If you’re a senior living executive, you’ve already heard the number in the report from Argentum. 1.2 million additional workers are needed in senior living by 2025. Attracting and retaining top talent is a challenge for our industry as it is. Nothing even close to “business as usual” will get us where we need to be. LeadingAge listened to members’ concerns and created the Center for Workforce Solutions in 2017 to provide support in the “workforce crisis”.

The problem must be approached from many angles at once including attractive workspace design, enticing benefits and incentive packages, and a positive corporate culture. Here we discuss why the right technology strategy is a necessity for attracting medical, resident services, and administration staff.

Senior living today is pulling talent from other industries like universities, restaurants, hospitality, and healthcare. The competition for attracting talent will continue. We can showcase why senior living is a great choice, but if we are offering sub-standard tools for staff we won’t convince workers to make the move.

Unfortunately, an alarming number of communities’ technology is lagging way behind, and it’s having a negative impact. Too often, communities are requiring employees to do mundane tasks that should be automated. By giving them the tools they need, they are free to be innovative in their work which leads to better employee engagement and satisfaction. At Episcopal Senior Communities, VP of HR, Prab Brinton, is leading the way for the organization to remain competitive. She states,

“We are getting rid of paper and manual tasks. HR should be training and supporting managers in the communities, not spending all of their time on processes that should be automated. Additionally, most employees are not sitting at a computer. We need mobile self-service and instant communication outside of email.”

Executive Director at LeadingAge CAST, Majd Alwan says, “Strategic IT planning is an essential differentiator for providers today, and we are encouraging LeadingAge members to not only invest in the technology itself, but also consider the strategic partnerships that will help gain and sustain market momentum.” Let’s take a closer look at how technology impacts recruiting and retention efforts and what you can do to develop the right IT strategy for your communities.

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I feel old when I can’t keep up with the kids these days and their instasnaptweet-whatcha-ma-call-its. Even if you don’t know your way around Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, it’s clear just by their names they have something in common…brief, immediate communication. Email is the new snail mail. If you don’t have a HIPAA compliant way for employees to communicate in a familiar, rapid fashion you’re forcing them to conform to antiquated methods.

In addition to instant communication, employees expect to manage everything from their mobile device. Most of us are used to depositing checks, purchasing tickets, and ordering food on our smart phone. More and more workers will expect the ability to order their lunch, submit PTO requests, and send a chat to staff for a heads up on what’s happening today as they are walking through the lobby to begin their shift.

Dude, Where’s my iPad?

Issuing an iPad to a new employee is no longer only what braggadocios companies do as a cool perk. Mobile tablets are a required tool, and if you aren’t leveraging them for your employees you are already behind. RNs, CNAs, and other resident care staff expect digitalization in their field. As stated in an article from Bradley University, “[Nursing staff] may have never worked or studied somewhere that did not require the use of computer and smartphone technology to complete regular tasks.” However, communities must determine how to strike the right balance with technology to avoid adding burden instead of efficiency. Mobile technology leveraged properly supports efficiency gains that are not negated in the form of data entry. Research at Bradley University points out,

“With proper implementation and training measures, health IT is one strategy that can improve nursing staff satisfaction rates.”

Mobile access to the most relevant, up-to-date information on residents, easy communication, and time management tools are a few areas that will improve staff engagement.

A Way Forward

No one has unlimited IT dollars and unlimited time and resources for implementing new technologies. Not to mention other factors such as cultural shifts, change management, and user adoption. It can feel too costly or time consuming to catch up. Strategic IT planning brings clarity to investing in technology in a way that brings the greatest return both financially and strategically. There are four main steps on the path to becoming an innovation leader or at least to avoid being left behind.

Assess: You can’t get from point A to point B without defining A (where you are) and B (where you want to go). Take an inventory of the technologies and how they are being used today in each area of the organization. This information should be measured against your strategic vision and initiatives. Maybe you implemented an EHR but only for compliance. How would implementing efficiency tools for medical staff help you achieve your initiatives around employee retention and engagement? Taking a wholistic view of the organization and aligning strategy with technology will guide you towards where to invest IT budget dollars first. Those who put in the time to analyze how these technologies are impacting their organization will have a much clearer view of the way forward to reaching their goals. When you assess the impacts from four perspectives, financial, compliance, strategic, and efficiency, you begin to understand how to prioritize these investments.

Plan: Now that you have aligned technology with your strategic initiatives, you can work to form a master plan. Often times it makes sense to begin with a solution that brings significant financial return on a short timeline. This could help fund upcoming projects as well as get people excited about tangible results. If the goal is to attract and retain talent, you need to form committees that include employees that would be leveraging proposed technologies to get a deep understanding of how to achieve efficiencies and avoid adding burden.

Evaluate and Implement: Once you determine where and how to invest in technology, you will need a strategy for evaluating and selecting the right technology partners. Putting in some time upfront to create goals, define desired outcomes, and analyze your selection criteria before diving into sales presentations ensures you will remain focused on the right solution for your organization without being distracted by a vendor’s bells and whistles. Finally, you and your selected technology partners will develop an implementation and rollout strategy that minimizes impact on your employees’ time and daily operations.

Your overall strategy for facing the senior living workforce shortage must include creating a technology plan that attracts the next generation of employees. We will continue to publish more tips on leveraging technology to achieve strategic initiatives.  Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter or sign up here for email alerts so you don’t miss out.