This article is sponsored by Axxess. In this Voices interview, Home Health Care News sits down with Tammy Ross, Senior Vice President of Professional Services for Axxess, to learn about the ROI of workforce development and how organizations can build a successful program to better serve their staff. She also discusses some of the most common workforce development traps or mistakes to avoid in today’s environment, and she outlines the steps providers are taking to navigate them.
Home Health Care News: What career experiences do you most draw from in your role today?
Tammy Ross: I want to start with the fact that I have been a registered nurse for over 30 years. When we’re looking at workforce and workforce development, the key asset right now is our nursing workforce. Additionally, I’ve been in the care-at-home industry for close to 30 years as well, and I have led hospices and home care agencies globally.
I was blessed with the opportunity to open the first home health and hospice agencies in Guam and Saipan, so I understand the globalization of the workforce. I also hold an advanced certification in case management, which spans every facet of the health care field from payers to workforce.
Most recently in my role with Axxess, I have developed an online training and certification program that is geared toward onboarding, recruitment and retention for our clients and the entire industry.
Why is workforce development important, and what is the ROI you see?
If we don’t pay attention to workforce, we’re not paying attention to the business. Wherever the workforce goes, so does the business. In other words, workforce is the key asset in the care-at-home industry. It streamlines our operational process and allows staff to hit the ground running. If we create a strong workforce development program, we will have a more efficient way to train staff and ensure that there is knowledge absorption.
Again, through our training and certification program here at Axxess, we validate both confidence and skills. We’re also able to measure that with analytic tools in addition to other metrics like workforce return on investment, and even adoption rate. All of these things are ultimately a measure of productivity and efficiency.
What does a successful professional development program look like?
First of all, I think it has to be role-based, and we need to have levels of training. In other words, it’s critical to gear your development program toward the role and skill set of each person. We have a role-based levels program so that if you’re coming in at the entry-level, you’re not going to take the most advanced development program.
I think workforce development also needs to have career progression built in. So often when we look at turnover rates, we hear that there was no workforce development. That is a major driver, and we have to make sure we’re challenging our staff and utilizing them to the top of their skill set.
Currently, we’re in a challenging staffing situation as it applies to our clinical workforce. I think the goal for most people is, “Let me just find more registered nurses. If we pay more, we’ll get them here and we’ll be able to continue our business.” That’s not working anymore. In fact, I just heard from an organization that offered a $50,000 sign-on bonus and could not attract a registered nurse to come on board.
We really need to look at those paraprofessionals. What are we doing with our home health aides and CNAs to elevate their skills so they’re performing at the top of their certification and regulations in the state? When we look at workforce development, we really need to start looking at how it fits in staffing in general, and how we can utilize those paraprofessionals and others to their fullest potential.
Describe the challenges organizations are seeing in recruitment and retention today.
The old strategy is no longer working. When I graduated from nursing school, I was offered a car and almost double the salary to go into home health rather than hospital nursing. It worked back then, and several of my colleagues chose that home health path right out of college. That’s not working now.
We are not able to recruit based on monetary assets. We have to look at retention and recruitment strategies that focus on flexibility — things like job sharing and geographic territory that enable us to narrow the scope of care at home for those particular clinicians. We have an application called Axxess CARE that connects clinicians to jobs and patients in need of care.
It allows clinicians to become their own CEO. They manage their own time, they decide what kind of patients they want to see, they decide what kind of skill sets they want to develop. Agencies have access to those clinicians at their fingertips, which is why we like to call it the “Uberization” of health care. Providers can choose to use our Axxess CARE app to plug into a huge pool of nurses and schedule them as needed.
We have more than 10,000 clinicians on our application now, all of whom are actively engaged users. Trends show that they prefer to work that way, so gone is the shift work of the past. Nurses want work-life balance, and I think that really came to light during the pandemic. People made some significant choices when it came to their work, and we have to continue looking for new ways to recruit and retain.
Axxess is trying to facilitate new ways of thinking around topics like recruitment and retention through events like its first-ever Industrywide conference called AGILE, which stands for Axxess Growth, Innovation and Leadership Experience. With more opportunities for industry leaders to learn from emerging leaders outside of the space, we can make the greatest impact in the bigger picture and overcome challenges in staffing and other areas.
What are some of the common workforce development traps or mistakes to avoid in today’s environment?
I think the biggest one is that we wait so long to onboard clinicians, and when we actually get them, we don’t invest in them like we should. All the time I hear about nurses who come in for orientation and have a full load of patients the next day. We’re creating a revolving door that way. Nurses are leaving, generally within six months, and I find it’s because they haven’t been onboarded correctly. We’re expecting too much out of them. We need to invest in training, education and proper orientation.
Again, going back a long ways in my career, I came from a time where we actually had classroom training on how to do in-home care. That’s no longer the case. I think Axxess has done an excellent job going back to the basics. We’ve put that classroom training online, so clinicians can onboard anytime, anywhere. We even break the lessons into micro modules so they can complete them in about five-minute increments — flexibility is key.
I teach on generational leadership, and one of the funny anecdotes I mention is that when millennials come on board, they often say, “You know I can’t really get to work till 10:00 AM, and I really need to be off by 2:00 PM,” and all of us older baby boomers are laughing at that and thinking, “Oh, no. No way you could work here.” Believe it or not, that’s what we have to do. We have to focus on flexibility, and yes, our younger workforce is making some very smart decisions around work-life balance. They’re not married to the job anymore, and that will significantly reduce burnout.
The other trap providers fall into is failing to show staff the respect they deserve Things like handwritten thank-you notes and other tokens of appreciation go a long way, and it is equally important to look at them as individuals, not just part of the workforce.
Finish this sentence: “The top strategy that care providers should employ in 2022 to best prepare for 2023 is…?”
Embrace technology related to the workforce.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Axxess Growth, Innovation and Leadership Experience, known as AGILE, will bring together the brightest thought leaders, policymakers, technology innovators, and care teams to envision a shared future of healthcare at home. Sessions will help attendees utilize leading-edge solutions and leadership approaches to solve the challenges we face and build the future of care at home, together. Don’t miss out on this unique experience, click here to learn more.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].