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Is There Really a Workforce Crisis?

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By Steve Moran

Sigh . . . I am going to wade into this with both feet, a bit fearful I am wading into quicksand . . . but here goes.

Just because as a nation we are facing a shortage of caregivers does not mean senior living has a workforce crisis. The impending shortage of care workers should be seen as a huge opportunity. Here is what I am thinking.

Most Frontline Jobs

Most frontline jobs in most industries are only about workers making some money. People don’t do them because they love mopping floors, making hamburgers, being a cashier at a 7/11. They do those jobs because they are the best job they can get with the education, skills and temperament they have.  

There are virtually no frontline workers who wouldn’t jump at a chance to have a better job both because of pay and job satisfaction. Most of those workers are just stuck. No one raises their kids and says I hope they make a career of cooking burgers or working the counter at Burger King.

Senior Living Frontline Jobs

There is an overused story about two bricklayers who are working side-by-side doing the exact same thing except that one sees himself as just a bricklayer and the other sees himself as the builder of a cathedral. The way the story is usually used is in the context of how we view what we do. However, this largely misses the point.

Unfortunately in Senior Living most line workers see themselves as housekeepers, dishwashers, care aides or bus drivers, which is why our turnover is so breathtakingly high. It is unrealistic that lineworkers, at least in the society we live in, will see themselves as cathedral builders and not bricklayers.   

It is the obligation, the opportunity, the moral imperative of senior living leaders to inspire all staff, but particularly line staff to see themselves as cathedral builders.

The Best Job in the Whole World

There are not many places you can go to work and make a huge difference in people's life each and every day. This is what our frontline workers are doing. We need to talk about it, we need to tell stories about victories . . . and failures. We need to laugh about it. We need to reinforce the message until people are sick of hearing it.

More importantly, we need to live it out. We cannot talk about how we are doing noble things and then do less than noble things.

If we do this . . .

Senior Living will become the very best frontline job to have. We will be ones sucking up the best of the frontline staff. We will leave McDonald's, Burger King and Starbucks behind. Think of it this way, even in markets with poor average occupancies there is always one or two senior living community that are just killing it. It is like they didn’t get the memo that occupancy is a problem.

We can be that way with our team members. We can be the best line level jobs in the whole world. 


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