By Steve Moran

Every month NIC publishes their Executive Survey Insights – Market Fundamentals” that looks at the impact of COVID-19 on the following:

  • Occupancy rates 
  • Move-in and move-out rates
  • Development pipelines 
  • Staffing, and supports for frontline community employees and staff

They just released their Wave 35 report covering the period from November 8 to December 5, 2021. Owners and executives of 72 small, medium, and large seniors housing and skilled nursing operators responded.

Here are the key indicators (maybe lowlights, rather than highlights).

Staffing and Optimism

  • 45% of all organizations with more than one property reported staff shortages in ALL of their communities. Up from 30% in mid March 2021.
  • 70% of communities are reporting increased staff turnover. 
  • 77% are using agency staffing.
  • 20% of the organizations reported that the use of agency/temp staff has increased by a whopping 100%.
  • Optimism is down — nearly 90% of organizations report they expect their occupancy to recover in 2022 or beyond, with a full 26% saying it won’t happen until 2023.

Leads and Occupancy

  • 36% of the organizations reported lead values that are at or above pre-pandemic levels.
  • 39%-44% (varied by care segment) reported an acceleration in their pace of move-ins.
  • Fewer organizations with nursing care beds reported a deceleration in the pace of move-ins since summer.
  • 24% of organizations with assisted living units saw a decline in occupancy.
  • 47% of organizations with nursing care beds saw an improvement in occupancy.

Biggest Challenges

NIC asked operators to rank their biggest challenges and this is what it looked like (multiple answers allowed):

  1. Attracting staff (84%) 
  2. Staff turnover (70%)
  3. Low occupancy rates (27%)
  4. Cash balances / liquidity (8%)
  5. Too much competition (5%)

It Does Not Have to be Like This

It is easy to get distracted by the fact that 84% of respondents are having trouble attracting staff and 70% have trouble with staff turnover. But it also means that 16% are not seeing staffing as a major problem and that 30% are not struggling with staff turnover.   

I have no solution for the entire industry staffing problem. But I do have a solution for individual senior living communities, regions, and organizations. Think about it this way: McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell all over the country are closing their dining rooms early, limiting their menus, and struggling to find staff.

Not In-n-Out Burger. They are business as usual. Finding team members may take a little more work but they are fully staffed, open with regular hours, and not downsizing their menu. Plus, there is always a line of people waiting to order food.

I am working on a major keynote where I will be talking about, how to be the In-n-Out Burger of your marketplace. A place where people want to come to work, where people don’t leave “just because”, and where people are lined up to move into your community.

It is doable in today’s marketplace. You can do it. The formula is really simple though it takes commitment to a new way of leading and a willingness to abandon old ways.