Senior Living Leaders Agree: Employee Flexibility is Key to Eliminating Agency Reliance in the Future of Staffing
Employee flexibility has emerged as a disrupting trend in senior living and leaders from Americare Senior Living, Beacon Health Management, Bickford Senior Living, and BookJane all agree that it will be key to eliminating agency reliance in the years to come.
During a McKnights staffing panel, industry veterans discussed that with the existing labor crisis colliding with increasing state staffing minimums and exorbitant agency fees, the industry as a whole will have to rethink the way that they recruit, retain, and maximize the utilization of their staff.
“Historically, we have been slow to adapt to change in senior living,” says Justin Stein, Vice President of People, at Bickford Senior Living.
However, one of the biggest opportunities – and challenges – remains to meet the changing needs of the workforce. Staff are increasingly interested in scheduling flexibility and choosing shifts that fit their schedules.
By transitioning from the traditional 8-hour shift to 2, 4, and 6-hour shifts, Bickford has seen “huge benefits that we did not expect,” said Justin, “and is attracting a new subset of workers into the workforce.”
Beacon Health Management’s Vice President of Human Resources, Krista Sikes agreed, stating the ‘old school’ method of staffing is no longer working, and catering to the unique needs of their staff is key to retaining their existing workforce as well as the drive the workforce back to the industry.
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“It’s the entire aggregate of ‘what is it that [an] individual needs and how we can be flexible about that,” said Krista. “Because everyone’s needs are not the same.”
The shift to flexible staffing also accentuates the need for scalable technology to empower their front-line workers to pick up shifts and augment administrators’ jobs of finding shift coverage.
“It can cause a lot of anxiety when a shift may not be filled and we know our business is built on great care,” said Justin. “So giving tools like BookJane to very easily reach out to their staff to use them on a higher level, makes them feel confident that they have the resources to do their job.”
The Game Changer For Agency Usage
Building an Internal agency has been one of the most breakout strategies used to combat staffing challenges in 2022, citing reduced agency costs, improved retention, and better quality of care as key benefits experienced after implementation.
While Americare Senior Living, Beacon Health Management, and Bickford Senior Living are all in different stages of developing their internal agency using the BookJane J360 Platform, the panel all agreed that this is a solution, here to stay.
“We’re trying to mimic what the external agencies are doing but we’re cutting out all of the overhead,” says Krista. “We’ve had a 50% reduction [in external agency costs] since we’ve implemented the [internal] agency compared to just three months prior. It’s just phenomenal.”
By augmenting their workforce with on-demand staff, communities also receive the added benefit of better quality care.
Bickford Senior Living cross-utilizes its homecare business to fill shifts in its assisted living communities, ensuring that staff maintains its core values and is fully trained on policies and procedures within the organization.
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“It’s a mutually beneficial relationship between the two sides of our organization. It allows us to bring on more homecare clients and know that we’ll have the caregivers to care for them [while they’re also filling shifts in assisted living].”
Internal agencies can also act as a recruitment tool, catering to the needs of employees interested in leaving the sector or moving over to an agency for more flexible work opportunities.
“At the end of the day, most healthcare workers want to be a part of a team – they really don’t want to be a part of an agency,” says Tina Gotsch, Director of Impact Staffing, Americare Senior Living.
The internal agency gives employees a “side step”, experiencing the benefit of greater working opportunities while staying on staff.
Tina emphasized “In the long run you have to have a scheduling app. We use BookJane because it was one of the first solutions to be able to send shifts smoothly to outside agencies, and to be able to tailor shifts with a variety, including location and shift length.”
Setting Staff Up For Success
Despite the shrinking workforce, the demands on frontline workers have exponentially grown. Technology remains the only strategy to successfully augment the workforce so they can focus on high-value work and reduce burnout.
“We need to make sure we are taking care of our employees- because without our employees we cannot take care of our patients,” said Tina.
And simplicity is key.
Curtis Khan, CEO, and Founder of BookJane emphasized that from onboarding to training, technology should be easy to use. BookJane’s roadmap is hinged on empowering employees to improve utilization and has proven to encourage engagement across the front line.
BookJane is the staff management tool of choice for Impact Staffing by Americare Senior Living, Beacon Health Management, and Bickford Senior Living and makes it possible to eliminate up to 100% of all agency costs by maximizing staff utilization, easily building and managing internal agency, and sharing staff with nearby facilities.