage – sudden closures, civil suits, and inflated costs – as well as several ways you can tackle it.
1. Shortages Can Force Senior Living Community Closures
A recent report found that staffing challenges led to senior living communities closing in more than half (27) of the states in the US. The report goes on to attribute the communities’ staffing shortages to “ongoing effects of the pandemic, low compensation and increasing requirements by providers.”
Of note, respondents in every state reported taking steps to address the shortages. Forty-eight states increased pay rates. Forty-two expanded staff training. And 41 offered additional payment incentives.
This may leave you asking: what else could have been done?
Recruitment and retention tip: Build a positive culture by recognizing exemplary work
We noted this in our recruitment and retention guide, but it bears repeating: compensation is just one piece of the hiring puzzle. Culture also plays a key role in keeping your employees around – and engaged. In fact, eight out of 10 employees would stay in a job where they felt supported and valued vs. a job that pays 30 percent more but leaves them feeling unsupported and undervalued.
In other words, a supportive culture is the most economical, powerful retention tool you have. And, for many, the foundation of this culture is built from regular employee recognition. Remember, this field is mission-driven. Your employees choose it because they want to make a difference. Recognizing hard work confirms to your team that they’re making positive contributions and that you notice.
[Read more about how a Recognition and Rewards platform can take your culture-building initiatives to the next level.]
2. Insufficient Staffing Levels Can Lead to Civil Suits
Some may remember the two class action lawsuits Aegis Living settled in 2021. The primary complaint: Aegis’ staffing levels. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen other lawsuits for similar reasons. And with the Labor Department’s recent overtime threshold rule proposal, more senior living leaders are keeping an eye on the relationship between their break room and the courtroom.
Of course, the threat of legal action does little for communities struggling with talent retention. In most cases, community leadership knows staffing is a problem. What communities need is a way to shore up staffing without bloating costs (which stop-gap solutions, like agency staffing, are known to do).
Recruitment and retention tip: Tap into local networks to build up your volunteer program
Most senior living communities rely on volunteers. And for good reason: volunteers take work off staff members’ plates while ensuring residents get the best care possible. But there’s a good chance your community could benefit from a larger group of volunteers. And that starts with recruitment. Here are a few tactics to try:
- Highlight the value of your volunteers by inviting neighbors to certain volunteer-led activities. At these events, broadcast the importance of your volunteers and make sure to include volunteer sign-up forms. You may not get dozens of filled-out forms right away, but this outreach is key to spreading the word and, ultimately, building your volunteer base.
- Partner with local educational schools and colleges. Whether it’s a middle school, high school, or community college, reach out to administrators and establish a relationship. Notably, many high schools have volunteer requirements for graduation. Plus, intergenerational relationships benefit the health and wellness of older adults.
- Tap into religious institutions your residents attend. Chances are your residents have long-standing relationships with their houses of worship. Leverage this. Coordinate with religious leaders to organize any volunteer opportunities.
One final tactic: if you haven’t already, consider creating a page on your website that highlights your volunteer program and what people can expect from it. Brookdale Senior Living’s volunteer page is a well-organized, informative example.
3. Low Senior Living Staffing Can Increase Community Costs
It goes without saying that when staffing costs rise, senior living membership costs often follow suit. The numbers reflect this reality. In J.D. Power’s 2023 US Senior Living Satisfaction Study, senior living community costs were shown to increase 5.4 percent.
This isn’t a massive jump, to be clear. But residents and their families are already deeply concerned with affording care. Ninety-one percent of older adults worry about senior living costs. And experts say a significant portion of the Baby Boomer generation hasn’t saved enough to afford the care they’ll need.
So how can senior living communities manage costs, attract residents and staff, and maintain a profit?
Recruitment and retention tip: Use senior living technology to plug holes in staffing
Agency staffing and contracted labor costs a premium. And even when communities don’t need this outside help, many rely on overtime labor to meet staffing thresholds. This, too, ends up bloating operating expenses. (It also contributes to burnout – which regularly affects around 80 percent of senior living caregivers.)
Fortunately, senior living technology can help fill in staffing gaps while relieving your current team’s workload. Digital calendars are shown to cut the time staff spends on calendar management by 80 percent. Generative AI tools automate much of the administrative work associated with community planning. And Icon’s technology can help communities consolidate staff by an average of two FTEs.
When senior living tech can automate various tasks, your staff can do what drew them to your community in the first place: work directly with your residents. That’s a powerful recruitment and retention tool.
Relieve Staffing Costs with the Help of Time-Saving Technology
The staffing shortage won’t be solved overnight. And every community is different. Some feel the shortage’s effects more than others. But wherever you are in your recruitment and retention journey, senior living technology can help.Interested in seeing how Icon’s time-saving, cost-cutting tech can benefit your community? Book a demo!