Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 225,000 in January, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate was little changed at 3.6%, with notable job gains happening in construction, health care, transportation and warehousing.
Translation: An already tight labor market is getting even tighter for in-home care providers.
“We are in a full-employment economy,” Emma Dickison, CEO of Home Helpers Home Care, told Home Health Care News during an in-person interview last month. “I saw another statistic about a month or two ago that said we are officially at a place where there are more jobs open than there are individuals looking to be employed. That’s a really scary place to be if you’re a busy owner or a corporation that relies heavily on any type of employment, particularly caregivers.”
Founded in 1997, Cincinnati-based Home Helpers has more than 315 total locations in its network, 100% of which are franchised units. Among its offerings, Home Helpers delivers a mix of non-medical and medical home care services, with some locations offering specialty care for clients living with a range of conditions.
Due to the overall tight labor market, Home Helpers is doubling down on its recruitment and retention efforts.
As part of those efforts, it’s shifting some of its strategies to become more proactive on the hiring front, especially for in-demand, high-quality caregivers.
“In the caregiver space, we’ve been able to fish in the past,” Dickison said. “Now, we have to go hunt.”
Home Helpers 2.0
PHI, the New York-based direct care workforce advocacy organization, projects that there will be 8.2 million job openings by 2028.
There are several drivers behind that huge number, including an aging population that’s keeping service demand high and a low-wage workforce being lured away by more lucrative jobs in retail or fast food.
“As an industry, we need to find ways to advance on the workforce front, to find new opportunities in employment,” Dickison said.
At Home Helpers, that has partly meant treating caregivers — and potential caregivers — as clients.
Similar to how most home care providers strive for a seamless start of care for clients, Home Helpers is working to create a system that ensures a seamless start of care for prospective hires.
“If we get a caregiver application through any of our web channels, the goal is for us to be able to contact them quickly using whatever method they [prefer],” Dickison said. “Then we get them into an interview and make a decision for a conditional hire within 72 hours. Letting them know that they’re going to be working in a very short time means they aren’t interviewing somewhere else.”
Once hired, Home Helpers is also implementing a policy where a veteran employee teams up with a new caregiver during his or her first day into the home.
Additionally, the home care franchiser touches base with both the client and new caregiver, making sure each party feels comfortable in the relationship.
For veteran employees looking to add to their skill sets, Home Helpers University offers caregivers a chance to obtain additional training and designations. Such a strategy — often referred to as “upskilling” — is often cited as a powerful tool in providers’ recruitment and retention toolbox.
“To achieve quality care to meet today’s demand — and growing, future demands — there must be a change in how the home care workforce is valued,” author Angelina Drake, COO at PHI, wrote last year in a Health Affairs blog post. “Demonstrating that value through upskilling and optimal deployment will show that these workers can do more, and deserve more, than the current system imagines.”
Broadly, the previously mentioned approaches are part of the Home Helpers 2.0 initiative, said Dickison, who was named as the new president of the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA) board of directors at the onset of 2020.
“A lot of organizations define what exceptional care looks like and what that does to retain your client or patient base,” she said. “We’re doing something similar to the caregiver journey.”
In total, Home Helpers added 27 new units in 2019. The additions followed a 2018 that saw Home Helpers “open more units than anyone,” according to Dickison.
In terms of revenue, Home Helpers finished the year with around 9% to 10% of growth. For context, Home Helpers recorded system-wide sales of about $172.4 million in 2018, Franchise Times previously reported.
While it’s moving toward Home Helpers 2.0, the franchise company already added 30 new programs for its owners and operators last year.
Some of those programs have to do with helping franchisees with Medicare Advantage (MA). Others, including a program with the 10-million-member-strong Catholic Golden Age, support new referral streams.
Catholic Golden Age provides health insurance and home health care services to seniors 50 and over.
“We’re one of only four home care companies they’re providing referrals for,” Dickison said. “It’s a huge referral opportunity.”