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The Demand for Long-Term Care Services and Staff is Growing. Are You Ready?

January 17, 2018

long-term-care-demand.jpgHealthcare has overtaken both retail and manufacturing as the largest employment sector in the U.S., and much of this growth is focused on the elderly. The two fastest-growing occupations are personal care aides and home health aides, which are projected to account for one in every 10 new jobs in the next decade.

Why this explosion in demand?

In 2010, 40 million Americans were age 65 or older. By 2050 that number is expected to jump to 88 million. The vast majority of these will require some long-term care services either in a nursing home, assisted living facility, adult daycare, or services in their home. This means a growing demand for companies, facilities, and staff to provide these services.

Talent Implications:

Finding people to fill these jobs is going to be a challenge. We already know that keeping them is difficult. The turnover rate in long-term care historically runs much higher than other healthcare sectors – often from 55% to 75% for nurses and aides, and sometimes close to 100% for aides alone.

Why is it hard to attract and retain talent?

  1. The work is hard – physically, and often, emotionally.

  1. The pay scale and benefits are not always competitive, especially when compared to relatively easier jobs.

  1. To perform well, just showing up for work isn’t enough. Families, rightfully, expect that those taking care of their family members be diligent, kind, service-oriented, compassionate, able to identify potential dangerous situations, follow protocols, and even communicate with nurses and other providers. They are often put in the situation of communicating with residents and families in challenging, stressful situations.

Healthcare, generally, is only recently adopting progressive talent strategies. Thirty years ago, manufacturing and retail companies were using sophisticated recruiting, selection, and retention strategies. in the past decade, larger health systems started to realize the value of these approaches, and they still have some catching up to do.

It seems like long-term care and home care are even further behind. Sadly, the industry norm, has often been to treat home care and long-term care staff as a never-ending supply of fast food workers. They use traditional, less-than-effective recruiting strategies, often do not invest in effective HRIS or applicant tracking systems, accept high turnover, and rather than investing in retention, spend their time and resources just replacing staff who leave.

A New Approach

Hospitals eventually understood that talent acquisition and talent development tools and resources improve the bottom line. Now HR has a seat at the leadership table and HR functions are seen as supporting broader organizational goals. Home care and long-term care providers need to start to see human resources as something other than an administrative function. These organizations are moving into a period of significant competition and the strategies of the past won’t suffice.

They need to get better at finding, attracting, and retaining staff who are bright, adaptable, and service-oriented. You can’t build long term success on short term talent strategies.

Some important first steps:

  • A recruiting branding strategy
    Communicate WHY some people like to work in these settings – it can be rewording work. The best companies/facilities have a family environment where staff feel valued by the organization and by the people they care for. Emphasize this, knowing that research always shows people will stay where they are valued over seeking an extra dollar an hour somewhere else. Emphasize this during the entire recruiting/hiring process.

  • Define the behavioral competencies that matter
    It’s impossible to hire to and reinforce the behaviors you value unless you define them and communicate them. Have you taken time to define what you are looking for in staff and what you expect of them? Just saying you want people who are compassionate is not enough. Define for management and for staff the specific types of behaviors you are looking for. It seems like a simple thing but it’s important.

  • Integrate these competencies into an effective selection- system
    It’s not complicated. Build an application process, screening process, interview, and behavioral assessment that allows you to evaluate whether a candidate is likely to be successful. Even if the candidate pool is not deep – you aren’t going to just accept anyone with a pulse, are you? (the right answer is “no,” by the way). Granted, you may have to lower the bar further than you’d like but you need to avoid bad hires and you need to understand the person you ARE hiring so you have reasonable expectations and can manage them for success.

  • Address relatively simple, on-the-job dissatisfiers
    People stay where they are valued by management, by co-workers, and by their immediate supervisor. This has historically been a problem in some home care and long-term care companies. Over and over again, research shows that a few simple steps go a long way:

    • Ensure role clarity and create some sense of control over job performance

    • Make staff feel appreciated with both formal programs and daily, informal gestures and communication.

    • Involve staff in interdisciplinary care meetings. Remember, the reason people value these jobs is because they can make a difference in the lives of those they care for. Make them feel like part of the team!

    • Train supervisors. Just because someone is a good individual contributor does NOT ensure they will be a good supervisor or manager. Supervising others is a different skill set and some basic training of new supervisors can go a long way.

    • Get buy-in from the nursing team for their role in developing and supporting front line staff. They don’t normally come into the role with that expectation but it makes a huge difference.

The numbers are staggering. The current long-term care resources are woefully inadequate to meet the tsunami of demand that is coming. Ten years ago, we were saying that hospitals that were forward-looking, progressive, adaptable, and had solid talent strategies would be positioned to meet the new challenges. We were right. Now we need to apply the same forward thinking to building the workforce to care for our aging population.

To learn more, download our whitepaper below:

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.