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The State of Senior Living Staffing in 2023

We’re nearly halfway through 2023, and that has us reflecting on our trend predictions for this year. One that stands out is how communities can tackle the ongoing staff shortage in the senior living space by improving the employee experience.

We still have half a year to fully evaluate community approaches to employee recruitment. But today, we’re interested in using this blog as a checkpoint of sorts. What’s changed in the hiring landscape since 2022? What’s stayed the same? And what role can senior living technology play in your community’s ongoing hiring and retention efforts? More on all that below.

What’s Changed: Employment Growth, Less Agency Staffing, and Declining Retention Rates

Since 2022, we’ve seen plenty of shifts in both the labor market and the senior living industry. And there are, no doubt, positive changes to report.

Unemployment is approaching historic lows (3.4 percent as of April 2023). Employment in the assisted living sector is surging toward pre-pandemic levels. And two-thirds of operators anticipate using less agency staffing in 2023 than they did in 2022.

These are encouraging signs. Pair them with the occupancy rate increases we’ve seen over the past seven quarters, and it’s easy to assume that senior living staffing shortages have also improved.

But that isn’t the case. In fact, staff retention rates have actually dropped, according to a March NIC survey. Just 30 percent of organizations reported retaining more than 80 percent of newly hired full-time staff. Last March, that number was 46 percent.

This retention slide highlights a trend we’ve seen for years now: caregivers and other members of senior living staff are flocking to other industries.

What Remains the Same: Turnover and Recruitment Among Top Concerns for Operators

Senior living staffing shortages were apparent long before 2020. But since 2020, staffing has emerged as an even greater concern for operators and senior living leaders.

As of April 2023, 78 percent of senior living leaders say that attracting community and caregiving staff is their top challenge. Sixty-seven percent of leaders say their biggest challenge is staff turnover. And 90 percent of operators report dealing with a staffing shortage.

Though high, these figures have stayed relatively steady over the past couple of years. In 2021, a combined study between the AHCA and NCAL showed that 81 percent of assisted living communities were dealing with staffing shortages. One year later, that number was 92 percent.

Do these comparable rates mean a majority of senior living communities should just expect staffing shortages? Not at all. But it does signal that communities can’t solely chalk up recruitment struggles to lower resident occupancies or larger macroeconomic trends (like record-low unemployment or record-high resignation). There are levers you can pull to engage and retain your staff.

Want to Keep Your Staff Around? Use Tech to Free Up Workloads

We mentioned that communities expect to rely on agency staffing less in 2023. A key reason for this change? The growing dependence on senior living technology.

Before diving deeper, it’s important to have some context. Besides staffing, operating expenses rank as the top concern for communities and operators. Many communities ride on razor-thin margins. They can’t just increase staff wages every month to combat turnover. That’s not a sustainable recruitment strategy – regardless of market conditions.

So what makes investing in technology “worth it”? The right tools aren’t cost centers; they’re revenue drivers and time savers.

Without technology, staff might spend hours manually importing and exporting attendance data to identify which activities engage residents the most. With technology like digital calendars, staff can run their entire life enrichment program from one platform and reduce time spent on calendar management by 80 percent.

Communities can save even more time by fully automating administrative tasks with the help of AI assistants like ChatGPT. Want someone to fill out those emergency communication templates? Need copy edits on that marketing one-sheeter you’ve been working on? ChatGPT can do it.

When technology can simplify and automate administrative tasks, your staff gets to do what attracted them to your community in the first place: work directly with your residents. That’s a powerful retention tool.

When You Invest in Staff, You’re Also Investing in Residents

The best communities to live in are often the best communities to work at. Why? There’s a synchronistic relationship between staff and resident morale. When your team feels appreciated and engaged, residents pick up on it.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Janice, a resident of Royal Oaks, and she expressed this exact sentiment. “You could feel the friendliness at Royal Oaks,” Janice noted. “My husband and I were blown away by our marketing representative, and we were greeted on our tour by everyone.”

It’s not a coincidence that Royal Oaks leverages technology to improve the resident – and employee – experience. When staff has time to meaningfully engage with residents, resident satisfaction increases. And when satisfaction increases, occupancy often follows suit.That chain reaction starts with finding and implementing the right form of senior living technology. Interested in seeing how senior living tech can power your employee recruitment and retention efforts? Shoot us a message or request a demo!

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