Retention is key to workforce efficiency, and as studies by Applied Insights and others have shown, engagement is key to retention.
Interestingly, some providers are reporting that engagement and retention have gone up during the COVID-19 crisis. It’s not the crisis, however; it’s the sense of pulling together many feel. Employees know they’re really needed, and their jobs have great meaning.
To keep the productive loop of engagement and retention going takes effort, but it gives great returns. Here, experts offer ideas that can help.
Communicate. “For staff to feel safe, they need to feel informed,” says Mark Woodka, OnShift CEO. Early in the pandemic, OnShift saw a 27.5 percent increase in employee messages sent and a 300 percent increase in the number of surveys sent. Employers were using the OnShift tools to keep employees informed and communicating often as the situation changed rapidly.
“This ability to communicate in real-time has also helped corporate leadership stay connected to their communities,” Woodka says, “by providing vital real-time updates on important safety changes and policy updates, as well as much-deserved appreciation for the amazing work their employees are doing day in and day out.”
The increase in surveys allows employees to communicate back, sharing their concerns and successes through pulse polls and questions to employers.
Validate. This is a tough time; pretending it’s not only makes it tougher. “Give employees permission to grieve and vent through appropriate channels,” says Tommy Comer, chief human resource officer at Commonwealth Senior Living. “This could be in an open forum or behind closed doors.
“We are all grieving in different ways through the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider the whole person and recognize each person is impacted differently.”
Providers are adding more resources and opportunities for employee well-being. But almost every program and method start with this validation step: Listening without denying or diminishing the importance of what the other person is expressing.
Empower. “Empowering staff can have meaningful results in resident satisfaction and employee culture,” says Darren Tristano, CEO at FoodserviceResults. This means not only empowering to correct something that’s gone wrong, but giving the tools needed to take action to make things go right, such as downloading and listening to a resident’s favorite music or helping them get supplies to pursue a favorite hobby.
Personalize. “If there’s a drain on efficiency when it comes to training, it’s not properly evaluating the current knowledge and skills of the employee before sending them to training,” says Patty Evans, Yardi director of corporate training and the company’s new Aspire training system.
“We sometimes don’t use proper assessment tools to evaluate what that individual needs,” Evans says. “We may align everyone with the same training because it seems quick and easy to do, but that can send a message that we don’t really know them or what they need.”
Pre-training assessment and getting to know special skills can save hours of time and engage an employee faster, because they’re able to put their strongest skills to work right away and take only training they need.
Reimagine. Employers may be expanding views on typical shifts, hours, and leave policies out of necessity in these times, but such flexibility is likely to become ever more common.
“Providers are thinking beyond traditional 8-hour shifts and moving to flexible shift times of 2, 4, or even 12 hours to accommodate schedules,” OnShift CEO Woodka says.
“This empathetic nature and flexible approach are obviously vital during a crisis, but it’s also something we need to be serious about expanding as our new normal takes shape.
Flexible scheduling has been an expectation of the workforce for years. And as the industry looks to recruit from the newly created talent pool of displaced workers, we must be ready to accommodate this need.”
Q. What are some good resources on mental well-being?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services administration, samhsa.gov, offers many guides and options.
Brainhealthctr.com, the website for Paul David Nussbaum, Ph.D., ABPP, has multiple resources that can help staff cope with COVID-19 and beyond.
The University of Southern California’s School of Social Work has advice on how people in caregiving can manage their mental health: msw.usc.edu/mswusc-blog/building-mental-resilience-among-helping-professionals/
Generations United has a page with resources for multigenerational families, such as how to talk to children and managing stress: gu.org/resources/covid-19-fact-sheet-for-grandfamilies-and-multigenerational-families/.
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