Staffing continues to be a major challenge across the in-home care industry, and leaders agree that finding and implementing creative approaches is a top priority.
To keep employees engaged, some companies are gamifying job training, others are adding unique benefits and some are zeroing in on their dedication to quality. Most companies agree that a key factor in keeping staff is recognition.
Leaders from Right at Home, Amedisys (Nasdaq: AMED) and CareLinx shared their experiences and advice during panels at the Home Health Care News Summit in Chicago on Sept. 20.
Right at Home focused on experience and benefits
Right at Home is hyper-focused on the overall employee experience, from the initial inquiry all the way through the employee lifecycle. Omaha, Nebraska-based Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care and assistance through more than 500 franchise locations in the United States, with some international franchise locations as well.
“I work a lot with our owners on the overall experience … Not only an employee experience but [the] client experience,” said Stacey Buechler, director of employee experience at Right at Home. “What we have done from a strategic perspective is we have pulled both of those strategies together and we are working hand-in-hand. As we role out different programs, a lot of what we are [doing] on the employee side directly reflects on the client side.”
As part of this effort, the organization is pushing owners to connect with their caregivers and offer recognition, which can drive retention.
“They are the lifeblood of our business, so if we are treating them as a transaction we are not connecting with them — therefore, we have the turnover and then we are back at square one and we are having to find more caregivers,” Buechler said. “You don’t have to have big recognition programs. All you have to do is reach out and thank them … It’s about them feeling cared for just like we care for our clients.”
Another piece of advice Buechler had for retaining employees: offer unique benefits.
“Pay isn’t always what motives our caregivers,” she said. “We have a large network that we partner with that provides discounts to places they can get oil changes or buy movie tickets — meeting the care staff where they are at.”
As for recruitment, many franchise owners are used to just posting a job, but with an increase in competition in the industry, they are having to hone their marketing strategies.
“Another program we are pushing [is] being an employer brand,” Buechler said. “Selling your ‘why,’ [or] owners talking about why they are in the home care business.”
Buechler is optimistic about the future.
“It’s a big challenge — but as long as we are providing that experience upfront and throughout the lifecycle I believe we are moving the needle and getting somewhere,” she said.
Amedisys is obsessed with quality
“If you are obsessed with quality, obsessive quality people will come to you and they’ll stay with you,” said Paul Kusserow, president and CEO at Amedisys.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Amedisys is one of the largest home health care providers in the country. It has more than 17,900 employees who work across 420 care centers in 34 states and Washington, D.C.
“When I took this job I [went out] and talked to thousands of people — patients and caregivers and we came up with three things we need to focus on and I think it has worked really well for us,” Kusserow said. “So we only do three things as a business: we focus on quality, we focus on our people and we focus on the tools our people can have. And by focusing on that, we generate enormous growth.”
The people piece of the three-pronged focus is staffing — the company has taken its turnover rate down from a higher than 30% to below 18%.
Kusserow receives turnover results every day, and he also spends a quarter of his time out in the field with staff as they care for patients so that he can see what they do.
“We don’t really have much of a staff problem because we make sure our people know that high quality is essential, any tool they need they can get, [and] we are behind them, ” he said. “If they feel you are in for quality, that you are training them, good with scheduling, that you are providing opportunities education- and training-wise — they’ll stick with you.”
CareLinx gamifies job training
There is a caregiver shortage but every month CareLinx gets 10,000 new caregivers joining its platform, said founder and CEO Sherwin Sheik.
“The shortage hasn’t really hit us yet,” he added.
CareLinx is an online platform with more than 300,000 caregivers serving markets around the country. Individuals in need of home care can find a caregiver and manage hiring and payment through the digital platform, but the company is also increasingly working with large provider and payer groups.
The average CareLinx caregiver is tech-savvy and capable of running their own private practice. The majority of the caregivers on the platform are certified nursing assistants and are doing other work on the side and augmenting their pay with CareLinx.
The platform offers job training and it works to gamify the experience to better engage its members.
The company provides about 40 modules through a third-party, CareAcademy, that allows members to move up and receive elevated status on the platform as they complete the modules and pass exams.
“It allows us to really distill the best-of-the-best caregivers who are investing in their own profile,” Sheik said. “It allows them to differentiate themselves from their peers … It’s giving them the ability to earn higher wages and give them the appropriate support through online education. It also provides a stickiness on the platform as they are investing more and more on their profile. In a way, we talk about CareLinx being a LinkedIn for this caregiver community.”
While operations are running smoothly currently for CareLinx, Sheik is nervous about the future in regards to immigration reform.
“We have a caregiver shortage and implementing policies like [immigration reform is] just going to exacerbate that shortage even more,” Sheik said. “We have to recognize who is taking care of our seniors and embrace them, rather than close the door.”
Written by Kaitlyn Mattson