John O’Connor

It’s no secret that finding and keeping long-term care employees has become a bit of a challenge.

Nor are the numerous reasons for this unfortunate reality much of a mystery. After all, we’re just now getting to the tail end of a devastating pandemic. But setting COVID-19 carnage aside, the work can be hard, unforgiving and seemingly never ending. Nor are the pay and perks creating a new generation of deca-millionaires.

Can we agree that song sucks? But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to find a happier tune.

It’s funny, but whenever I ask people in this field what really motivates them to work hard and stick around, I never hear about the salary. Or the bennies.

But almost to a man or a woman, I do hear this answer (or something along the same lines): I get to make a difference.

As any coach will tell you, it’s important to play to one’s strengths. And all too often, employers in the skilled care sector fail to capitalize on what a powerful advantage that can be.

For context, when was the last time a shelf stacker at Costco, a burger flipper at McDonald’s or a product puller at Amazon proudly made that statement? My guess is that the next time will be the first.

Ladies and gentlemen, what we have in long-term care is a sure fire blueprint for recruitment and retention success: Simply emphasize the heartwarming and purpose-filling satisfaction that making a difference can deliver.

Have you heard of Simon Sinek? He is a leadership expert and author of multiple best-sellers including “Start with Why.” Here’s one of my favorite lines from that book:

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

While that statement might appear to target businesses that sell things, I think it’s just as applicable to service providers.

You know why you are in long-term care. But are you sharing that message with prospects, colleagues, subordinates and others? If not, you are passing up a golden opportunity.

Play that card, and the lousy hand you’ve been dealt just might be a winner.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s.

Opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News columns are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.