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The First 90 Days: 4 Ways to Retain Newly Hired Senior Living Staff

The ongoing senior living staff shortage is still in full swing – and 29 percent of leaders blame high turnover as one of the top two drivers.

A revolving door affects more than staff numbers: it can impact morale, resident satisfaction, and your senior living community’s bottom line. To reduce turnover, it’s important to create a quality experience for every new hire. And the first 90 days matter most.

Here, we’ll share four ways to improve the employee experience for new senior living staff.

1. Create Structured Onboarding and Training Processes

It’s important for new hires to feel confident navigating any resident situation, whether it’s a regular family visit, a weekly bingo night, or a sudden bathroom accident. If staff consistently feel abandoned or out of their depth, they’ll be less likely to stick around.

One key to fostering that confidence is a robust onboarding and training process. With the right structure and approach, you can boost employee retention from the moment new staff members join your community.

What makes for a solid onboarding and training experience? Here’s what we recommend:

  • Embrace microlearning content. Bite-sized learning modules make it easier for new hires to onboard without getting overwhelmed.
  • Adopt a spaced learning approach. Instead of compressing the onboarding experience into a couple of weeks, try spacing it out across the first 90 days. Along the way, check in occasionally to gauge how well your staff is retaining new information.
  • Create a dedicated mentorship program. An experienced mentor can be a valuable resource for new hires as they learn their way around your community and get to know the residents.
  • Make mental health a priority. Senior living staff work in emotionally (and physically) exhausting environments, which can have a serious impact on mental health. It’s important to emphasize the value of mental health awareness in your community – not just on day one, but through regular check-ins throughout the onboarding process and beyond.

One final note: make sure to collect regular feedback from new hires as they go through the onboarding and training process. They’re the best resource you have to learn what’s working and what’s falling flat. With their feedback in hand, you can continuously improve the experience for future senior living staff – and help your current hires feel more invested in making change at your organization.

2. Offer Flexible Work Schedules

Like many care workers, senior living staff often struggle with long hours and irregular shifts. That makes it hard to recover after a taxing work day – much less make time for friends, family, and hobbies. Add in the stress of adjusting to a new community in their first 90 days, and it’s easy to understand sky-high staff burnout rates

One solution: offer more flexible work schedules. For instance, consider…

  • Offering flexible hours or soft starts for every shift.
  • Swap shifts with coworkers when needed (e.g., if there’s a family emergency or they need a mental health day).

With the right scheduling approach, you can help new senior living staff achieve a better work-life balance and ward off burnout.

3. Recognize and Reward Employees for Hard Work

We can’t say it enough: senior living staff work hard to create a satisfying experience for residents. That work rarely goes unnoticed – but it does tend to go unrecognized. 

That’s a serious problem. For new hires adjusting to a demanding work environment, a lack of recognition can easily shatter morale. And when morale is low, folks quickly start to look elsewhere.

When staff get the recognition they expect, though, they’re 56 percent less likely to explore new job opportunities and four times more likely to feel like they belong. That can have a huge impact on retention and turnover.

To create a culture of recognition on your team, show your appreciation early and often. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Track compliments from residents and their family members. (And don’t forget name drops in glowing Google reviews!)
  • Encourage shout-outs during team meetings.
  • Reward individual workers for high performance with anything from digital gift cards to extra PTO.
  • Celebrate your team’s hard work with a quarterly dinner, party, or outing.

By displaying your gratitude in your staff’s first 90 days, you can help new hires feel valued from the start and set your community apart as a rewarding place to work. Better yet, get an app that helps you do all of this – something we’ve got in the hopper at Icon.

4. Establish Clear Promotion Criteria

All the recommendations we’ve made so far play a crucial role in boosting retention. But if new hires don’t feel like there’s room to grow, they may be less likely to stick around.

To help new senior living staff see a future at your community, it’s important to clarify exactly how to get promoted and provide the resources to make that happen. Make sure to…

  • Create and share promotional criteria for every role.
  • Provide regular feedback about employees’ progress, whether in one-on-one meetings or on the fly.
  • Keep equity top of mind to provide everyone with an equal opportunity for promotion.

With more clarity around promotions, you’ll motivate new senior living staff to do their best work every day – and give them new goals to shoot for each year.

Invest in the Full Senior Living Staff Experience

For new senior living staff, the first 90 days can make or break their job satisfaction. But the employee experience you create shouldn’t just be tailored to that three-month window. It’s important to design an experience that holds up long term – and that means investing in tools and processes that can keep new staff happy for years to come.

One of those tools should be your technology platform. The right software can streamline and automate your staff’s most repetitive tasks. Icon’s platform makes it simple for senior living staff to handle everything from shift scheduling to resident wellness checks.Want to learn more about how our senior living technology can benefit your staff? Drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you.


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