The Best Hiring Practices in Assisted Living


The availability of qualified staff is a major concern for the senior living industry as it strives to keep up with growing demand for its residential services that has skyrocketed with the continual aging of the U.S. population.

With the aging of the baby boomers, 10,000 people are reaching retirement age every day. In the coming years, there will be a huge wave of seniors in need of assisted living and long-term care options. The question is: Will the industry be able to attract enough qualified workers to handle the increased demand? Experts estimate that the senior living industry will need to attract 1.2 million new employees by 2020 to serve the needs of the industry.

Compounding the challenge is a robust job market in which qualified workers have their pick of opportunities. The challenges for the senior living industry is to offer enough in terms of pay, benefits, and workplace satisfaction to keep the staffing pipeline adequately filled. There will be a need for qualified executive directors, program directors, nursing staff, caregiving assistants,  as well as the need to provide ongoing training in specialized areas such as dementia care. 

Retention is a challenge in the senior living industry, where issues such as employee burnout or “compassion” fatigue can be factors.  Linda Silveira adds “Turnover to this extent results in higher recruitment costs as well as loss of productivity”. It’s not only important to attract quality candidates to the industry but also to make their jobs attractive enough—with good pay, attractive benefits, and quality of the workplace—to keep them in their jobs.

“Staff retention and continuity are really important to us,” says Timothy Reilly, Benchmark’s Vice President Human Resources. It’s important to families as well, he adds, because they want their moms and dads to be able to develop a stable, long-term relationship with the person who is caring for them. It can be very disruptive—and disheartening, too—if someone who really “clicks” with a resident leaves to take another job. A positive relationship is lost, and it may take considerable time for the resident to develop a relationship with another staff member. In some cases, the resident may be apprehensive about doing so, fearing the same loss of relationship when that staff member leaves as well.

Even with good pay and benefits, some staff are more likely to move on to another job more quickly than others. These are for reasons related to the individual rather than the job itself. Tim suggests that senior living providers use predictive tools, such as Arena, that will help them determine the likelihood of a particular candidate staying in their job for a longer period of time.

Arena, a pioneer and national leader in using predictive analytics in hiring, has achieved a 100% success rate in improving retention across more than 450 healthcare industry facilities nationwide. Benchmark has partnered with Arena to strengthen its recruiting expertise and associate retention rate, thus further enhancing resident and family satisfaction, associate engagement and quality of care. Benchmark has already shown its commitment to workplace quality, as evidenced by its position as one of the “Top Places to Work in Massachusetts” by The Boston Globe for 10 consecutive years. To build on that reputation, Benchmark reached out to Arena to further its ability to attract and retain employees through the use of the latest in rich data analytics. The goal of that collaboration was to further improve recruitment and retention to better influence resident experiences and outcomes: and the first time Arena generated the best workplaces list, Benchmark placed 16th in their national category. 

Quality hiring practices are also essential to ensure that the best employees are hired and most likely to retained. Benchmark Senior Living requires multiple job interviews with a single job candidate before making a hiring decision. Potential employees also undergo two background checks (one federal and one state), are run against the sexual abuse registry, and must provide two references. 

It’s important for families to ask questions about employee staffing, recruiting, vetting and before moving into a community. Here is a list of potential questions to ask: 

● How do you recruit the staff for your community?
● What kind of vetting/background checking do you do?
● How many people do you have working on various shifts?
● What kind of education and training do you provide?
● What medical providers are available as part of your staff? What experience and training do they have?
● How do you determine staffing levels? Do you have set staff-to-resident ratios, or do staffing levels vary based on residents’ needs?
● What are your retention/turnover rates?
● What are your hiring security protocols?
● Can we talk to residents and families to find out their opinion of your staff and the residential experience?

Stay tuned for more tips and insights at Open Conversations. 
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Content for Open Conversations was developed in partnership with Caregiving Advice.

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