While not a new issue, the home care worker shortage across the country is only looking bleaker over the next few years, leading some providers to take action. One franchise owner is taking a page out of frequent flier programs to boost retention and reduce turnover costs.
For Interim HealthCare’s largest franchise owner, Tom DiMarco, the need is about 500 more home health workers more. Currently, DiMarco oversees roughly 5,000 active employees across his 60 locations.
Interim HealthCare is a national home health company with more than 300 independently owned franchises. DiMarco is CEO of the management group that owns and operates the 60 locations. He joined the group in 1984 as controller, when the group operated four locations. Over his 30-plus years in the industry, the workforce shortage has only worsened.
“One of the things we’ve identified, along with every other home health company out there, is there is a shortage of qualified workers,” DiMarco told Home Health Care News. “Especially in home care, with all the rules and regulations, we are not only competing with other agencies in home care, but other businesses.”
The numbers also don’t reveal a rosy outlook. In 2017, the franchise, which has locations in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, the group had 8,000 W2 contracts, meaning the providers saw roughly 3,000 employees turn over.
“We’re leaving millions of dollars on the table in terms of revenue,” DiMarco said. The franchise group’s annual revenue is around $170 million, according to DiMarco.
Those figures have led the company to double down on retention and recruiting efforts, with several different approaches. Some involve leaning on the parent company, which is focused on workforce issues, and creating independent rewards for employees.
“There is not a magic bullet out there,” DiMarco said on retention strategy. “If there were, everyone would be using it. We’re constantly trying to figure out ways that improve our experience. This is a long-term issue, and honestly, because of the changes in demographics, the worker shortage isn’t going to disappear.”
One such program with the parent company Interim is ROR—recruiting, on-boarding and retention. Beyond that, DiMarco’s group has developed its own reward system that was implemented last year.
To help mitigate some of the losses, Interim has adopted several programs to better connect with workers, as home health care is considered an isolated workplace.
“We have several programs that we have developed,” DiMarco said. “Interim is all about touches…One of the simple things that we do—and it’s real simple stuff, but stuff that is absolutely needed—it’s calling the employees, asking how the client is treating [them], asking how we are treating them, and what do [they] think we can do in preparing them.”
Beyond adding more touches with the workforce, DiMarco has also implemented a reward system over the last few months call AVA , or appreciation for valued associates. The program, which is similar to a “frequent flyer type program,” aims to recognize employees and promote those recognitions throughout the company.
“It we can improve our retention—if that’s 5% of 3,000 employees, that is significant to us,” DiMarco said.
Employees receive points for benchmarks that can be redeemed for gift cards to Amazon, Target, Walmart and the like. Though, about 90% of the gift cards claimed have been for Walmart, DiMarco added. Points are gained for events such as work anniversaries, birthdays, working during holidays or over weekends, and more.
Since the program was instituted in July 2017, DiMarco estimates the franchise has spent $89,000 on the rewards. The cost, he considers, is like allocating dollars to marketing. However, it’s too early to tell if the reward system is paying off.
“In my mind, it’s like marketing,” DiMarco said. “The spend is soft dollars where you don’t know what you’re getting out of it. But, like with marketing, we have the gut feeling that people have bought into AVA and offices have bought into AVA, generating that excitement and momentum.”
Interim is also looking at developing AVA further, eventually becoming part of the orientation for new hires, according to DiMarco.
“A gift card is viewed as something over and above,” he said. “We believe we are competitive in terms of what our wages are. We are trying to set ourselves apart from other agencies out there, and it’s the recognition of our employees.”
Written by Amy Baxter