3 No Cost Ways to Improve Employee Retention in Long Term Care

3 No Cost Ways to Improve Employee Retention in Long Term Care

My colleague, Steve Moran of Senior Housing Forum, wrote an article a few weeks ago that ruffled some feathers, to say the least.

His post, Nursing Homes…A National Disgrace prompted scores of angry comments from people crying, “Not my nursing home!”

Beyond the anger, people asked some hard questions about why so many nursing homes have a terrible reputation.

One of those hard questions is about quality employees and retention.

Whether you are leading a nursing home or assisted living, the fact is the same.


Employee retention can be an obstacle to excellent care.

One comment on Steve’s article particularly resonated with me:

The dirty little secret about our business is that, despite a company’s size, corporate mission, experience, capital resources, quality brochures and even flashy media, this industry lives and breathes based on the actions of a caregiver, making $11.25 an hour, doing the right thing at 3am…night after night. […] In today’s decaying culture, how do you find dedicated, caring, moral, and ethical staff to recruit and hire? [And] doesn’t everyone else experience retention challenges, as those better employees you have spent time, effort, and expense training and educating – jump ship?!! So what is the answer/solution??

They’re good questions.

Certainly there are plenty of obstacles to hiring and retaining a great staff.

And high turnover is definitely an obstacle to excellent care.

In fact, research shows that increasing staff turnover results in a decrease for every quality measure looked at.

Let’s not forget behind decreased quality measures are real people.

It’s a real person in pain.  Someone’s mother or spouse with a wound.

But beyond those people what does decreased quality mean?

Most likely a worse reputation in the community, a poorer image with the local hospital/ACO…all leading to decreased census, revenue, and overall a downward spiral.

So what can you do about all those people who are looking to jump ship and bringing down your quality?

First, get the facts.

One study uncovered the myths of turnover, including the myths that CNAs don’t have a good work ethic, that they will leave for ten cents more an hour, etc.

Research shows that how staff is treated by their supervisor and the organization overall is actually the key indicator of employee retention.

As a former administrator for 15 years and now a trainer that has worked with thousands of employees, I have seen this to be true time and time again in organizations.

Research shows that how staff is treated by their supervisor and organization is a key predictor of employee retention. (Click to tweet!)


SO the big question is what the heck do we do about it?

1.  One free intervention is consistent assignment, the practice of nurturing relationships with residents and co-workers by consistently assigning team members to the same area.  Research shows implementing it can reduce turnover by 32 percent and absenteeism 41 percent!

2.  Another free intervention? Communicate with staff! Don’t just talk TO them, but listen to them. Before you jump to respond “we already do that,” I will share that in my experience it is the rare community that this is actually happening. The administrator often thinks its happening, but the staff feels very differently.

3.  Change your own perspective. How do you view your employees? Do you assume that they’re ready to “jump ship” at the first opportunity, or do you operate from the assumption that your staff shows up to work each day with the intention of doing their very best? This one attitude shift could work wonders.


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