Looking beyond skill sets and resumes…

By Pam McDonald

According to a study by a global leadership training and research company, 46% of newly hired employees will fail within 18 months on the job. Only 19% will achieve unequivocal success. The study found that of the new hires that failed only 11% did so because of a lack of the necessary technical skills. The rest of the departures were due to issues including lack of motivation and temperament.

Many of these causes are what Marti Bowman, Vice President for Marketing of OnShift, a leader in senior living human capital management software and a Senior Housing Forum partner, refers to as attitudinal reasons.

She points out that senior care communities continue to struggle with high employee turnover. While the American Health Care Association (AHCA) pegs industry average caregiver turnover at 44%, Marti notes that she has had discussions with organizations that have staggering turnover rates of 80% – or more!  


The attitude of caregivers, she notes, is especially critical. “To a large degree, attitude will determine, not only how well the employee will fit within the organization, but also how effective they will be at providing their patients or residents with quality care and service.

“I have had many conversations with senior care leaders about employee attitude. Many have said that they hire for attitude – if the caregiver has the right attitude and the right heart, they can teach and train everything else.” The key? Looking beyond skill sets and resumes.

3 Tips

Marti offers these three quick tips to use or look for during the hiring process:

  • Smile:  How often does the candidate smile during interviews and their visit to the community? A forced smile wears off quickly, but a genuine smile and some laughter are rather telling.   
  • Reaction:  A reaction in a prickly situation can reveal the person’s real attitude. Marti references one company that puts caregiver candidates through a mildly stressful situation to see how they react. For instance, they will take the candidate to lunch and have the server spill a little water on them to observe how the prospective employee handles the situation.

  • Observe:  Marti points out that one of the best ways to find the right attitude for your organization is to observe how the candidate behaves when they think no one is watching. Try leaving them alone for a bit. Did they interact with anyone? Did they say hello to those who passed by?

Many senior care providers have peer employees involved during the interviewing process. She adds, “This is a great way to see how a candidate’s attitude plays out in action, when the boss is not around.” And, getting a peer’s perspective on a candidate can help with the overall hiring decision. 

There are many ways to incorporate identifying a positive attitude into the hiring process. The benefits can be far-reaching – leading to happy and engaged employees who stay. Improving employee retention remains one of the most critical priorities in senior living. 

In addition to hiring for attitude, there are a range of strategies including employee engagement practices that can help providers get there. Learn more in this white paper: 5-Step Action Plan to Improve Employee Engagement.