10 Hiring & Retention Strategies for Assisted Living Facilities

As the population ages, assisted living facility workers will be in increasingly high demand. However, as anyone in the industry knows, it can be difficult work – and recent trends have added to the challenges. Since understaffing can threaten the quality of care and result in higher costs in the long run, hiring and retaining assisted living workers requires new and proactive strategies.

An Aging Population

The Administration for Community Living says the number of older adults is expected to increase significantly in the years and decades to come. In 2019, there were 54.1 million people aged 65 and older. By 2040, there will be 80.8 million and by 2060, there will be 94.7 million. Furthermore, the number of people aged 85 and older is also increasing rapidly. In 2000, there were only 35 million people in this age group. By 2019, the number had risen to 54.1 million. By 2040, it’s expected to climb to 80.8 million.

The aging population means more people will need assisted living care. It also means the average age of the assisted living resident population may increase.

Evolving Care Needs

Although the population is aging, many seniors want to age in place. According to AARP, 77% of people aged 50 and older want to stay in their homes as they age.

However, this isn’t always possible: many seniors may need to move into a facility at some point. Since some seniors are resisting the move, they may be older and frailer when they finally arrive at your assisted living facility.

As levels of care increase assisted living facility workers are spending more time helping residents manage doctor appointments and health issues and less time helping them socialize. This changes the nature of the job and can result in increased stress.

Staffing Shortages and Turnover

Despite recent raises and signing bonuses, the assisted living sector continues to be plagued with high turnover rates. The Assisted Living Salary & Benefits Report published by the Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service shows that annual turnover for all assisted living employees was 48.51% in 2021.

Staffing shortages have become widespread. According to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, a poll taken in September 2021 found that 48% of assisted living professionals believed the workforce situation had significantly worsened over the last three months, whereas 29% said it become somewhat worse and only 7% said it become much better or somewhat better. The survey also found that 96% of assisted living communities were facing staffing shortages and 100% of assisted living communities had asked current staff to work overtime or pick up extra shifts. Furthermore, it found that 28% were limiting new admissions.

Recruitment and Retention Best Practices

More seniors need care – and higher levels of care – which creates heavier workloads for assisted living staff. Staffing shortages can also increase the workload for the existing staff, resulting in higher levels of stress and potentially lowering the standard of care. To prevent the situation from spiraling out of control, assisted living facilities need to be proactive about recruitment and retention.

  1. Interview your best employees to find out why they chose to work for you and what keeps them motivated. This will help you identify future workers with similar motivations. It will also provide ideas to help you retain the right people.
  2. Review your job listings. Use the information you’ve learned in employee interviews to focus on the job qualities and perks that matter to your best employees. Make sure you’re emphasizing the right perks.
  3. Recruit year-round. Don’t wait until you’re short-staffed to start hiring. Continuously promote positions and keep a database of potential candidates.
  4. Offer benefits that support your workers’ mental health and work-life balance. The assisted living sector can be emotionally draining – your workers need support and time off to recharge.
  5. Increase flexibility. Working parents need jobs with flexible schedules. Look at the shifts you offer and see if there’s an opportunity to design a shift that works better for working parents.
  6. Consider an employee referral program. Happy employees often know other people who would be good candidates. Make it worth their while to refer their friends and loved ones.
  7. Think about your experience requirements. If you require previous experience, you may be excluding potential workers from other industries. Is there a way to provide on-the-job training for certain positions?
  8. Partner with local schools, community colleges, and career placement services. Offer internships and exploration opportunities for those considering a career in your industry.
  9. Communicate the career path. Many workers want advancement opportunities. Consider charting out what a career path looks like at your facility along with the income potential for high performers. Communicate this information regularly with your existing team and with new recruits.
  10. Help your workers avoid injury. The S. Bureau of Labor Statistics warns that health aids and personal care workers may experience back injuries when helping clients move or stand and they may be exposed to violent behavior and disease. Train your workers how to lift properly and how to avoid dangerous situations. This will help you retain a healthy team.

Finding and keeping assisted living workers can help your community run smoothly, but problems are still possible. PCALIC provides insurance for assisted living homes, adult foster homes, and personal care homes. Learn more.