Sunrise Slashes Turnover Using Predictive Analytics in Hiring

Sunrise Senior Living has been testing predictive analytics to make smarter hiring decisions, greatly improving retention among participating new workers. The McLean, Virginia-based operator now plans to roll out the system on a larger scale next year.

Sunrise is the fourth-largest senior housing provider in the nation, with 27,125 units, according to a recent ranking from the American Seniors Housing Association. The industry giant has been working with an outside firm, Arena,* to make its hiring process more data-driven.

“Sunrise has just dipped its toes into the waters of using predictive analytics in hiring, [and] we have found tremendous success in the markets that we’re testing it out in,” said Julie Clark, Sunrise’s vice president for people strategy, field and HR operations. She spoke Wednesday at the SHINE 2017 Senior Care Human Resources Executive Summit in Chicago.

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Hires that went through the new system are turning over at rates far lower—by double-digits—than new workers who did not go through the process or who were hired even though the analytics did not deem them a good fit, Clark said.

Results like these are good news for the senior housing industry, which is facing tremendous workforce challenges, including a looming caregiver shortage and high turnover. Average turnover among all employees in assisted living was nearly 35% in 2016, according to a report from Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service.

Power through data

At Sunrise locations using the data analytics system, job candidates are asked a series of questions that do not have a right or wrong answer. The Arena algorithm collects and analyzes data such as how long it takes applicants to answer questions, or how many keystrokes they used. The basic idea is that someone who deliberates a long time on certain questions would not be good in a job requiring rapid-fire decisions, for example.

After crunching all this data, the system offers a prediction about whether the applicant is likely to succeed in a particular job, Clark explained. That prediction is specific to each community, taking into account the unique culture and characteristics of each location.

Furthermore, the algorithm “learns” as it is fed increasing amounts of data, so the predictions are intended to get more accurate over time.

There is some skepticism to overcome as hiring practices move in this direction, Clark acknowledged. She has heard it described as “spooky” that an algorithm is working behind the scenes, she said.

However, the writing is on the wall for the future.

“We’re only going to have more and more data, so we may as well harness it to make better hiring decisions,” Clark said.

HR is not the only arena where Sunrise has achieved business improvements by trying out a new technology. The company increased leads and move-ins by introducing a “Care Questionnaire” on its website in 2014. This is a short survey that website visitors fill out to help determine their housing and care needs, which provides useful information for consumers and for Sunrise’s sales representatives.

*Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story identified OutMatch as the third-party analytics provider. Sunrise in fact works with Arena on this initiative. SHN regrets the error.

Written by Tim Mullaney

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