The Employee Attraction/Retention Crisis:
Lessons Learned from Senior Living Successes

“Do people just not want to work?”

It’s a question high on the minds of many business leaders – particularly those in the healthcare, hospitality, and retail sectors, where public-facing jobs are more challenging than ever to fill and keep filled. People need to work. Jobs are available. So, what’s the problem with employee attraction and retention? Is it an employer branding issue? Or something else entirely?

The initial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic drove creative responses to workforce challenges – many of which addressed the untapped potential of virtual media. But, organizations whose business require in-person engagement with customers and co-workers can’t take advantage of Cloud-based capabilities. Combine that with everything from vaccine and mask-resistance to the additional challenges of compensating for an understaffed workforce, and it’s easy to see: These businesses will need to identify and implement new workforce attraction and retention solutions.

The Senior Living Sector Shows How it’s Done.

Fortunately, our research has identified trends led by innovative senior living and senior serving organizations changing how they’ve “always done things” to drive employee retention and attraction. Some of these changes are borderline revolutionary, while others are pretty simple:

  • Raise and equalize wages. Raising minimum wages to $15/hour is a good starting point to demonstrate good faith. And, as workers take on additional responsibilities to compensate for understaffed organizations, they should also earn extra compensation and bonuses for their loyalty.
  • Prioritize and improve benefits. Beyond basic healthcare, senior communities are gaining traction by expanding benefits such as adding vision and dental coverage, matching 401K contributions, and assuming a larger share of benefits expenses. Periodic rewards in the form of gift cards for groceries and other necessities are also highly appreciated by staff members.
  • Support and encourage growth. Communities that make it easy for team members to add new certifications and earn college degrees by providing tuition assistance are seeing improvements in employee retention. Additionally, short-term “microlearning” opportunities significantly improve staff confidence. And, programs geared toward improving relationships between employees, contractors, administrators, residents, and their families also help improve morale.
  • Help overcome biases. Programs and facilitated discussions with both staff and residents designed to acknowledge and address biases about age and race improve attitudes and engagement.
  • Welcome employee talents. While staff members must provide a consistent experience, job enthusiasm rises when management offers opportunities for staff to suggest and implement fresh ideas (e.g., making music videos with residents) or bring artistry to their work (e.g., making desserts that are as beautiful as they are tasty).
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Whatever innovations you offer to your staff members, the keys to enthusiastic acceptance are framing your offerings in the context of their value. Communicate them clearly to build awareness, encourage adoption, and celebrate successes. Full disclosure: We at Relish Marketing can be a big help in this area – from strategic direction to creative ideas and implementation support.

Can it Work In Other Public-Facing Sectors? (Short answer: Yes)

Ultimately, these employee attraction and retention changes all come down to taking meaningful steps that demonstrate genuine understanding and appreciation. These steps all can be adapted and applied to many healthcare, hospitality, and retail organizations. Of course, everyone hopes that we are moving closer and closer to putting the pandemic behind us. However, the issues driving worker dissatisfaction and frustration in public-facing sectors offer an excellent opportunity for leaders to make changes that will improve talent attraction and retention for many years to come.