Masks and gowns. “Cover, clean, and distance.” Virtual job fairs. “Heroes Work Here” signs. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought enormous changes to senior living workplaces and work- ers. Managing the ongoing crisis now and into the future will require providers to rethink their approaches to recruitment and retention. “This as an unprecedented time in both the

speed and scale of disruption in our field,” says Bob Kramer, president of Nexus Insights and founder and strategic advisor at National Invest- ment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). Direct caregivers, culinary staff, maintenance, housekeeping, activities directors, concierges— workers from all roles and facets of senior living have gathered their strength, empathy, and skills, often for long hours and extra days, to keep resi- dents safe, comfortable, and cared about. To get this degree of dedication takes attention

to ensuring staff members themselves feel sup- ported, valued, and understood. “They’re going into what right now, in the midst of

the epidemic, can be dangerous situations,” Kram- er says. “They can do that if they feel that manage- ment really has their back and walks the talk.” And as the initial intensity of the crisis is ebb- ing and it becomes clear this will be a long-term situation, operators can benefit by taking time to create a more holistic approach to recruiting and staffing. “Culture is critical,” Kramer says. “The compa- nies that will be seen to have responded the best in the midst of this terrible crisis will be those that had strong culture going in.”

“One of the things we encour- age clients to do is to openly communicate, because you’ve got a workforce that’s on the front lines,” says OnShift CEO Mark Woodka. Providers used the platform to relay messages about safety protocols and PPE locations.

“A strong culture enables you to truly have a team. And in a crisis, you’ve got to have a team.” The pandemic has impacted staffing levels in several ways. Some workers have had to stay in quarantine because they were sick or exposed to infected individuals. Some haven’t been able to work because schools have closed, and they don’t have childcare. Concerns about infecting family members or older people who need care in their own families have led some workers to leave their jobs. Key to keeping workers on the job in the first place is doing whatever possible to keep them safe—and communicating reassurance that man- agement is making every effort. Providing suf- ficient PPE and sanitizing supplies is obviously important, but the next priority is being able to provide information about what’s happening at the community and how they can keep them- selves and their families safe.


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