As Baby Boomers age, the need for senior care – and for senior care workers – will increase to unprecedented heights between now and 2030. The competition for workers will be fierce (it already is), and organizations that focus on selecting the right talent will have an edge on their competitors.

But the war for talent extends beyond recruitment and onboarding. In fact, recruitment and onboarding are just the first battle. Retention and development win the war.

Why Retention Matters

Across all sectors of the long-term care industry, workers are exiting the industry faster than they are entering it. At the same time, competition for workers within the industry is increasing due to expanding options for how and where people receive support and services. Here’s how that looks across multiple sectors:

 

Source: https://www.leadingagemn.org/assets/docs/WorkersLeavingEnteringLTCJan2015.pdf

Turnover rates as high as 75% in senior care have the potential to create a vicious cycle.

  • High turnover creates workforce shortages.
  • Workforce shortages increase workloads for remaining workers.
  • Those higher workloads lead to lower staff morale and engagement.
  • Lower morale and engagement ultimately lead to even higher rates of turnover.

How can you break that vicious cycle – and even transform it into a virtuous cycle? Start with strategies for retention to help stop the bleeding.

Strategies to Increase Retention

Hire the Right People

Hiring the right people is one strategy to increase retention. Putting the right people in the right jobs increases their job satisfaction and that increased satisfaction becomes contagious because having the right people in the right jobs also makes things better for the people who work with new staff members. But with turnover rates as high as 75%, recruitment and selection alone won’t stop the bleeding. Leaders and managers have to get intentional about other retention strategies.

Understand Your Own Turnover

Start by analyzing turnover and retention in your own organization from a variety of angles (by job type, by location or department, by manager). If you have data on why people are leaving, analyze that too. (If you don’t have that data, start collecting it through exit interviews).

  • Where is turnover highest and where is it lowest?
  • Why are people leaving?
  • What can you learn about what’s working – and what’s not working – in your organization from this analysis?

Use your data to make positive changes. Compensation is often discussed as an “uncontrollable” factor that influences turnover and retention, but it’s a factor leaders can control more than they might think. A recent Gallup study found that 54% of actively disengaged employees will leave their current organization for a raise of 20% or less. However, only 37% of fully engaged employees will make that same decision to leave. Based on those statistics, effectively increasing engagement could reduce your turnover significantly.

Increase Engagement

Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement so they are on the front lines of your engagement efforts. Leaders and managers have the power to cultivate positive, people-centered, purpose-driven organizational cultures in which more people are highly engaged…and more people choose to stay – even if they could make more money elsewhere.

People are less likely to leave – even for 20% more money when they:

  • have friends at work
  • trust their managers
  • feel appreciated and valued for what they do
  • see opportunities to learn and grow

The people you decide to hire and promote into management can have a significant impact on your organization’s engagement and retention. Elevate the right people into management – people who will cultivate a culture marked by compassionate care, supportive relationships among staff members and regular expressions of gratitude.

Here are some questions you can use to assess your organization’s culture in areas that impact engagement:

  • Do people have close relationships with their co-workers and managers?
  • Do managers help staff members understand and embrace the larger purpose of their work? How do managers reward, recognize and reinforce both large and small contributions to that larger purpose daily?
  • Is our culture more positive or negative? Do managers and leaders accept people as they are and catch them doing things right, or do they harp on errors and mistakes and try to change people?
  • Are people recognized for their accomplishments and do they feel appreciated for their efforts?
  • Can leaders and managers be trusted to walk the talk and keep their promises?
  • Do employees at all levels have opportunities to learn and grow in their careers?

When organizations start focusing on engagement and retention through cultivating a positive, people-centered, purpose-driven culture, an interesting thing happens. Sometimes turnover actually increases before it decreases. Why? Because the kinds of people who don’t fit with the culture your organization is intentionally cultivating and clarifying leave. And that’s a good thing. They make room for you to bring in more of the right people who want to be part of that kind of culture. Then, your efforts to attract and select top talent start working with your retention strategies to feed a virtuous cycle.

Provide Opportunities for Growth

Top performers want opportunities for learning and development. Does your organization provide those opportunities? Retain top performers by creating individualized growth plans, matching them with coaches or mentors, and supporting their initiative to seek further education (if not financially, then at least in scheduling flexibility). The final segment in this series focuses more specifically on developing the leaders of your organization’s future.

This post is part of a series that started with Select the Right People. Next up: Develop the Leaders of Your Future.


Kim Turnage, Ph.D. works as a Senior Leadership Consultant for Talent Plus and with her colleague Larry Sternberg is author of Managing to Make a Difference. She writes regularly on leadership and everything that goes along with it. Find more of her work here.

 

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