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BlogRecruitingThe State of Senior Living Staffing in 2024

The State of Senior Living Staffing in 2024

We’re nearly halfway through 2024, 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 2023? 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 and a New Staffing Mandate

Since 2023, 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.

Employment in the assisted living sector has surged further toward pre-pandemic levels. And while the national unemployment rate has ticked up to 4 percent, it still continues a 30-month streak at or below that threshold. 

These are encouraging signs. Pair them with the occupancy rate increases we’ve seen over the past 11 quarters, and it’s easy to assume that senior living staffing shortages have also eased up.

But that isn’t the case. In fact, staffing pressure has actually grown. One major reason: the CMS staffing mandate. To stay compliant with the final rule, roughly 4 in 5 organizations would need to hire more nurses and aides. And compliance could demand more than 100,000 additional staff industry-wide.

What Remains the Same: Staffing Still a Top Concern 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.

24 percent of leaders say staffing levels might not recover until 2026 – and nearly 40 percent say the industry will never reach pre-pandemic levels. Concerningly, 63 percent have limited the flow of new residents due to inadequate staffing.

Though high, these figures reflect a shortage that’s 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. There are levers you can pull to engage and retain your staff.

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

Despite current industry pressures, just one quarter of leaders plan to ramp up agency staffing this year. This continues a trend we saw in 2023: a shift away from agencies and toward longer-term avenues of support, like senior living technology.

Before diving deeper, it’s important to have some context. Last year, operating expenses ranked as a 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.

In 2023, we 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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