Senior living operators have significantly altered their operations in 2022 to deal with the ongoing staffing shortage. One position undergoing rapid evolution is that of the senior living recruiter.
In the not-too-distant past, recruiters were often based in the communities or regions for which they were hiring workers. But their job became much harder with the arrival of the pandemic and all of its pressures on the industry’s workforce, necessitating a new approach for the role.
Now, several national senior living companies are creating the senior living recruiting role of the future. They include Juniper Communities, which enlisted help from its sales staff in recruiting new workers; Pathway to Living, which pivoted to using third-party recruiting for all of its communities; and Lloyd Jones, which is assembling a team of operational “Blue Angels” to handle community transitions and eventually hiring.
Bringing in outside help
One of the biggest pressures on senior living operating budgets in 2022 has been the use of agency staff. Some operators, like Aegis Living, have responded to those pressures by piloting their own senior living staffing agencies.
Others, like Chicago-based Pathway to Living, are moving away from in-house recruiting. About five months ago, the company decided to outsource its recruiting processes to Cielo Talent, a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firm based in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Under the arrangement, Cielo dedicates 10 to 15 recruiters at a time to work exclusively on staffing at Pathway’s 48 communities. In the short term, the decision is meant to help reduce the operator’s use of on agency labor, which is, often twice as expensive as what the company pays for salaried employees, according to Justin Dickinson, executive vice president of Pathway to Living.
“What we’re trying to address here is agency reduction,” Dickinson told SHN.
Miami-based Lloyd Jones is pivoting from focusing on multifamily communities to senior living, and as the company has sought senior living acquisition targets, Petty noticed that agency labor was built into the operating budgets in all of the more than 100 opportunities he reviewed as a temporary line item. That has since changed.
“Agency is now going above the line because people believe it won’t go away,” he told SHN.
Some senior living operators are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on agency staffing, amounting to a budgetary “blind spot,” according to Petty.
As it grows its senior living holdings, Lloyd Jones is rolling out so-called “Blue Angel” teams to transition the communities it acquires. Once a community has been fully transitioned into the Lloyd Jones portfolio, the real company plans to create a position aimed specifically at recruitment and retention.
Reporting to the community’s executive director, the in-house recruitment director will have two essential functions: find the right people and keep them there.
“It’s not an HR person,” Petty told SHN.
Lloyd Jones’ recruiters will venture into the surrounding area and find the best people, “compelling them to come in,” he said.
To keep retention high, recruiters will earn quarterly bonuses for worker longevity as well as for workers hired in addition to a salary.
“Instead of paying $200,000 per month for an agency, you can pay someone a very good salary over the year,” said Petty.
At the corporate level, Lloyd Jones will have a senior-level position dedicated to talent management and acquisition.
By using third-party recruiters and coupling their talents with backend HR functions, Dickinson said the company can effectively move away from agency staff usage. With real-time data on open positions and agency staffing within the company, recruiters can modify their approach to reach the most candidates.
“It’s all hands on deck to come up with a solution that works,” said Dickinson
Recruiting, sales synergy
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a sales process sea change among many senior living operators. But some companies, such as TK-based Juniper Communities, have redefined sales to include recruiting functions.
For Juniper, the best way to sell the idea of working at one of its 28 communities, is to actually sell it to prospective employees.
When filling open positions – just like filling open units – speed to lead matters, according to Juniper CEO Lynne Katzmann. But with all of the other pressures of the pandemic at hand, Katzmann said communities sometimes put recruiting at the end of their to-do list.
At the same time, early on in the pandemic, restrictions regarding resident move-ins meant that the company’s sales teams had more time to take on new tasks. So, Juniper brought in its own Blue Angels to help with recruiting: non-front-line workers from the company’s accounting and sales teams.
“We’ve essentially taken some of the administrative burden off of the communities to enable them to focus on [resident] needs,” Katzmann told SHN.
The argument for enlisting sales staff in recruiting is fairly straightforward. They already understand the company’s story and culture – and the importance of being fast and following up with applicants.
Juniper’s recruiters are now responsible for outreach and screening new employees, which makes not only recruiting more efficient but also operations. At the same time, full-time employees are less costly and often more effective than agency staffers.