Why Turnover Has Become Unacceptable in Long-Term Care

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With reimbursements being slashed and regulations increasing, employers in long-term care (LTC) are feeling the pressure to not only do more with less but find creative ways to do it, says Neil Gulsvig, CEO at Wausau, WI-based senior living solutions provider Align LLC.

When faced with this challenge, one of the key differentiators between those that are thriving and those just surviving, is the ability to create an engaged workforce. But creating an engaged workforce, has been a unique challenge for the LTC community. According to an industry insider, it may come down to understanding and accepting the realities of how LTC has created its own predicament.

“I don’t think as an industry, we have done a good job in really creating an engaging environment,” Janice Gulsvig, Align’s COO, says. “In long-term care, churn became very much the norm.,”

Janice, a 35+ year veteran in LTC, has held positions ranging the gamut from front line staff to administrative executive. High employee turnover, according to Janice, has become “sort of an accepted business reality.” Various staffing pressures in the LTC industry — an aging workforce, a misunderstanding of LTC among millennials, wages that are considered undesirable — have made turnover an issue that can no longer be brushed off.

“We no longer have the luxury to accept churn as a business reality, because eventually you won’t have anyone left. And that eventuality is closer than you think,” Janice says.

LTC organizations have traditionally focused on employee recruitment, without focusing enough on employee retention, she explains.

“Organizations had a recruitment strategy to combat turnover, rather than retention strategies to prevent turnover,” Janice says.

Now, more and more, LTC organizations are beginning to look at their culture, and they’re considering how establishing a culture can engage the type of employees they want to retain.

“Every organization has a culture,” Janice says. “The leadership in any organization can shape the culture to what they want it to be. And let’s also be strong enough to recognize that culture change is hard and it starts at the top.”

Tried and True Ways to Shape Culture
When it comes to shaping a culture, there are a few tried and true things LTC providers can do.

First, LTC providers should conduct semi-annual assessments of what’s going on in their organization to gauge the impact of their culture on employee engagement, Neil says. An organization will know it has engaged employees when it sees that its turnover and absenteeism are going down, and customer satisfaction is going up.

Align and PointClickCare recently announced a partnership to help LTC organizations manage employee engagement, achieve a stronger bottom line and improve resident outcomes — and technology is a key component.

With the right technology, organizations can help streamline the process of successfully engaging LTC employees, reaping a host of benefits along the way. A lot of LTC facilities, for instance, have traditionally used paper to do their employee satisfaction surveys. But this is often both inefficient and impractical, Neil explains.

“We use an integrated software platform to drive our surveys,” he says. “People can take them on their smartphones, on their iPad. You can get to more people and get response back faster. So there is no hurry up and wait happening, you’re able to do a pulse check and know quickly how you’re doing.”

Partnerships like the one between PointClickCare and Align “make it possible for LTC providers to take a deliberate, intentional and systematic approach to employee engagement,” Janice says. “Without technology, a model like ours would become extremely difficult to manage, monitor and deliver to the market in a cost-effective way.”

Having the right technology in place can make all the difference in building and maintaining a company’s culture.

“Through technology, you can have vertical transparency with that organization,” Janice says. “You can’t have that if you’re working with paper. If an organization really wants to keep an eye on what’s happening in its facilities, technology can really enable that.”

But does employee engagement really lead to higher customer satisfaction?

“Without question, yes!” Nancy Anderson, Align’s senior vice president of engagement solutions, says. “How can you have a happy patient or a resident if they’re not being cared for by somebody who isn’t engaged?”

To learn more about the power of engaged employees, check out Competition Is Fierce: Embracing Technology for Successful Recruitment and Retention.

Janice and Neil Gulsvig presented to senior care industry professionals at this year’s PointClickCare SUMMIT, providing insights on the need for engaged employees and how employers can create an environment that fosters engagement. Check out some of our SUMMIT 2016 highlights here.

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