Overcoming the Downstream Effects of High Employee Turnover

Nov 27, 2018

Senior living providers cannot keep up with employee turnover. Experienced HR directors and chief people officers everywhere are enthusiastically endorsing their team when 60% of them stay on board for an entire year. Admittedly, there is a wide spectrum of turnover severity ranging from 10 to 100% (Argentum, 2018).

However, the average senior living community is clocking in at 42% annual turnover. Furthermore, employee attrition is extremely costly. Holleran Consulting outlines that the cost of a senior care employee leaving is 50% of the employee’s salary. This includes costs of time loss, recruiting new employees, screening, and training.

If the average salary of an associate is estimated at $23,649.60 and the average community needs to hire 7 each month, that means turnover alone is costing communities $993,283.20 each year. The effects of high turnover are also apparent downstream where resident satisfaction and occupancy suffers. Is high turnover simply becoming a cost of doing business in senior living?

Average Salary of FT Caregiver [HealthHire]

Cost to Replace FT Caregiver [Holleran Consulting]

FT Caregivers Needed to Replace / yr [Senior Housing News]

Total Cost of Turnover for One Community

High Employee Turnover Does Not Need to Be Inevitable

In a NIC 2018 session, Investing in People, leaders from several top senior living providers debated the correlation between occupancy and turnover. Without surprise, when employees trusted their community, residents and families were more satisfied with the experience and occupancy sustained above 89%.

To illustrate the long-term impact, Argentum, the data-provider and facilitator of the session, calculated that a 10% increase in employee retention could lead to $4.4 million in savings—given an increase in occupancy and reduction in risk.

Frequent employee turnover contradicts what’s generally considered the leading indicator for quality care in senior living: a stable, well trained workforce that feels like the community in which they work is their own business.

In an industry where dollars are scarce and higher pay is not always an achievable solution, it can be difficult to find other ways to combat alarming turnover rates. Besides compensation, employee focused communications and creating a greater sense of culture and belongingness among employees are impactful ways to overcome labor challenges.

Sustaining Your Employees: Ideas From Top Providers

In the same NIC session on staff turnover challenges, executives from The Springs Living, Belmont Village, and Trilogy Health Services shared their tactics for developing a workplace culture that makes them an employer of choice.

Fee Stubblefield, Founder and CEO of The Springs Living boiled it down to simple terms: Investing in people takes money. Fee continued to explain that new development and growth opportunities stem from maintaining a workforce. “If we don’t have employees, we don’t have residents… and if we don’t have residents, capital providers don’t want to be involved.”
The Springs Living gets to the root cause. Data shows that turnover is significantly lower when a seasoned and tenured executive director is at the helm. Therefore, resources are focused on sustaining their executive director team at the community level.

If we don't have employees, we don't have residents... and if we don't have residents, capital providers don't want to be involved.

Fee Stubblefield

The Springs Living

Doug Lessard, COO of Belmont Village Senior Living stresses the importance of the relationship between staff and residents. “If your employees are not happy, your residents find out about it because it is like a big family,” says Doug. Staff enjoys their time with residents and is a critical piece to trust and happiness. In most cases, staff “treats their residents like their own family.”

Belmont Cares is a program where they will do “whatever it takes” to help employees that have suffered a misfortune. That may include covering the cost of a funeral, natural disaster, or child care needs.
Their Bright Ideas Contest challenges employees to pitch in on how Belmont can improve resident satisfaction by submitting ideas. The employee with the best idea gets the opportunity to present it to the team for a chance to be implemented immediately.

Rising Stars Program promotes four to five employees that have displayed leadership and growth within their normal responsibilities. Belmont publishes their story and commemorates them with a photo and poster in the employee break room (a Digital Sign would work great here…).

If your employees are not happy, your residents find out about it because it is like a big family.

Doug Lessard

Trilogy Health Services

Dr. Todd Schmiedeler, SVP-Foundation & Workforce of Trilogy Health Services instills a bit of academia. Dr. Schmiedeler founded a scholarship program to invest in the right people. 1,500+ scholarships have been awarded thus far and the curriculum is chosen at the discretion of the employee.

Todd claims that “a scholarship says ‘love.’” So much love that 82% of those awarded are still at the company 12 months later. Furthermore, 72% of EVERYONE awarded the scholarship is still with the company.

Triology maintains a Student Loan Repayment Program, which Todd states is “a home run for retention.” The team identified that student loans are a major stressor within the workplace environment and wanted to eliminate that friction altogether.

What Can You Offer Staff That is Unique and Personal?

Keeping up with turnover is possible. The best senior living providers are creating unique and personal programs to retain talent and make staff feel like an integral part of the community. It just starts with the employee. Getting to know your staff and what aspects of their career they place the most value is critical to defining your community’s tools for retention. We need to fill 1.1 million positions between now and 2025. At the same time, 800 thousand employees are going to be leaving the industry. Backfilling positions will become necessary. Cultivating extraordinary employee culture mandatory. How will your community differentiate?