Senior Living

Four Tactics for Securing a Quality Workforce in Senior Living

By Kevin Svagdis, HHS President of Senior Living

Building a career in the senior living industry is one of the best kept secrets for a robust and rewarding professional life. However, the lack of exposure and the negative image people have associated with the industry causes major obstacles when seeking and retaining talent, especially from new graduates and candidates from other industries. The bottom line is, the senior living industry is not the first field people think of when planning out their future career paths. It’s not until an individual arrives on the job that they truly understand and fall in love with what senior living communities really exemplify. Until this is actualized, senior living communities will continue to find themselves in a bind in terms of attracting and retaining high quality candidates into their workforce. This challenge can be addressed with a long-term, strategic approach built on four main tactics throughout the employment cycle.

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Hire for the Culture of the Community

Hiring individuals whose values match the culture of the community is critical to developing a quality workforce. During the early interview phases, it’s vital to encourage candidates to discuss their ideal work culture and then to prompt questions relating to the organization’s values. To improve certainty in an individual's values, the hiring team should conduct peer interviews to help gain a diverse perspective and a 360-degree view of the candidate. Once this phase is complete, the hiring team should encourage the applicant to shadow a veteran employee. Shadowing provides first-hand experience and further develops the individual’s understanding of the work environment and the responsibilities of the position.

Build a Working Relationship from Day One

One of the strongest ways to build a relationship with new team members is for their direct supervisor to be with them from day one. Welcoming an individual to the team means more than just greeting them. By spending the first day with their supervisor, team members will feel like they are a priority from the start and will have an opportunity to create a bond which will set the tone for the rest of their career at the organization. During the onboarding process, it is advisable to continue providing insight into the values of the community, while also introducing the new team member to the role, and explaining short-term expectations moving forward. This builds a lasting impression and helps solidify a deeper connection to the organization.  

Conduct Conversations for Growth

For continued growth, it is often effective to utilize “stay conversations.” Stay conversations are opportunities for employees to discuss their goals for the future and the struggles they face. These conversations are not part of the evaluation process; instead they are a way to focus on the individuals themselves and to learn about their experiences. The conversations should be held several times: on the first day of employment, on the 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day marks, and then every six months thereafter. The importance of these conversations is to be proactive in catching problems before they become larger issues, to develop a team member’s skills, and to emphasize their value to the community.

Develop Curriculum and Career Plans

Laying out a career path and curriculum plan for people to succeed is crucial to retaining quality employees. It directs team members toward the next roles in their careers and provides an educational structure that helps them achieve growth. If the person is willing to take the necessary steps to mature and grow, it shows their initiative and leadership capabilities. A strong career path and detailed curriculum plan will retain a solid workforce.

Attracting and securing a quality workforce is an ever-present concern for the senior living industry—one that won’t go away anytime soon.The ideas described above are part of a strategic approach to attracting and retaining the best talent in the field. With an ongoing, strategic process that utilizes these four tactics, communities can address recruitment and retention issues head-on and help people from outside the field truly understand the purpose driven, dynamic environment that senior living communities provide.

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Kevin Svagdis joined HHS with more than 30 years of experience in food and environmental services, with the past 14 years focused specifically in the senior living industry. As president of senior living, Svagdis works closely with clients to address their critical business issues while creating a first-rate lifestyle experience for residents. He has a focus for people development and a passion for attracting and retaining the best people in the industry.