Image of male nurse pushing senior woman in a wheelchair in nursing facility

Providers are increasingly realizing they need to apply some of the “TLC” for residents to their hard-working staff, as well — or risk absenteeism and attrition. Experts offer valuable insights on how best to ensure employees are getting adequate care and attention.

1. It begins with hiring the right people. “To maintain a positive culture, it’s essential to hire for cultural fit,” says Frederick Morgeson, Ph.D., scientific advisor for HealthcareSource and Eli Broad Professor of Management at Michigan State University.

It ends with giving them room to grow.

“Ongoing professional development is a workplace benefit that’s often overlooked but is very much appreciated,” says Jon Forknell, vice president and general manager for Atlas Business Solutions. 

Forknell suggests paid trips to professional development seminars and events as one way to grow expertise and rewind from the daily grind.

2. Make work scheduling flexible and transparent. A mobile-accessible schedule that allows staff to modify on the fly also reduces stress and can build work-life balance.

Offering transparency into individual scheduling and accruals is important for building trust and reaffirming the employee’s decision about working for your organization, says SmartLinx CEO Marina Aslanyan, a strong proponent of mobile scheduling tech. 

“Staff today need workforce systems that support all-new work patterns and deliver on-demand information, which is key to productivity and retention,” she adds.

3. Cloud-based and mobile tech are now essential employee engagement and workforce management tools, according to Kathy Douglas, chief clinical officer, Workforce Management Applications, at ABILITY Network.

Leveraging this technology to manage schedules benefits both employees and managers. Managers also can use the technology to inform decisions around stress-free and equitable scheduling and avoiding overtime. 

“It also allows employees to be active participants in how they work, managing their schedules to meet patient needs as well as personal ones,” she adds.

4. Pay more than the minimum wage for better retention.

“Being competitive with wages, benefits and working conditions is the cost of entry,and a differentiator,” notes Peter Corless, executive vice president of OnShift.

“Employees are looking to provide for themselves and their families, and having competitive pay and good working conditions play a major role in maximizing their performance,” adds Jordan Farmer, director of interim services for LeaderStat.

5. Facilities too strapped to exceed minimum wage can fill the gap with perks and benefits.

“Nursing home leaders should communicate with employees when they can’t make certain aspects of a job better,” says Morgeson. “It’s often helpful to brainstorm with employees about what improvements they think could be made. When people feel their voices are heard, their engagement levels increase.”

The perks list is limited only by one’s imagination. “Perks that work,” according to Corless, include social committee event planning, service anniversary and birthday luncheons, time off for volunteer or community work, and free lunches and snacks for afternoon and evening shifts.

6. Make the workplace special. One way is to empower staff. 

“Giving employees even a small amount of autonomy in their jobs is very important, especially if some of their tasks are challenging or unpleasant,” says Morgeson. “Rather than dictating to employees how they should do their work, it’s more fulfilling for employees when they play a part in deciding how to approach their work.”

Others say staff-resident social gatherings and activities “create a warm, inviting environment” that encourages bonding. 

Corless asserts a well-stocked, cheerful and inviting employee break room is a very powerful means of applying “special” to employees’ perception of their workplace.

7. Let staff know they are valued often and regularly. Rewards and recognition are important, but there’s more.

Says Morgeson, “Nursing home leaders should create opportunities to underscore the meaningfulness of employees’ work and the positive impact they have on residents.”

Corless agrees: “It’s critical for the mission, vision and values to be displayed in the community and reinforced throughout day-to-day activities.” 

8. Imbue a culture of empathy. Farmer believes staff who are shown how their work improves residents’ lives can boost pride in their work, and in so doing, the quality of care they continue providing.

There’s also empathy for the workers themselves. The more apparent and real, the better. “Your employee base isn’t one size fits all,” says Corless. “People are motivated by different things.”

Good leaders understand generational differences, cultural diversity and situational leadership, he adds.