Effective communication can deliver increased productivity, reduce employee turnover and create an improved work environment. But as the way people communicate continues to evolve, some home health providers may struggle to effectively connect with staff members, prompting employees to look elsewhere for work.
Employee turnover continues to plague the home health industry, and caregiver turnover is the biggest threat to home care providers in 2015, according to results from this year’s Private Duty Benchmarking Study conducted by Home Care Pulse, a firm specializing in satisfaction management research and quality assurance for the home care industry.
“Communication today is increasingly complicated,” said Wade Elliott, executive director and founding CEO of WestHaven Senior Living, during a recent Institute for Professional Care Education webinar. The Orland, Calif.-based senior living provider works with Medicare-paid home health agencies to offer on-site physical therapies, occupational therapies, and speech therapy. The provider also offers assisted living, memory care, long term care services and more.
“Lack of time, context and clarity all reduce the accuracy of personal and business communications,” he said. “[Industry-related] communications are often filled with acronyms and jargon. Our clients, prospective clients and even new hires don’t know the language we speak.”
1. Invest in Training
Communication isn’t just what is said, but what is understood, Elliott said.
“Just because we understand what needs to be done doesn’t mean care staff does,” he said. “Agencies need to ask themselves, ‘Are we investing in training?’ The investment we make into our direct care staff with training of all types is going to bear much fruit to deliver the services that we promised.”
It’s also important to lead by example.
“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while,” he said, noting that consistency is key to getting the right message across.
2. Know Your Staff
“The reality of being a leader is a lot like being a coach,” he said. “And a coach understands all the players on the team have major contributions to make.”
Understanding employees’ strengths, and recognizing when they do a job well, versus only recognizing when they make a mistake, goes a long way in building trust, he said.
In addition, knowing what motivates them can also help create a meaningful reward system for a job well done.
“You should know what their interests are,” he said. Maybe one employee would enjoy a gift card to a coffee shop, while another might enjoy getting a manicure.
In addition to understanding how to motivate team members, providers need to identify what communication tools work best.
“What exactly is the method that is going to work best?” he said. “For some, putting out an email or memorandum is how they best understand. Others need to be talked to face to face.”
3. Delegate Appropriately
Sometimes a caregiver might be wonderful when with a client but struggle with paperwork or other chores, he said, noting that providers need to be flexible when possible to keep operations running smoothly.
“I have to remind myself that the organization’s goal [to serve the client] is most important,” he said. “Is satisfaction of the client with the caregiver more important than if the sheets are shiny white? Perhaps I can reconsider how tasks are managed.”
In addition, some caregivers excel with memory care patients, while others are best suited for other client demographics.
“There’s a knack to interacting with a person with dementia that not everyone on staff is going to have,” he said.
In addition, outlining clear goals and expectations for every team member helps reduce “finger pointing,” he said.
“We’ve learned the hard way, if it’s everybody’s job to do something nobody will be responsible for it,” he said. “The breakdown occurs when what we meant is not what others heard.”
Written by Cassandra Dowell