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Senior Living Leadership, Workforce Surveyed Share Thoughts on What Works for Retention


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By Mark Woodka, CEO, OnShift

portrait of white man, mark woodka, chief executive officer of onshift
Mark Woodka

Alignment between senior living leadership and workforce is essential to building a positive work culture. With that in mind, OnShift surveyed thousands of post-acute care and senior living leaders and employees to understand their workforce challenges, priorities, and perspectives.

And, although the industry is facing major staffing challenges, there is strong agreement from organizational leadership and employees on initiatives that will help build a stronger and more stable workforce.

Top workforce challenges

The long-term care and senior living industry has lost over 12% of its workforce in just the past two years, placing the industry squarely in the midst of a staffing crisis. This is clearly recognized by post-acute care and senior living leaders who cite staffing shortages (79%) as the top workforce challenge they face, followed by finding and hiring job candidates (62%), and employee turnover (54%), all of which are contributing factors to the current staffing crisis.

These workforce challenges have led most providers to place a high level of priority on employee engagement and retention (83%) going into 2022. To be most effective in their efforts, leaders believe increases in pay/wages (82%), increases in staffing levels (65%), improved communication with staff members (51%), and more frequent recognition for work contributions (48%) would most significantly improve employee retention at their organization.

These sentiments were directly in line with the research findings from frontline employees. Most employees also focused on better pay, better staffing levels, increased communication, and appreciation from management, when responding to what would make their job more satisfying.

This consensus from both leaders and employees provides a clear foundation needed for senior living organizations to improve employee retention.

Competition impacts wages

One contributing factor to the workforce losses in the industry is a significant shift in competition for talent. In 2020, 89% of respondents cited other senior care organizations as their top competitor for employees. This year, the landscape has changed dramatically. Hospitals and health systems were cited as the top competitor. In addition, competition for talent outside the industry from segments such as hotels, restaurants, retail, and gig economy services rose 81% from the previous year.

This astounding growth for competition of talent from non-healthcare segments should be considered when evaluating employee wage rates and benefits.

Staffing shortage solutions

Staffing shortages are leading to employee burnout. In fact, nearly half of frontline employees cite burnout and stress as their biggest personal challenge. This is often caused by employees being routinely asked to pick up extra shifts. To help alleviate employee burnout and ensure proper staffing levels, many OnShift customers are creating internal staffing pools to help fill shifts. These internal staffing pools are comprised of employees shared by neighboring communities within their organization. As shifts become available, staffing pool members are alerted and can easily pick up shifts when needed. This has proven to be an effective way to improve staffing levels and has also helped many providers reduce their reliance on expensive agency labor.


Listen and recognize

OnShift’s research shows that today’s workforce wants a voice to influence change, open lines of communication with managers, and gain recognition for hard work. If your only channels for employee feedback are an annual survey or occasional outreach, it will be difficult to improve retention. Providers attuned to this are supporting their engagement efforts by utilizing technology like OnShift to frequently collect staff feedback with pulse surveys and provide a systematic rewards program that consistently recognizes employee contributions.

By turning employee insights into action, providers create a culture where people want to work. Without action, then you might not be honest with yourself on how much of a priority employee retention is to your organization.

For more senior living workforce insights, download OnShift’s latest Workforce 360 report at