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Dan Loon and Ashley Schalk
Dan Loon, vice president of associate advancement and education at Legend Senior Living gives Ashley Schalk, a student in the doctor of nursing practice program at Wichita State University, a tour of a Legend community in east Wichita. Photo courtesy of Wichita State University. Photo credit: Kelcy Yadon

It’s no surprise that the world’s aging population is creating a greater demand for increased staffing in senior living communities. To meet that need, it’s imperative that industry professionals start addressing the issue locally and educate potential employees about the many job and career opportunities that exist across the senior living spectrum. What can senior living communities do to get an edge over other service and health care providers when recruiting among the local labor pool?

Effective recruiting campaigns use community engagement methods such as job fairs and internships to supplement the wider outreach of online job boards and media ads. “I think those wide-casting opportunities bring people to the door, but nothing takes the place of being one-on-one with individuals and being able to have that conversation about what the job is,” said Dan Loon, vice president of associate advancement and education at Legend Senior Living. Recruiters need the opportunity to discuss the realities of each job with potential hires and to assess their interpersonal skills and attitude.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most effective local engagement methods, along with a few out-of-the-box ideas to steer the next generation of workers toward future careers in senior living:

What works?

Reaching the next generation

Ensuring a pool of talented and dedicated workers in the future depends in part on planting the seeds of interest now. This means engaging with youth of all ages, even as young as elementary school, to create goodwill and promote the rewards of working in the senior living industry.

“Recruiting and awareness of the industry can and should begin as early as grade school,” Carle said. Other industries are taking a strong approach to this tactic. The Women in Trucking Association created a trucking badge for the Girl Scouts, which requires the girls to learn about the trucking industry and familiarize themselves with the inside of a semi cab.

Communities can also establish reciprocal volunteering relationships with area schools. Middle and high school students are often required to do community service hours as part of their curriculum. Senior living communities can build relationships with guidance counselors, teachers, and administrators to make sure their communities are on the list of places to volunteer. In return, staff members may volunteer at the school as another way to present kids with a positive view of senior living.

Hosting community tours for local students also offers a firsthand view of what it means to work in senior living—providing the potential for not only a new perspective, but also a possible portal into the relationships and rewards that come with the work. Carle does this with the students in his senior living program, but it can be effective for students of all ages. “One of the things we do the very first week of class in our first senior housing course is take the whole class on a tour of a beautiful Sunrise Senior Living community near campus,” Carle said. “A lot of them have never been in an assisted living community and when they see it, they can’t believe how beautiful it is.”

The bottom line of using community engagement tactics in recruiting is to start with a well-managed community and then to reach out early and often to the most likely demographics. Maintain recruiting efforts on a consistent basis and use a variety of methods to stay front and center in the minds of potential employees. Above all, remain proactive.

“I tell my hiring managers, ‘This is not ‘post and pray’ anymore,’” White said. “There are so many candidates that are passive, but are open to job opportunities. They’re not necessarily searching the job boards or out beating the streets. So, you have to think like a salesperson.”

Getting out there and engaging with candidates face to face is one of the best ways to reach high quality candidates who will provide years of quality service to the communities that attracted them.


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