The Key to Reducing Staff Turnover: Home Care Mentor Programs

Staff turnover not only creates a revolving door with huge cost implications, but it undeniably hinders care. And as home care agencies strive to close—if not slow—that revolving door once and for all, some are touting the benefits of mentor programs to boost employee satisfaction and increase retention.

While no industry is impervious to staff turnover, the phenomenon is severe when it comes to home care, which faces an impending staffing shortage even as providers see a swelling aging demographic in the years to come.

“High turnover can derail the ultimate client experience,” said Aaron Marcum, founder and CEO of Home Care Pulse, during a webinar Wednesday afternoon. There are cost implications for providers as well, pointed out.

The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that it costs $3,500 to replace one $8.00 per hour employee after accounting for all the costs related to recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training to fill the spot with a new worker.

For home care, where the annual turnover rate can vary between 60% to 100% depending on the state, according to research from the Institute for the Future of Aging Services, the cost implications are substantial. Additionally, the majority of turnover occurs during the first 60 days of employment.

“Think of that $3,500 and that retention,” Marcum says. “Helping a new caregiver get started on the right foot is important.”

Tap star workers

A firm focused on satisfaction research and promoting quality assurance in the home care sector, Home Care Pulse recommends that mentoring is the often ignored key for home care agencies to significantly reduce caregiver turnover.

Advocating what he calls a Caregiver Mentor Program, Marcum insists that agencies can increase their ability to retain staff while simultaneously stimulating better employee satisfaction, thus producing better care outcomes.

The program hinges on the creation of employee roles known as Mentor Leads and Caregiver Mentors. Typically, Mentor Leads are an agency’s top caregivers, experienced employees who have been with the organization for 12 months or longer, Marcum said.

The program is largely a tiered approach in terms of organizing personnel. For example, a Mentor Lead would oversee between three to five Caregiver Mentors, while these employees would then be charged with looking over anywhere from three to five of the company’s new, incoming caregivers.

In terms of function, Caregiver Mentors provide the hands-on training to the new employees as well as random check-ups on service performances.

“They’re the main go-to person when the new caregiver has questions or needs help,” Marcum said.

Mentor Leads, on the other hand, oversee the overall experience and report back to the agency’s owner or director. This includes ensuring Caregiver Mentors’ compliance with policies, tracking the progress of new caregivers, as well as initiating weekly coaching calls with Mentors.

Tailor the Program

Though implementing a Mentor program might not seem like a complex endeavor, agencies will have to consider a variety of methodologies in their own practices.

These may include formalizing the way the agency will select and pair mentors; how it will compensate or incentivize these participating team members; along with how it will execute training and promoting the program both externally and internally within the organization.

“It’s not an overly complicated, but it does take work and it does take commitment,” Marcum said.

Equip the Front Line

The home care workforce has been a national topic of debate within the last year, most recently when a U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. struck down a rule from the Department of Labor (DOL). The rule would have extended overtime and minimum wage protections to home health companion workers employed by third-party businesses.

The move was applauded by industry groups like the National Association for Home Care & Hospice and Home Care Associates of America.

The trade groups argued that the rule would have affected 90% of care provided to seniors and disabled individuals, thus leading to increased costs for care.

However, home care workforce proponents have long contended that increased wage and overtime protections could mitigate the staffing shortage the industry faces by, at the very least, providing increased protection against turnover.

But Marcum emphasized that pay is only one element in retaining quality staff.

“Caregivers are the front line,” Marcum reminded the webcast audience. “They’re the ones putting on the Broadway show and it’s important that they are confident and that they’re trained.”

Written by Jason Oliva

Jason Oliva

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