When Sunrise Senior Living’s management had its first introduction to Baltimore-based data analytics firm Arena about two and a half years ago, they were intrigued and also perhaps a little unnerved by the company’s flagship predicative hiring technology.
“Chris Winkle, our CEO, and I listened in on a call with Mike Rosenbaum, who’s the CEO of Arena, and quite honestly we were frightened by what we heard,” joked Mike Rodis, senior vice president of human resources with Sunrise Senior Living, during a recent webinar hosted by industry association Argentum. “We thought, oh my gosh, if he can tell this about us based on what we said and how we said it … then we’re frightened about what the future might mean for all of us.”
And yet, there was something compelling about the product offering, which uses data to help senior living providers reduce turnover by hiring workers who are more likely to stay with a community long-term. So, Sunrise launched a few technology pilot programs with Arena — and then three more in dissimilar markets across the U.S.
“That was enough to sell the entire organization and our executive team that this is something worth investing money in,” Rodis said.
Fast-forward to 2019, and adopting Arena at 265 U.S. senior living communities appears to be paying off. The McLean, Virginia-based provider has improved its 90-day employee retention rate by 27%, and has grown its one-year retention rate by 14% in communities which utilize Arena during hiring.
Sunrise isn’t the only senior living provider working with Arena. Benchmark Senior Living, which is headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, began working with the predictive hiring technology company in late 2017. And the CEO Don Feltman of Artis Senior Living, based just a few miles away from Sunrise, also has expressed interest in the product.
For a company like Sunrise — the fifth largest senior living provider in the U.S., by unit count — boosting efficiency in hiring is vitally important. Sunrise, which has roughly 32,400 employees, hires about 12,000 workers annually, mostly to fill positions made vacant by turnover. The company processes 350,000 applications each year making those hiring decisions.
To aid that process, Arena pulls data from three places: Sunrise’s applicant tracking system, third-party sources and its own tool that tests applicants’ reactions to a variety of scenarios. Arena then applies its own algorithms to that data in order to advise Sunrise on how well a prospective employee would do in a specific role at specific senior living communities and even on specific shifts.
That’s not to say there aren’t still humans involved in the process, however. Using Arena, hiring managers can view potential job candidates in three color modifiers: green, meaning a candidate likely will help improve retention; yellow, meaning they likely won’t positively or negatively affect retention; and red, meaning a candidate isn’t likely to stick around for long.
“We don’t walk away from reading resumes and the behavioral based interviewing process. Those are very much a part of our recruiting process and very important to us,” Rodis said during the webinar. “It’s just that now we have this addition of predictive analytics, which just gives us a much better read on, specifically, retention, and how long someone is likely to stay at Sunrise.”
Looking ahead, Sunrise is also exploring ways to use Arena to benefit its operations outside of hiring, including in labor sourcing, predicting sales or executive director performance and identifying new professional development opportunities for existing employees.
Overall, Sunrise has made a big push into technology in recent times. The provider recently emerged from a “technology desert,” CEO Winkle said late last year. Those moves have led to advances with companies such as electronic health records system CareConnect and Los Angeles-based Musical Health Technologies, which currently offers its SingFit PRIME product in Sunrise communities across the U.S.
And while artificial intelligence is making a difference in back-office processes such as hiring, it’s also increasingly at the forefront of resident engagement technologies as well. For example, New Mexico-based startup SameDay Security has raised $36 million to develop Addison, an AI-enabled “virtual caregiver.” SameDay products are already in place at senior living communities across the country and the company is making a big push this year to bring Addison to market.