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Rough Waters Ahead for Senior Living: Hiring and Retaining Staff

March 12, 2019
Leadership & Staffing By Cathy Benfer, Manager Recruitment Services

If you have worked any amount of time in senior living, you know that one of the most difficult obstacles facing providers is hiring and retaining great staff members. Often, the inability to hire employees, especially nursing and caregiving staff, is based on the public’s misconception that a career in long term care is stagnant and full of dead-end work. For those of us in the industry, we know that working in senior living is quite rewarding and much appreciated by those to whom we provide care. But, let’s look at some statistics for employment in senior living. 



According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor statistics, in 2016, there were roughly 892,000 people working in the senior living industry. As mentioned in this Argentum report, the industry will need to recruit and retain 300,000 more employees by 2026. In order to accomplish this monumental task, organizations must take a different approach to hiring staff, and in particular, caregiving staff where 60% of all senior living workers are categorized.

As we all know, the U.S. is experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in more than 10 years. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, the unemployment rate in December of 2009 was 10% and has slowly decreased to its current level of just under 4%. While this means hiring across all industries in the U.S. is difficult, hiring competent caregiving staff is especially difficult. Not only are there fewer employees in the workforce, the number of seniors requiring care continues to climb at an astronomical rate. According to Forbes Magazine, baby boomers are retiring at a rate of nearly 10,000 per day. By the year 2020, it is estimated that 117 million Americans will require some type of assistance.

So, what does this mean for providers of senior living services? It means the industry needs to do a better job at hiring and retaining great employees. While pay rate is certainly a significant factor in analyzing possible solutions, providers need to look at other options as well—school loan forgiveness/assistance, flexible scheduling, child care credits/benefits, affordable health insurance coverage, and on-site medical options to name just a few. Employees also want the opportunity to grow with a company, so education perks are among some of the top sought after benefits. Diversity is also critical when filling senior living positions. Creativity comes from employing a variety of employees from different backgrounds. Employers should afford employees the opportunity to give creative feedback on how to improve operations. Of course, it goes without saying that employees need the proper tools to do a good job. In senior living, this means providing employees with enough supplies and technology to care for residents. As a senior living executive, work with your vendors to explore alternative methods for providing great care. Also, make sure the work environment is open and honest which communicates to employees that they are a true asset to your organization.  

This is a time of crisis for the senior living industry and it is going to take some imaginative thinking to get across these tumultuous waters.


LW Consulting, Inc. provides leadership and staff development, mentoring and education for the senior living industry. Contact us to learn more.

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