Senior living providers, which represent a large and growing segment of the health care industry, face large workforce shortages even as more Americans seek the care our facilities provide. In the face of growing demand, these providers struggle to find workers across their operations, including direct-care workers, nurses, hospitality and culinary workers and managers.
Until recently, owners and operators of senior living communities have largely been on their own when it comes to workforce development strategies. Argentum, the nation’s largest association representing the professionally-managed senior living industry, is working to change that.
This May, our organization launched Senior Living Works, a campaign to support workforce recruitment into the industry. Already, 400 senior living professionals have enrolled as Ambassadors in the program, and they are actively coordinating regional outreach to high schools, technical schools, community colleges and universities.
Argentum is also spearheading a new data collection and analysis effort to benchmark turnover for key occupations and analyze the role that wages, management strategies and factors like geography and company size, play in employee retention.
Although turnover rates generally range from 40 to 70 percent annually in the industry, there are proven solutions that lower those rates. For example, initial data are indicating correlations between employee engagement and decreased turnover. In fact, one company executed a strategy that raised employee engagement by 30 percent over a 2-year period. That coincided with a 30 percent increase in resident satisfaction by customers, and the company expects to see benefits including improved employee retention rates.
Ultimately, Argentum expects its support for career pathways and lifelong learning to make the most powerful difference in closing the workforce gap across the industry – and joining the National Network is a major pillar of that approach.
The organization is documenting successful practices and noting a heightened interest in apprenticeship models. Already, there are more than 3,500 registered apprentices in nursing aides and culinary tracks, with the largest traction so far in the Midwest and Great Lakes areas.
Additionally, Argentum has developed certifications for executive directors and sales managers that are raising the professionalism of management positions and paving the way for long-term career progression. There is great interest among Argentum members in taking these models to scale nationally.
We expect a paradigm shift in how the senior living industry recruits and manages its workforce – toward a pipeline strategy aimed at worker retention and employee career development.
We are very excited to be a part of the National Network – to learn from other organizations that are facing the same sorts of challenges we are. We also look forward to sharing our experiences with other organizations, doing our part to “better connect the worlds of learning and work.”