Using Technology to Improve the Employee Experience

By Peter Corless, EVP of Enterprise Development, OnShift

For as long as I’ve been involved in the senior living field, I’ve seen workforce challenges. Over the years, there have been ebbs and flows, but COVID-19 exacerbated many of the pre-existing issues and placed additional pressure on employees. Now, more than ever, we need our leaders to be thinking about what’s important to the workforce. What do employees value? What type of reward system would be most meaningful to them?

In Love & Company’s upcoming webinar, “Workforce Recruitment and Retention: Strategies and Insights for Optimal Outcomes,” I’ll discuss new tools, technologies and opportunities to learn the answers to these questions and more. Denise Boudreau, President of Drive, and Dana Pyles, Vice President of Client Experience for Love & Company, will join me at noon on Thursday, April 7 for an informative collaboration. If you’d like to attend, you can still register here.

Streamline recruiting and see results in real time

At this point, we have five different generations in the workforce; therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach to recruiting is no longer effective. Providers need to be tailoring their recruitment materials to the specific generation that they want to hire and use tactics proven to reach each demographic. Market yourself in terms of the messaging you’re using, with the assistance of professionals like Love & Company, to differentiate your community from your competitors.

Although recruitment and retention are related concepts, they’re ultimately very, very different. OnShift’s employee management software has the capabilities to assist senior living providers of all sizes with both processes to encourage growth. On the recruiting side, we offer an applicant tracking system that integrates with many job boards, including Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder and LinkedIn so you only have to post your job once for it to be listed on multiple sites. Our reporting tools allow you to see how many applicants you’re getting from each platform to measure which ones are bringing in the most and best candidates.

Once you’ve connected with potential employees, you can then streamline the application process. Over time, I’ve noticed that many senior living providers tend to get in their own way by implementing a long and complicated path to employment. We’ve looked closely at the data and found that many people abandon their applications midway. Perhaps they’ve heard of your organization, or even seen advertisements for open positions, but they don’t know enough to invest too much time and energy into the paperwork.

As part of that same applicant tracking system, we’ve built a quick-apply process. Individuals only have to provide their contact information to show they are interested in your open job so recruiters can contact them right away to gather more info and get them excited about your organization.

This affords senior living providers an opportunity to give recruiters more inbound candidates and to ensure prospective employees are qualified before moving onto the next phase of the hiring process. It also gives you a chance to build excitement among applicants. After talking to them about your culture, your mission, your professional development plans, etc., then you can ask them to go back and complete a full application. By building in features that focus on improving the overall employee experience from that very first connection, we can help you recruit and retain frontline staff, administrators, executives and more.

Improve retention with meaningful rewards

Part of what I wanted to accomplish when I first came to OnShift was to automate many of the best practices that would lead to better retention and lower turnover. For high turnover in a small group, it may involve looking for patterns or shifts within a specific department or re-evaluating your supervisors. But when it’s widespread, rather than concentrated, you must pursue different solutions, such as implementing a modern approach to employee reward systems.

Think of the traditional Employee of the Month recognition program. What sort of criteria goes into this choice each month? What are an employee’s odds of earning recognition? Typically, the selection process is subjective in nature and varies based on the people involved. Additionally, if I’m one employee in an organization of 200—or 2,000 even—that recognizes only 12 employees a year, then I know my odds of being chosen are pretty low. Therefore, what’s my incentive? As an employee, why would I go above and beyond within my community or continue to be a part of this team during the Great Resignation?

By developing a point system that connects with your timekeeping and payroll system, you can encourage positive behavior and attitudes to improve retention across all departments. Employees can earn points for punctuality, attendance, achieving tenure, receiving positive feedback from residents and their families, and more. With OnShift, you can automate the process, so that employees can see their points accumulate in a mobile app and know how close they are to their next reward. Once they reach certain predetermined thresholds, then they know they have earned a reward.

But how do you decide which reward(s) to offer? The answer to this particular question is actually quite simple: you don’t. Instead, allow the employees to choose what’s most meaningful for them. Is that a gift card? Is it preferred parking or an extra day off? Is it an opportunity to stock up groceries for the week from your on-site food pantry? Maybe it’s dinner with your favorite administrator, which could be terrifying for some and exciting for others.

To some extent, the options and the freedom to choose carry their own value. Their existence shows that you understand what your employees want and value their input. Even more important, though, is the accessibility that’s built into the system. Designed to be objective, accessible, visible and compelling in nature, an employee rewards and recognition program could make a significant difference for senior living providers struggling with retention.

Provide frequent opportunities for employee feedback

The other essential practice for retaining good people involves soliciting employee feedback. Many providers still implement the once-a-year employee feedback survey, but that process is outdated—especially when you consider the changes in the nature of the workforce over the past 20 years or so. As an employer, I want to know what’s going on throughout my organization in real time. As an employee, I appreciate the opportunity to give feedback frequently and to actually be and feel heard.

At OnShift, we have what we call “pulse surveys” that push directly to the employees’ smartphones immediately after their shifts. These surveys are quick and simple and encourage interaction through the use of emojis. Every couple of weeks, they’re given an opportunity to share what type of day they’ve just experienced. If they want to leave comments, there’s a dialogue box that pops up and allows them to respond anonymously or reveal who they are in order to receive personal feedback from leadership. Ultimately, we’ve found this approach to feedback reveals potential issues and allows management to address them before there’s any negative impact on retention.

These are just a few of the tools we currently use to help senior living providers improve recruitment and retention. As the workforce continues to evolve, being employee-centric and cognizant of situational leadership at all levels will separate organizations that survive and those that thrive. I hope you’ll join me, Denise Boudreau and Dana Pyles in our webinar on April 7 to continue this conversation. During the webinar, I will explore the impact of technology in more depth, while Denise and Dana will share additional insights on workplace culture and effective employee branding.


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