Create a culture that draws and keeps great employees
Statistics show little relief in sight for workforce shortages in long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) settings, but HR can help organizations create and maintain a culture that attracts the brightest, most dedicated and qualified employees—and keeps them happy and loyal.
Numbers Add Up
Between 2016 and 2026, the LTPAC direct-care workforce is expected to grow from 4.4 million to 5.8 million workers, with home care alone adding more than 1 million additional jobs. However, job market participation among women aged 20 to 64, who currently comprise most of this workforce, will only increase by 2.1 million.
Staffing turnover in this care setting ranges from 45 to 66 percent, according to a report from PHI, a national organization that tracks the direct-care workforce. One in four nursing assistants and one in five home health aides report they are actively seeking another job. Clearly, organizations need to make staff recruitment and retention a priority at all levels.
Creating a Magnet Culture
Job satisfaction and organizational loyalty start with a culture where employees feel engaged, empowered, respected and needed. Healthcare consultant Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD, suggests in a blog several culture-related factors linked to retention, including a thorough onboarding experience, involvement in interdisciplinary care plan meetings, opportunities for professional growth, supervisory training, positive feelings between aides and residents, respect as an important care team member and permanent/consistent assignments. While wages are a primary driver in hiring, employees also look for benefits that reflect their needs and interests, such as flexible schedules and parental leave.
Communication is key to a person-centered and staff-friendly culture. Effective, open and productive communication makes for more engaged and satisfied staff members, suggests Nina M. Flanagan, PhD, GNP, assistant professor of nursing at the Decker School of Nursing in New York. “A successful team starts with mutual respect and clear communication of everyone’s mutual goals….Excluding the direct-care staff—the nurses and CNAs [certified nursing assistants]—from the team building process perpetuates top-down policies. The direct-care staff may interpret this exclusion as a demonstration that the administration does not recognize their value or contributions to the team,” she says in an article in Caring For The Ages.
Flanagan cited a study documenting the importance of communication to staff satisfaction, observing, “Both nurses and CNAs were frustrated when information was not provided within a specific period—for example, if a resident did not urinate for an entire shift but it was not reported.” She added that when communication was effective, both nurses and CNAs described it as “a smooth-running machine” or a “beautiful routine.”
Connect, Then Engage
Staff who feel engaged and valued are more likely to stay and to recommend the organization as a good workplace to others. Make sure to include staff in meetings and training opportunities, seek their input on organizational changes (such as new policies, technology implementations or communication systems), and give them access to continuing education and career advancement opportunities. Project strategist Sheza Gary also suggests, “Company outings are a great investment because they allow your team members to relax and have fun while improving professional relationships.” It’s beneficial to have breaks, she says, especially in a work environment where everyone is “pressured to deliver daily.” She notes that relationship barriers at work can contribute to turnover and that on-the-job friendships can lower stress and encourage job loyalty.
Mentoring is another important way to foster collegiality and reduce turnover. Identify nurses who are willing to mentor others and connect them with CNAs interested in coaching. Consider rewarding them with a monthly pizza lunch or weekly coffee and communication sessions where they meet away from the stress of work. Send mentors articles, guides and other resource materials about mentoring/coaching. Connect mentees with continuing education opportunities, available scholarships and other information of interest to them. Recognize the teams at staff meetings, on social media and in organizational publications.
For more proven strategies on recruitment and retention success, check out the Workforce: A Recruitment and Retention Guide for Employers.