Outdated Workforce Systems Are Holding Senior Living Back

Senior living providers are encountering serious obstacles in hiring the large number of workers they need, but many also see ways they could improve their systems and processes to achieve better results.

More than 600 senior living professionals responded to a recent survey conducted by OnShift, a company that offers human capital management (HCM) solutions, and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. When asked if improving their HCM strategy is a top priority, 63% of respondents said yes.

Continuing care retirement communities in particular are focused on this issue, with 76% saying HCM is a top focus.


Overall, these were the top three workforce challenges:

  • Finding qualified candidates
  • Retaining employees and keeping them satisfied
  • Scheduling staff to meet needs

It stands to reason that OnShift CEO Mark Woodka believes that providers could address these challenges by adopting the kind of sophisticated technology that his company provides. But he also acknowledges that there are some factors that operators cannot control.

“There is a confluence of workforce issues affecting providers, and I think these challenges are going to get worse before they get better,” he stated in a report on the survey findings.


These issues, such as increased competition from other employers as the economy has rebounded, have been much discussed within the industry.

However, providers themselves identified several practices they could alter to improve their workforce management. For instance, 50% said that an employee leaving triggers the hiring process — and that number jumped to 69% among assisted living providers.

A more proactive approach would benefit operators, Woodka noted, especially given intense hiring needs. On average, respondents said they need to hire seven employees a month per community.

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Most respondents — nearly 60% — also said they have a mix of modern and outdated practices related to recruiting, hiring and scheduling employees. Paper scheduling is one such outdated practice.

Utilizing a system that can make scheduling more predictive and less burdensome can lead to significant bottom-line benefits, given that labor is the No. 1 driver of senior care operating costs.

Yet, respondents indicated that improved scheduling has wide-ranging effects even beyond the expected outcomes of increased staff stability and employee satisfaction, and improved ability to manage labor costs. About 75% said it also improves quality of care and customer satisfaction.

Written by Tim Mullaney

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