Organization recognized for creating innovative programs to recruit and retain co-workers
One of the top issues facing health care providers is recruiting and retaining a qualified workforce. In the senior living industry, this challenge is intensified by a growing senior population. Country Meadows Retirement Communities is working on solutions to address the hiring crisis, and was recently honored with a national Argentum Best of the Best Award for its “Workforce of the Future” initiative.
Argentum (formerly the Assisted Living Federation of America) selects just five organizations across the entire country to receive the Best of the Best honor, which recognizes innovative programs and best practices working to improve the future of senior living. This is the second consecutive year a Country Meadows program was chosen for a Best of the Best Award. Argentum is the leading national trade association serving companies that own, operate and support senior living community in the United States.
Country Meadows’ “Workforce of the Future” features several programs to address co-worker recruitment, development and retention.
Recruitment begins with exposing individuals to the possibility of working in senior care, the largest growing sector of the healthcare field, and making them aware of the variety of careers available including, among other areas, caregiving, culinary, sales and marketing,supervisory/management and financial and executive positions. Because many students considering a career in healthcare are unaware of careers that involve working exclusively with seniors, Country Meadows works with schools close to its communities to foster relationships and provide opportunities to expose students to the senior care industry. These include internships, observational experiences and nursing externships at college and high school levels.
According to Vice President of Human Resources Tracy Newcomer, “It’s about doing many things well, including educating young people about our industry. We are constantly in front of our applicants, encouraging and welcoming them to our industry even if they have never worked in our field.”
When a co-worker starts working at Country Meadows, he/she works with the campus Talent Development Coordinator who sets the tone by leading onboarding experiences and connecting each staff member with his/her manager and mentor. After the initial onboarding period, Talent Development Coordinators continue to counsel co-workers, providing a touchpoint for staff members to share career goals as well as concerns. They also give encouragement and guidance for co-workers to pursue opportunities and take advantage of the many resources available to help staff members, both professionally and personally.
Studies show that employees are happier and report higher job satisfaction when their hard work is rewarded and they have opportunities to develop additional skills. Employees spend many hours of every day at work, and they need more than a paycheck to satisfy them. To help team members advance their knowledge and skills, Country Meadows developed Career Path programs available for Personal Care Associates, Culinary and Dining Associates, Housekeepers and Nurses. Co-workers who successfully complete the free Career Paths receive pay increases, titles with increased responsibilities and opportunities to advance within their respective fields. Country Meadows developed the Career Paths to prepare co-workers for a career in the senior living industry.
Other programs designed to develop co-workers include management training programs, a biennial leadership seminar and tuition assistance for co-workers who enroll in the online Gerontology curriculum available through Harrisburg Area Community College.
Successful retention is critical to Country Meadows to provide continuity of care to residents. Change is often difficult for seniors, so it is best they are familiar with the same co-workers interacting with them daily, which helps Country Meadows provide a homelike environment and build trusting relationships with residents as well as their loved ones.
Financially, retention decreases training costs associated with onboarding and orientation. Instead, these dollars can be invested back into development of existing co-workers to increase their proficiency, skills sets and earning power. Longevity speaks to the quality of resident care, and low turnover can produce positive results for both residents and co-workers.
Retention initiatives include retention committees on every campus which meet regularly to determine ways to celebrate exceptional customer service and support co-workers who may be struggling. Other initiatives include employee assistance programs, staff-planned events, grief counseling and financial loan and grant programs. A Stupid Rules program provides an outlet for co-workers the anonymously share their thoughts and ideas with executive management team members.
“Sharing best practices is one of the most impactful ways we can work together to improve the quality of life and quality of care for senior living residents,” says James Balda, Argentum president and chief executive officer. “Argentum’s Best of the Best winners raise the bar of excellence, delivering programs that inspire innovation across the industry.”