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Where Are the Bold Leaders in Senior Living?

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By Steve Moran

Several weeks ago we posted an article suggesting front-line senior living workers should be getting paid $25.00 an hour. It resulted in conversations with a number of operators who said “good idea, but we can’t afford it.”

I think they are wrong.

I believe that if we want the industry to be strong we are going to have to do this. There is this sense that if we can just hold on for the next 5 or 10 years the Boomer Age Wave will solve all our problems. I promise it won’t.

We would have to figure out the right way to measure it, but I would bet $1,000 that at best it will be a tiny little, hardly measured bump in number of consumers unless we get bold about product and services.

Some Strategies to Make it Happen

Here are 4 bold ideas that would make it possible to really “crank up the volume” with respect to front-line team members:

  1. Go to your residents and tell them you are raising their rates by $100 a month each and that you will give 100% of that money to frontline staff. Then watch your residents embrace the increase rather than complain about it.

  1. Market your community as being the community that has the highest paid caregiving staff and tell the story of raising rates and giving the entire raise to front-line staff members. What family would not want to move their loved one into the senior community with the highest paid team members?

  1. Be realistic about how much money you pay for agency staff and what that would do if your employed staff received that money instead.

  1. Think about how having higher paid staff might mean a better culture and a better culture will lead to higher occupancy which will make paying higher wages easier to stomach.  

Three More Things

Three more observations:

  1. There is very little difference in terms of what frontline staff members are being paid whether it is a for-profit or not-for-profit organization (with a few exceptions on both sides).

  1. If communities can break even or make a profit at say 90% or 91% and that community can get to a higher occupancy, it is pretty hard to say that employees are the first priority. It suggests profits are the first priority and not people.

  1. Money alone is not the antidote to turnover and low morale cultures. It has to be money plus care, opportunity to grow, trust, and a clear sense of purpose.

I can’t say who or what yet but I know of one owner who is about to force their management company to make this change. When it happens and we will have some results you will hear about it here?

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