“Staffing agencies suck.”
That’s a marketing tagline for staffing solution KARE, and it’s as bold as they come. But they did not write it. Their senior living clients did.
“It’s really something we started to hear when we started the company, and we would reach out to communities and try to explain what we were doing,” says COO and co-founder Bridget Kaselak. “Operators would say, ‘We don’t work with staffing agencies,’ or, ‘We hate staffing agencies. They suck.’ We had to stop and explain to them why we’re different.”
What Kaselak explained was not simply what made KARE different, but what makes operators react negatively to staffing agencies in the first place. Here are three reasons that Kaselak hears from operators as to why staffing agencies suck — and why moving away from them is the first step toward a long-term solution to the staffing crisis.
Staffing agencies set their own payment rates
When Kaselak and Charles Turner co-founded KARE in 2019, they did so because they viewed the senior living industry as having a major staffing problem that was only getting worse. Third-party staffing vendors were delivering staff into senior care in a way that was not designed for the benefit of the operators, nor for the staff members.
And, hence, it was not designed for the benefit of the residents either.
“The operator should decide how much they want to pay somebody who’s working in their building. Instead, staffing agencies set rates,” she says. “And they have the opportunity to take advantage of industry needs and set those rates extremely high.”
KARE’s counter is a platform in which operators set rates that work for their budget.
Staffing agencies become a closed employment loop
A staffing agency’s control continues not just in pay rates but in personnel. KARE helps operators see in advance who they are bringing in.
“Agencies send you somebody, and the communities have no idea who’s coming into the building,” she says. “It is just that the model is not built for the benefit of either the owner-operator or the frontline worker themselves. It is purely a staffing model or staffing agency benefit model.”
As a result, staffing agencies also become something of a closed loop for operators who might be interested in bringing in those temporary workers on a full-time basis, but face a high barrier to do so due to contract buyouts or placement fees.
“That’s just another example of how it’s not really a great benefit for the operator or perhaps the frontline worker that’s looking for a full-time position and looking to get out of that agency relationship,” Kaselak says. “And there really isn’t any long-term goal that we see from agencies to fix the problem of the staffing shortage or the staffing and labor cost for operators. Their solution is intended to be a long-term fix, and that’s just not feasible.”
All of these restrictions impact an operator’s bottom line
KARE and Kaselak view staffing agency contracts as unnecessarily restrictive for operators, which makes them problematic for the caregivers.
“There’s a cost associated with a contract and that impacts the bottom line,” she says. “Even if you’re not using your agency, at certain times, you’re still having to pay for it. You’re paying either potentially a monthly agreement fee or a fee for not using it according to what your contract dictates you must do.”
Kaselak notes the inherent catch-22 at play with staffing agencies. Operators typically need additional staffing at times when occupancy is higher, and less when it’s lower. When you need less help, your occupancy is down, and you have less money coming in.
“But the agency is charging you anyway even when you’re not using it,” she says. “If you don’t have the staff you need, you can’t take in residents, but then you’re paying absorbance fees with agencies just to get more residents into the building. You have to get staff so you can get residents. You end up not balancing out the way that you should be. That’s something that greatly impacts the bottom line.”
How operators can gain advantages of scale and align better with their full-time staff
While temporary help can be costly, doing without it is rarely a viable option. Kaselak wants operators to see that they can use third-party staffing as an extension of their recruiting efforts without incurring additional costs by embracing models such as KARE’s. There are staffing advantages to be gained, and they start by listening to caregivers.
“We hear from so many frontline workers,” she says. “Most of the heroes on our platform actually do have full-time jobs in other communities. KARE is intended to be a second source of income in a way to keep people working in the industry and not having to get part-time positions outside of the space.”
To that end, KARE conducts vibrant surveys with frontline workers to see what they want. What they want, Kaselak says, is more help.
“They need more people on the floor with them, they are burned out, they’re overworked, they want to be home spending time with their family,” she says. “Because of the poor taste that operators have with staffing agencies, they don’t use them, and then they’re burning out their own team and creating a negative culture with their own team.”
With KARE, operators can get the help they need while giving their full-time staff the help they need. And they do that while participating in an Uber-like star rating system that helps bring the best workers back again and again.
“I mentioned earlier that agencies don’t necessarily have a long-term solution in mind,” Kaselak says. “That is really something KARE is driving towards. Our goal is to really deepen that labor pool in our space, make it a sexier place to work. If we can attract more workers, provide flexibility and create transparency between the workforce, their quality of work and market-based pay rates, we can solve the labor crisis in a way that makes sense for operators and is beneficial for our front-line workers.”
This article is sponsored by KARE. To learn more about what KARE can do for your communities, visit doyoukare.com.