Inside One Agency’s Staff Retention Efforts

High staff turnover rates have plagued the home care industry in recent years, but one provider is looking to buck that trend.

Caregiver turnover rates rose from 39.4% industry wide in 2009 to 61.6% in 2014, according to a study released earlier this year by Home Care Pulse and the Home Care Association of America. A set of initiatives launched by Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Independent Living Services in September aims to reduce the company’s own annual turnover rate from 60% to 40%, LNP News reported.

Independent Living Services, a division of Accessing Independence, which in turn is a subsidiary of the United Disabilities Services Foundation, currently employs 175 caregivers. The strategies employed by the provider include more hours, better training and further support for its workers.

“The primary driving force is customer satisfaction,” Byron Boyd, program director of Independent Living Services, tells Home Health Care News. “In order to achieve that, we need to have employees who enjoy what they do.”

The initial phase of implementing Independent Life Services’ staff retention efforts is a focus on finding quality caregivers, says Shari Franey, executive director of Accessing Independence. But the staff-retention mission goes beyond simply hiring the best caregivers possible, she says. It requires providing steady schedules and full-time jobs, despite a greater cost to the company in salaries and benefits.

When the Affordable Care Act requirement mandating the extension of benefits to employees working more than 29 hours per week on average took effect, Independent Living Services enacted a 29-hour limit in an effort to stem spending, Franey tells HHCN. However, she says this ended up increasing turnover, as several employees wound up having to seek additional employment elsewhere, and therefore drove costs up.

“When you look at the money spent in recruiting, screening and training, and then having this turnover, your fiscal hit is huge,” Franey says. “So instead of putting so much money and effort into the front end, we took away that hold at 29 hours. We’re now spending about one-third less on the from end than we were before.”

Providing extensive staff support is another crucial component, Boyd and Franey agree. For that reason, Independent Living Services opened training labs in September, where caregivers are given an active learning experience meant to provide an understanding of tasks they’ll be confronted with on the job.

“Anything that’s going on at the home, we’re going to be practicing at this lab,” Boyd tells HHCN. “This helps us, too, so that we can be confident that we can trust caregivers, given that we’ve seen their experience in a live setting.”

Accessing Independence has also established a safety mentor program to promote caregiver support. This program entails assessing new homes for safety issues and offering caregiver training based on the results, Franey says.

Safety mentors, alongside the creation of a transitional care attendant position meant to evaluate a patient’s needs to more effectively train a long-term care attendant, make for a career advancement track typically not present in the home care industry, Franey says.

“When we look at people coming in, we have some people that have a lot of skill sets, and others that we’re really teaching them as they go,” she tells HHCN. “This is providing the ability to grow, to eventually do their jobs in more complex situations.”

Although such initiatives are still in their infancy and results remain to be seen, both Boyd and Franey are optimistic that Independent Life Services’ efforts can drive down the agency’s turnover rates. Plus, improving staff retention could enhance the company’s ability to expand, Franey says.

“If we’re able to find that attendants are staying, I think that’s the recipe for good growth,” she tells HHCN.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt