Solutions for Staffing Shortages

With unemployment levels at historic lows, few industries have been able to avoid the challenges associated with finding the talent they need to fill their open positions. One industry that has seen a significant impact is the senior housing and care sector. In fact, 18 percent of the senior-care CFOs surveyed for one recent Ziegler study “indicated that they have had to limit admissions in the past year because of staffing shortages.”

These shortages result in part from wage competition for positions at all levels (whether skilled or nonskilled). But increasing wages alone won’t fix the staffing problems faced by the senior housing and care industry (or any other industry, for that matter). Sure, if an organization is currently paying below the average in its market, raising wages might help it make some staffing gains. But to address staffing shortages most effectively, companies need to take action on multiple fronts.

Make Better Hires

This phrase has become the mantra of many HR- and management-oriented think pieces these days, but making better hires is usually easier said than done. The hiring process contains so many moving parts that it’s difficult to optimize all of them. But focusing on two main areas can yield the most benefits.

First, employers need to define—clearly and realistically—their expectations for each role. Then, they need to do a better job of accurately screening applicants to make sure they consider those candidates with the skills and qualities to meet those expectations. The screening process should include an industry validated pre-employment test and behavioral based interviews to improve hiring manager decision making opportunities, such as Insight’s job fit assessments for front-line staff (to determine if the applicant has the traits critical to success in the role); and LeadershipINSIGHT to select, interview and develop internal and external candidates applying for director and managerial level positions (to determine if the candidate possesses the traits and situational judgment to promote adaptability, the building of trust and accountability, the promotion of resident focused care, the fostering of a team environment and how to maximize performance results).

Build the Right Partnerships

In the Ziegler study, “62% of the senior living organizations indicated that they have had to work with temp agencies to fill direct care staff vacancies.” Partnering with a staffing company can have some effectiveness, but an organization cannot really begin to alleviate its staffing headaches unless the people it brings on board are good fits for their positions. (See “Make Better Hires.”)

And of course, it’s critical to partner with the right staffing companies. An organization should focus on building partnerships with companies that have a track record of sourcing the type of talent it struggles the most to find.

Improve Retention

One participant in the Ziegler survey pointed to the problem of turnover among staff who have been with the company for less than one year. The best way to avoid this constant churn that drains valuable resources is to hire the right people from the start. (Again, see “Make Better Hires.”)

But unless the company culture creates an environment in which employees feel like they’re part of a team, are recognized for their accomplishments, and actually enjoy coming to work, few new hires (or even long-term employees) will stick around for long—no matter how good a fit they seem to be with the organization. And the benefits of building a strong company culture extend far beyond employee retention and can affect the overall bottom line: Great Place to Work research has found that “companies [that] score the highest on creating an equitable, consistently high-trust culture for all employees had 3x higher annual revenue growth than companies at the bottom.”

The best way to describe the current state of the hiring scene is to borrow a phrase from real estate: “It’s a buyer’s market.” Companies are eager to bring more talent on board, but with so many openings and so few qualified potential employees, candidates can be fussy about which positions they choose to “buy” into. Offering certain levels of wages and benefits isn’t enough for organizations to bring all the candidates they need through the door. Instead, companies must learn how to reach beyond that door (and think outside the box) by implementing new staffing strategies.

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