There is only one way to solve the “staffing crisis” we are experiencing in senior living and that is going to get worse in the coming years.

By Denise Boudreau-Scott

I am convinced that there is only one way to solve the “staffing crisis” we are experiencing in senior living and that is going to get worse in the coming years. Recruit people from outside our field!

If we keep stealing from the place across the street or the organization in the town next to us, how will WE ever survive? Yes, I said WE. Because solving the senior living staffing crisis is a WE issue not a ME issue.  

It’s going to take us working in collaboration with each other, not competition, to attract more of the right people to our field. We can’t go it alone.

How do we do this? We create great cultures to work in. We share how rewarding, fulfilling and gratifying working in this field is with anyone who will listen. We create easy to follow paths for people to enter our field.

  1. Create great cultures.  This is what I help organizations do, so I could obviously write a book longer than War and Peace on this topic. (And watch out . . . someday I just might!) For the purposes of a blog, I will keep it short and simply challenge you: chances are you could be doing more around this topic. A recent HBR article shared that 70% of leaders think there are inspiring, while a measly 18% of staff feel the same about their leaders.

    That’s a HUGE gap! If you think your culture is great, yet your organization has turnover challenges (no the 42% average in our field isn’t good enough!), or your organization doesn’t have lots of employee referrals, or your absenteeism rate isn’t where you want it to be, or new employees are leaving quickly after hire, you probably have some work to do! (Check out our blog for lots of great tips to help!)

  1. Share with those who will listen.  There are lots of people who would be perfect working in our field, in all different types of positions, but they don’t know about it! On a trip to Wisconsin last week, the shuttle driver from the hotel waited five hours for my repeatedly delayed plane to arrive. FIVE HOURS! Despite telling him I’d take an Uber, he waited and made me feel like his only job that day was to take care of me. 

    He had studied hospitality, worked for Disney for years, and after a major medical issue, returned to his home roots in Wisconsin. Turns out his mother worked in a nursing home and he had fond memories as a kid of residents that he considered family members. The perfect formula for an amazing Executive Director! 

    I asked, “Why wouldn’t you work in senior living?” The response? “I don’t have a healthcare background and know nothing about the medical field.” He then shared that his wife had considered it, but she also was scared by the fact that she “didn’t know how to work with the elderly.” Friends, we have work to do if there are people that still think you need a clinical degree to work in our field!

  1. Develop Easy Paths.  I have the great fortune of working with many students and people interested in our field. (Mostly because I insist on talking to anyone and everyone about it!) One of the most frequent complaints that I hear, and that I experienced myself many moons ago, is there is no easy path to enter the leadership side of the field. If I’m not a nurse, a social worker, an accountant, or any other specific trade, what is the right position for me and how do I get into the aging services field?

Some organizations provide Executive Director or Administrator training programs, but how do people who may not be specifically looking in our field uncover these as a career option? Even those with a desire to work in our field have a tough time finding them! For those already in the field, a great path might mean that a team member has to spend time with another organization to get a well-rounded experience. It might mean that the next level promotion that you don’t have in your organization is created or you help the person find another great organization in which they can move up the ladder.

Solving the staffing crisis is a challenge for all of us working in senior living and it’s also OUR responsibility.

Would love to hear what you and your organization are you doing to help!