4 Ways Senior Living is Cutting Down on Staff Turnover

High turnover rates have long plagued the senior living industry, with recruiting and training costs taking a toll on the community, and the change in employees affecting resident satisfaction. But the factors leading to turnover can often be influenced by the leader of the organization, experts say.

Research shows that replacing one employee could cost 29-46% of that person’s salary — while training and recruiting costs could rise to $5,000 per employee for senior living providers. 

In addition to costs, turnover affects senior living residents’ relationships with the staff they interact with, sometimes leading to dissatisfaction and even distrust, according to Kristi Terronez, training and development specialist at Merit Senior Living.

“Retaining employees is important in senior living because of the residents,” she told SHN. “We have to be very cautious with that age group because change to them is a huge deal. Certainly there are opportunities for relationships to be built with the residents and so it’s crucial particularly with senior living [to retain staff].” 

But it isn’t hard to influence retention, she says. There are four retention drivers, covered during a Merit Senior Living webinar last week titled “Retaining Talent,” whose presence or absence affects a community and which can be influenced by a leader at the organization. Here are four factors that drive turnover, but could increase retention with the right approach:

1. “Meaningful Work”: Set Goals with Employees and Support Them

Knowing that senior living employees’ work is valued by the community’s leader is a critical component to employee retention. 

“A lot of times what we hear is, ‘I love working with the residents.’ The employees feel their work is meaningful to the residents but not necessarily in the eyes of their leaders,” Terronez told SHN. “So opening up those communication lines and having it really start with the leader letting them know that they’re supporting their goals is key.” 

Leaders should ask themselves: Are employees writing out their goals and being assessed? Do they understand the culture and mission statement of the organization?

Leaders should foster an environment in which employees feel that their own goals are supported and, in turn, that the organization’s mission and goals are supported by the employees. Once an employee believes in these values, Terronez says, they feel that their work is more meaningful. 

2. “Organization”: Survey Employees Regularly

Communication plays a large role in this retention driver: Leaders must help guide employees so they understand exactly where the direction of the organization is going and what they’re getting out of it. 

“Provide your staff members the opportunity … to be proud of where they work and what they do,” Terronez said at the webinar.
Leaders should ask: Are we doing workplace surveys? Do employees understand exactly what it is that we’re providing to them outside of salary?

3. “People”: Build Relationships 

Leaders should help influence positive relationships among staff members.

“For most people, relationships are more important than the work itself. People want to work with co-workers that value [them],” Terronez said.

By helping to build trusting, respectful relationships, leaders can ensure their organization provides a comfortable environment in which to work. 

“Half of our lives are spent at work so it’s particularly important that the relationships we have there are productive and valuable,” she told SHN. 

4. “Development”: Offer Opportunities to Grow

This retention driver is highly recognized by employees when they leave an organization, but is often forgotten about by leaders, Terronez says. 

“People want to know that they can develop new skills and knowledge in their jobs,” she said. 

What types of training are leaders providing employees to extend their knowledge? Are there opportunities for growth and advancement? 

When an employee leaves a company, the reason usually falls into one of these four categories — with the exception of salary — and are factors that can be influenced by leaders to drive up retention. 

Once leaders know what driver needs to be focused on, they should ask probing questions such as “What am I doing that is helpful, and what should I be doing differently or quit doing to help you be more successful?”

In this way, senior living providers can better address staff turnover and help create a more stable environment for employees and residents. 

Written by Emily Study

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