Similar to its industry peers, Home Helpers must now navigate the labor and hiring markets in the midst of a recession caused by the COVID-19 virus. To do so, Home Helpers is looking at new ways to lift barriers between the company and would-be caregivers.
Established in 1997, Cincinnati-based Home Helpers is an in-home care franchise company that has over 300 locations across the U.S.
Operating for parts of three decades, Home Helpers has obviously seen economic downturns before. Still, there’s a key difference between now and what was seen during the 2008 recession, Emma Dickison, CEO and president of Home Helpers, told Home Health Care News.
“The labor market was different,” Dickison said. “We still were hiring like crazy. And those were good years, in terms of the number of clients we served and caregivers we hired.”
In addition to her role at Home Helpers, Dickison also serves as president of the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA) board of directors. HCAOA is a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization that represents nearly 3,000 home care companies.
As time has passed since the last recession, the U.S. population has aged and the demand for home care has, in turn, increased. That meant home care organizations have had to face difficult recruiting and retention realities over the last few years, according to Dickison.
“Before the pandemic, the [home care] employment market was very tight,” she said. “We were in a full-employment economy. Anyone who wanted to work, could work. The industry was only limited by its ability to hire and retain good quality employees.”
In the weeks and months after the COVID-19 emergency surfaced, the home care industry has faced much uncertainty — as has the broader economy. But so far, that the industry has been able to weather the storm, Dickison noted.
“We found out that in a health crisis, our business is resilient,” she said. “In the early days of the pandemic, everyone was in a shock phase and unsure about having people in their homes. That lasted for a bit, then we saw business return. Looking at the Home Helpers system, 100% of our offices have been open throughout the pandemic.”
Like most home care companies, Home Helpers is still recruiting caregivers in order to meet the current demand that has been exacerbated by the public health emergency.
One of the ways Home Helpers has attempted to lift roadblocks between the company and potential applicants is with the launch of its new website, meant to streamline the application and employment process.
“All of the websites we’ve had played a role in employment caregiver acquisition,” Dickison said. “Each website has gotten more robust and efficient. This website was designed to streamline communication and simplify it for them to be able to get to us.”
Home Helpers updated the website to improve user experience and give the company the ability to recruit faster. The franchise company announced the new website on Monday.
“Our goal is that we will be able to know immediately when a caregiver has an interest in employment either through our website or one of these other recruitment platforms that feed to our site,” Dickison said. “Our goal is to be able to get caregivers through the recruitment process with a conditional hire within three business days.”
Amid the current economic downturn, Dickinson has seen workers from others in industries, mainly retail and hospitality, migrate to home care.
“We’re seeing this rebound in employment opportunities and candidates in our industries,” she said.
Looking forward, Home Helpers will continue to allow its recruitment strategy to adjust with the times. In addition to using tools such as Zoom and EchoSign for its interview and onboarding process, the company is looking toward social media.
Technology and other innovative platforms will be key to thriving as an industry, according to Dickinson.
“I saw something a couple of weeks ago that said in every economic downturn — a new technology has emerged,” she said. “During the depression, it was radio. In the 50s, it was network TV. And in the 90s, it was cable TV. As businesses, we are going to have to leverage technology to be effective.”
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) officially declared that the U.S. was in a recession on June 8. Specifically, NBER determined that February 2020 marked the end of a 128-month economic expansion that began in June 2009.