CEO Action Plans for 2022 – Part 2: Tactics to Increase Staffing

by | Feb 24, 2022

By Rob Love, President/CEO

I recently had the pleasure to speak with several friends that are CEOs of Life Plan Communities, including Danny Sanford of Still Hopes, Doug Feller of Village On The Isle and Mike Rambarose of Whitney Center, about their goals for 2022 and how they plan to achieve them. The responses were wide ranging, and I will be summarizing some common themes and priorities in this series of blogs.

In the first blog, “It’s Time to Prioritize Line Staff,” we addressed each of their thoughts on how their organization’s culture is key to staff retention, how staff retention is dependent on staff satisfaction, and how—by making staff a top priority—they expect to increase resident satisfaction. In this follow-up blog, we delve into specific tactics they are implementing or considering to attract new staff to their communities in 2022.

In today’s challenging workforce environment, attracting new staff has been harder than ever. Most communities have increased wages, but so have other companies competing for the same talent pool. So money alone clearly isn’t enough. In addition, many of our clients report that they receive multiple applications for a position, then schedule interviews, only to be met with a slew of no-shows. People are getting offers quickly, taking them and dropping out of the running. So what innovative strategies are some forward-thinking CEOs exploring to build staff in 2022 amidst these continuing challenges?

Expanding Recruiting Efforts

Doug Feller, CEO of Village On The Isle in Venice, Florida, describes one of several initiatives his community is undertaking. “We are asking our leadership team to keep an eye out for potential employees in the greater community. For example, if they are at Bob Evans or Denny’s and have a good experience with a server, tell them about our community and—if they seem interested—invite them to learn more. It works. Our HR director recently asked a person working at a place she was visiting how things were going. The employee unloaded on her about all of the things she was going through. Our HR director let her know we have open positions and told her about our community. That person just recently onboarded with us, and a friend of hers is coming, too.”

Mike Rambarose, CEO of Whitney Center in Hamden, Connecticut, shared insights on a detailed workforce development plan his community is implementing. “We are developing a multifaceted plan designed to enhance all facets of our employees’ experience,” Mike said. “We have an HR task force on our board to ensure we engage in the right activities. We are updating all of our orientation and onboarding programs, we are reworking our job descriptions, and we are articulating a retention plan with an employee appreciation component.

“We are also looking at a variety of training opportunities designed to give our team members important skills,” Mike continued. “We’re exploring training programs on how to engage with people with dementia, and we’re looking to roll that out across the community. We are looking at internship opportunities, including a divinity internship to help with our spiritual programs.

“These training and development opportunities extend to our leadership and management team as well. This includes practical fiscal education for all members of the management team, to help them become better managers. We are also starting to provide coaching training for our leadership team, which will then roll out to our management team, then our full staff.

“How does all this tie into recruiting new team members? If we can clearly demonstrate the strong training and development opportunities that Whitney Center offers that others don’t, we believe it will give us a clear advantage in our recruiting,” Mike concluded.

Employee-Centric Benefits

Danny Sanford, CEO of Still Hopes in Columbia, South Carolina, shared the challenges his community has faced and the ideas he would like to implement. “We always had better staff because we paid well, we had good benefits and Still Hopes is a nice place to work. We have really worked hard to be a strong payer. We set the midpoint of our pay at the 75th percentile. And we never had any issues until now.

“To be successful, I believe we need to offer more flexible schedules. Some people say our regulatory environment limits our ability to be flexible, but I don’t think so. We need to find a way to offer schedules that support when people are able to work.

“How we communicate with team members is important, too,” Danny continued. “I’d like to do a newsletter focused just on employees. Historically we’ve done one newsletter and shared it with all residents and staff members, but I think staff need their own communications. I think we should do events for staff as well, just as we do events for residents.

“I’d also like to give more attention and emphasis to our employee focus committee made up of employees selected by employees. They can help us better understand just what our team members need. And what I’d really like to do,” Danny said, “is to figure out where the people that used to work here went, and what it would take to get them to come back. Ideally, we would reach out to each person, find out where they are today, why they left Still Hopes and what—if anything—would bring them back. And if nothing would bring them back, we need to find out why that is as well.”

Other Love & Company clients are pursuing some innovative initiatives as well, including:

  • Adding robotic servers in dining (see this related article in Senior Housing News) to reduce the need for as many dining staff
  • Developing strategic relationships with nursing schools where the communities provide CNA training opportunities while building a natural recruiting pipeline
  • Reimbursing tuition for CNAs to get advanced nursing degrees in return for a commitment to stay after they’ve earned the degree
  • Becoming more aggressive in recruiting advertising, including advertising on social media and streamlining online applications for quick responses and decisions (Note: We will be exploring this and other recruiting topics in an upcoming Love & Company webinar in April.)
  • Branding their communities as an employer of choice in their markets through strong content marketing strategies

From macro workforce development initiatives to guerilla recruiting strategies and enhancing communications and flexibility, these CEOs are pursuing many new approaches to building staff in 2022. And while staffing and workforce development are certainly significant goals for their communities, they aren’t their only initiatives. In our third and final blog in this series, we will explore other goals and strategies they are pursuing to move their communities into the future. Stay tuned!

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