Let’s Talk About Workplace Culture

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Emily Deppa

Emily Deppa and Anna Ortigara
Workforce Innovations Consultants, PHI

We’ve all carried the weight of staffing challenges! Concerns about filling vacant jobs and reducing turnover within the workforce, whether in skilled nursing or in the community, are common. We hear worries about maintaining care continuity for Elders and stories about turning away prospective clients due to understaffing. In fact, between 2016 and 2026, the need for direct care workers (care partners including home health aides, personal care assistants, and certified nursing assistants) is projected to add 1.4 million new positions due to rising demand . In that same period: 3.6 million workers will leave the labor force, and 2.8 million workers will leave the field for other occupations (Dept. of Labor).

Anna Ortigara

So how do we recruit the staff we need and retain the great employees we already have? PHI, the sponsor of Pioneer Network’s workplace culture track at the 2019 conference, has supported employers in strategizing around this question for over two decades. As a part of this work, they’ve compiled 10 strategies for successful recruitment and retention, including:

  1. Recruit the Right Staff
    While job advertisements may attract a lot of candidates, personal referrals lead to more hires. When one agency tracked its recruitment methods, it learned that its hiring rate was 3 percent for candidates recruited online versus 44 percent for referred candidates.
  2. Improve the Hiring Process
    One of the most important questions to ask in a direct care interview is: “Tell me about a meaningful relationship you’ve had with an Elder or a person with a disability, and how that relationship has impacted you.” Caregiving skills can be taught, but a caring nature is essential.
  3. Strengthen Entry-Level Training
    Take an adult-centered approach to training where instructors leverage trainees’ existing knowledge and facilitate their individualized learning process — modeling the same person-centered, culturally competent approach that is expected of workers when providing care. Emphasizing experiential learning and skills development, adult learner-centered training relies primarily on interactive methods, such as role plays, case scenarios, and small-group work.

Find the complete list of strategies by viewing PHI’s report found here.

One recruitment and retention strategy that makes a consistent, real impact is creating a healthy workplace culture. Culture matters! When it comes to organizational culture, the same person directed principles we strive for with Elders absolutely need to be the same principles we strive for with employees. Employees deserve to work in a community where their voice is heard, where they are genuinely empowered to make decisions that directly impact their daily work, and where they are offered the same compassion and trust they extend to the Elders they support. “When it comes to culture, often times the soft stuff is the hard stuff,” says Susan Misiorski, PHIs Vice President of Workforce Innovations. “That’s why we felt it so important to dedicate an entire track to this topic at the Pioneer Network 2019 conference. Now more than ever, with worker shortages at a critical level, we need to share inspiring practices that have real impact.” And that’s what the workplace culture track is all about. PHI educators will be joined by other national leaders with a track record in developing workplace cultures that lead to high employee engagement and retention.

What words of wisdom do these experts have to share with us?

Meg Jones, VP of Human Resources at SageLife and a guide for the 2019 Pioneering a New Culture of Aging Conference session, Workplace Culture: What it is and Why it Matters, shares that “Creating a workplace culture that treats our associates the same way we ask them to treat the residents is core to SageLife. It’s an ongoing work in progress, and worth every bit of the effort. I’m excited to share our story, and the progress we’re making.”

Emily Dieppa, Worforce Innovations Consultant with PHI asks the questions, “how can we create a positive workplace culture without first listening to the people working closely with elders every day?” This simple question is at the heart of a workforce culture that is relational and empowering.” Emily recognizes that to learn the answer to this question, we need to hear the voices of experience, the CNAs and Home Health Aides who work in long term care.

Leading the Workforce through the lens of love is a lesson shared by Susan Ryan, Executive Director of The Green House Project®. Susan shared that a compassionate workplace is key. She said, “when you create environments where relationships are at the heart of the life in the home. Where the relationships are not fear based but human, giving relationships, that is looking through the lens of love. It is believing in the relationship between the care partner and the Elder is critical for job satisfaction and human growth. It is the give and the take between Elders, care partners and leadership — a culture of reciprocity. And this leads to a workplace with good staff retention and job satisfaction.”

And of course, a question that we are all asking, how do we turn things around stop this constant turn over of staff?

Christopher Ridenhour shares that there is only way to stem the exodus that we call the “workforce crisis,” or at least keep those in our buildings from leaving! After 15 years of national travel, developing leaders, and inspiring team members, here’s the conclusion he’s drawn: The caregivers, systemically, require the same dedication, fervor, effort, and conviction of care we provide our elders. And it is up to leadership to lead this imperative.

We know there are many challenges faced growing a workplace culture that will help assure that we have the care partners needed in the future to meet the needs or the elders who need us. We also know that many communities and organizations have made positive steps in growing that culture.

Do you have a success story to share? Please tell us about it.

 

One comment on “Let’s Talk About Workplace Culture

  1. Donna K Woodward on

    “Employees deserve to work in a community where their voice is heard, where they are genuinely empowered to make decisions that directly impact their daily work, and where they are offered the same compassion and trust they extend to the Elders they support.” And, ”When it comes to organizational culture, the same person directed principles we strive for with Elders absolutely need to be the same principles we strive for with employees. Employees deserve to work in a community where their voice is heard, where they are genuinely empowered to make decisions that directly impact their daily work, and where they are offered the same compassion and trust they extend to the Elders they support. “

    How right you are.

    In line with this ere are two more steps that should help with recruiting and retaining direct-care workers:
    1. Raise their wages. So long as these employees need to work two jobs and double shifts to support their families, they just won’t have the energy to support residents wholeheartedly. They burn out. They look for other work. If organizations can’t find the money in their budgets to do this, enlist the direct-care staff to help you look. Make your budgets transparent and include staff in budget reviews and decisions. This would be very empowering.
    2. Improve the ratio of direct-care staff to residents. Regardless of how much we want to transform task-oriented environments to person-centered ones, ADLs are still an important part of what support staff do, especially when working with physically or cognitively frail residents. When staff feel rushed to complete ADLs, residents suffer and employees suffer. Job satisfaction and morale suffer. A well-trained, person-centered, high-morale staff might well mean that fewer staff will achieve more. Nevertheless: Ask staff whether they and residents would benefit from having an additional person available on their shifts.
    3. In accordance with OSHA guidelines, introduce a mandatory two-person assist policy, (I know some people don’t like mandates but sometimes they’re needed.) See OSHA Guideline for Nursing Homes, OSHA 3182-3R 2009. p. 12-18 for guidance on when there should be two persons available to assist in patient transfers, including repositioning. Such a policy will mean more safety, dignity and comfort for the resident, and will mean fewer injuries and better joint health for staff. If we are serious about including staff in our person-centered approaches, a two-person assist policy seems like a no-brainer. This step, though, depends on having enough enough ‘hands on deck.’

    All the steps identified by PHI are excellent and necessary. But I could almost cry when I see lists like this which don’t mention wages and staffing levels.

    Reply

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