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How to Retain Frontline Caregivers in the New Work World

Thursday, October 28, 2021
Natalie Terchek
How to Retain Frontline Caregivers in the New Work World

The core connection between senior living operators and their frontline caregivers is that they both personally care and feel gratification for serving the elderly population. However, there is a disconnect between operators and frontline staff on the definition of an ideal workplace.

Frontline caregivers’ priorities have shifted in today’s flexible world of work – what attracts people and what keeps them is not always the same thing. Since the pandemic started, approximately 15 percent of the frontline workforce have left the healthcare industry. As the senior living industry continues to expand over the next decade, it is projected that there will be a net shortage of 140,000 frontline caregivers in 2030.

The Horton Group’s healthcare team has experience helping operators to close this gap. In this article, we will address the main reasons why caregivers come and go and recommend ideas to attract and retain top talent.

What Attracts Frontline Caregivers to a Facility?

Frontline caregivers are often quite passionate about what they do for a living. There’s a sense of purpose they get from this job that’s difficult to achieve at a desk job. But even though their passion to help may have driven them towards this field, more needs to happen to get them to stay.

Operators and frontline caregivers are generally aligned in that pay rate, flexibility of schedule, employee benefits, and culture are a few of the top reasons caregivers are attracted to want to permanently work at a facility. Flexibility is a particularly important aspect – 75 percent of caregivers are females, majority aged between 30-38 who are either childbearing or have children.

Pay is certainly important, but caregivers value employee benefits more than operators think. Older employees are often interested in robust 401ks and health insurance benefits with higher premiums and lower deductibles. Younger staff are likely to value a choice of plans offered (including HMO savings plans and lower premiums/higher deductibles).

In addition to benefits, employees are also attracted to facilities with positive cultures. They want to work at a place that fosters a culture of communication and recognition and will offer opportunities to develop a career track.

Why Do Frontline Caregivers Go?

While culture can be the factor that makes a facility enticing, it can also be the factor that drives away employees. Leaders define culture differently than frontline caregivers. An operator’s mindset is typically, “If we aren’t paying much, it doesn’t matter because we have a better culture.” But due to lack of communication between leadership and staff, a great culture in leadership’s viewpoint is often not penetrated to frontline workers.

Besides culture, there is often a disconnect between operators and frontline caregivers about the top reasons caregivers chose to leave a facility, including lack of teamwork/management and poor benefits. Many times, there can be a lack of communication between operational divisions, such as Human Resources and Director of Nursing. This divide can lead to frontline staff “cleaning up” after the shift before them, adding to their already strenuous job responsibilities. Improving communication between divisions leads to greater sense of teamwork between staff and greater respect from management regarding the responsibilities caregivers take on.

Frontline caregivers enter this field because they love the work – but one of the issues is that they’re not getting paid enough to continue doing what they love. Many caregivers need to take on a second job to pay the bills. Although they may enter this industry enthusiastically, this, combined with the grueling work and long hours, can wear them down – especially when they can find better pay and benefits somewhere else.

Retention Solutions and Strategies

The Horton Group recommends taking the following steps to improve employee retention:

  • Improve communication between leadership and staff: Find out what’s important to employees and foster an environment where leadership can develop relationships with staff. Engaging with staff on their life priorities can help leadership fully understand their needs. This will also help management develop active listening skills and support and respect the work that healthcare workers are doing.
  • Consult with an expert on creative/flexible benefit plans: While all healthcare leaders want to offer great benefits that attract and retain staff, the reality is that it can be challenging to balance this with the increasing costs associated with offering coverage to their employees. According to the 2020 Aon Global Medical Trend Survey, healthcare costs have continued to outpace inflation. This has a downstream effect on increase health insurance premiums and has put additional financial pressure on employers. A trusted benefit advisor can help organizations develop long-term benefits strategies and introduce innovative ideas that manage cost while still allowing them offering great benefits to their employees.
  • Emphasize the importance of a healthy company culture and develop a plan to improve it: The anxiety and extra precautions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more important than ever to focus on culture. The pandemic has increased stress levels of healthcare workers who are experiencing significant conflict between their work duties versus safety concerns for themselves as well as their patients, colleagues, and families. They are increasingly looking to their employers for resources to help them manage this stress. Many employers are adding programs and services that expand access to behavioral health care. This is something that can often be secured as a bundled service with current benefits offered such as life or disability coverage.

If you’re looking for more insight into what you can do to retain your employees, please reach out to The Horton Group and schedule a consultation with a member of the senior living community team here.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.