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Staff Turnover in Senior Living

Posted by Dude Solutions Canada, Inc. | Monday, August 17, 2015

Staff Turnover in Senior Living Maintaining a consistently high level of resident satisfaction is a tricky goal that depends on many factors all working together in tandem to produce the best results. One of the most important single elements in this equation is the role that your staff plays in keeping your seniors happy, healthy and comfortable.

Of course, it can be difficult to achieve your goals of resident satisfaction if your staff keeps turning over. Unfortunately, assisted living facilities can often display some of the highest turnover rates compared to other jobs within the industry. 

What's causing the mass exodus, and what can you do to help keep your staff engaged, present and satisfied so they can do the same for your residents?

The turnover problem

Turnover in the assisted living industry has always been a challenge but with the growing baby boomer population, the problem is rapidly becoming even more acute. As more baby boomers - currently the largest quantitative demographic in the U.S. - reach retirement age and enter assisted living facilities, the need for qualified nursing and support staff will only rise. In fact, a report from the Institute for Aging Success indicated that the need for skilled nursing aides and similar positions will grow by 49 percent between 2006 and 2016.

Unfortunately, while the need in this sector is great, there may be an even greater problem retaining employees. According to McKnights, the average turnover rate for the industry is 42 percent. This figure is a mean, however - the source indicated that assisted living turnover rates can bounce around from anywhere between 21 percent to 135 percent depending on a variety of factors.

What's the issue?

It's clear that assisted living personnel seem to be plagued by higher than average turnover rates. What may not be as clear is the reason behind this. Many experts believe that it has to do with the number of relatively low-paying jobs within the field. Unlike other health care careers, nursing aides and similar positions don't necessarily require additional schooling that would be necessary for nurses or doctors, and as such, employees in these roles tend to make less money than their counterparts in other areas.

According to Provider magazine, the wage issue is being addressed slowly, with various professions within the skilled nursing community seeing a hike in average wage over the past few years. Despite these modest raises however, many facilities are reporting difficulty filling front-line positions - or keeping them filled. Provider noted that the nationwide average for vacancies in patient-facing positions is 10 percent.

Addressing the problems

There are many things administrators can do to mitigate the high turnover that seems endemic to the industry. One of the most significant gestures is, as you would imagine, offering more competitive wages and benefits packages. While this may not always be an option, especially in smaller facilities, it can have a major impact, with McKnights indicating that some professionals in these fields have been known to change jobs over a pay increase as small as 15 cents per hour. 

But while offering more money and better benefits may be a simple way to retain staff, it's not always the most economically viable solution. This is why it's also important to focus on hiring for fit rather than simple availability. High turnover rates combined with rising cost-to-replace vacated positions makes constantly hiring new candidates an expensive proposition. Instead of this type of revolving-door policy, focus on choosing candidates who seem well-suited to the position based not just on credentials, but on personality and values as well.