The COVID-19 pandemic brought on a lot of changes to the American workforce.
One slightly unexpected revelation that both employers and employees discovered was a full scale shift of priorities for many in the labor market.
That was especially true in the home-based care space. Seniors Helping Seniors COO Daniel Jan told Home Health Care News that the pandemic gave his company a unique window into what employees want – and which ones could help establish a strong workforce.
“Due to COVID, people have had a lot of time to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives,” Jan said. “They were able to take the time to figure out what makes them happy. A lot of the new franchise owners and caregivers we’ve brought on board have chosen to do this with us.”
That was also true for senior-aged workers who had already retired. Jan said that Seniors Helping Seniors have experienced the “un-retirement trend,” which has seen about 1.7 million retired people in the U.S. entering the labor force again.
The trend is a welcomed one for Jan, who said Seniors Helping Seniors plans to take advantage of the un-retirees to attract both caregivers and franchisees across the country.
“I think we saw a lot of people that retired in 2021, quote-unquote, who are now looking for their passion project,” Jan said.
Jan credits the un-retirement trend as a reason why Seniors Helping Seniors was able to open 30 new franchise locations over the last 12 months, as well as hire and retain employees at a better rate than previous years.
“A lot of our caregivers and franchise owners are either taking care of their own parents or have done so in the past,” Jan said. “The way that they relate to our clients is different from somebody who maybe just graduated from CNA school and is 19 years old.”
When considering seniors who are coming out of retirement to work, Jan also said the company can provide flexibility, especially for in-home care workers.
“We ask all of our caregivers how many hours they want to work,” he said. “Some say 15 hours a week, others say 40. And not every caregiver wants to do toileting or activities of daily living. Some people don’t want to do end of life care. We let caregivers choose their hours and what services they want to provide.”
It also helps for retention purposes, Jan said, that most seniors aren’t scouring the job market like a younger caregiver would.
“The mindset of our caregivers is different,” Jan said. “When you’re 55 years old, you’re not job hopping and trying to get your next pay increase and promotion. The people we get are here because they’ve decided this is what they want to be doing and that really benefits us.”
However, retaining staff comes at a price. Even though Jan said Seniors Helping Seniors boasts a turnover rate a third of the national average, paying a little bit more for employees pays off in the long run.
“We pay a little bit less for finding new caregivers because we retain them, and we retain them because we pay a little bit more,” he said.
There have still been challenges, however. For instance, the movement in wage rates has been a struggle at times for Seniors Helping Seniors. Building more referral sources has also become a priority.
“Like every home care agency, we want to build more referral sources, but I think the consensus is there’s plenty of people that need help,” Jan said. “We focus on a different type of caregiver and a lot of our caregivers are being ignored in the [labor] market. We want to be known as the un-retirement mecca for seniors.”