Senior Living is still trying to steady its sea legs after two years of turmoil. Most executives at the recent Argentum conference in Minneapolis, MN were kvetching more about staffing over occupancy.
Justin Stein, VP of People at Bickford Senior Living in Olathe, Kansas, is one of those executives who believes he needs to constantly evolve his hiring plan to best serve the applicant. While he admits his plan isn’t perfect, we believe it provides some fresh ideas that could help your community’s hiring plan. Here are Justin’s Top 5 Hiring Practices in this New Era of Staffing.
Justin is VP of People at Bickford Senior Living, a company with 60+ communities across the Midwest and parts of eastern US. Justin has worked in senior living since 2009 and holds a degree in Organizational Communication.
#1 – Speed to Applicant
We understand the value of Speed to Lead when courting prospects. Justin says it’s time to apply that same principal to your applicants. Afterall, they are just as valuable as the residents they care for. Bickford makes it a priority to connect with applicants in less than a day.
To help them, Justin and team are implementing an Applicant Tracking System that allows them to track speed to applicant easily. The system sends a similar message across multiple channels through the platform. They connect with applicants via voice or text or email in that first day. This doesn’t just increase chances of reaching the applicant, but it also helps Bickford identify which method of communication the applicant prefers.
#2 – Utilize Hiring Guides
Bickford Senior Living uses various effective assessments to determine if an applicant is a cultural fit for their organization. Hiring people who understand, believe, and live into their mission, purpose and core values is extremely important to them. Skills of course are too, but Bickford’s philosophy is that many skills can be taught, but someone’s personality, belief system and work ethic isn’t likely to change much from one job to the next. They call it their 51% to 49% hiring practice. As long as a new hire is a 51% cultural fit, Bickford can teach them the other 49%.
Justin says when you know an applicant is a good fit, strive to get them in the community as quickly as possible. Depending on the position that could be a “shadow day” before they’re even hired. The point is to quickly show them – even before they join your community – that it’s the best place to work.
#3 – Streamline Onboarding
What is your hiring leader doing so everyone is set up for success? What are the steps of onboarding and orientation that help your new hire feel well-informed, well-trained, and ready to be the best staff member they can be?
Pulling a new hire into the culture is part of Bickford’s hiring strategy, but it isn’t a successful strategy if it doesn’t get the new hire to stay. Once Justin and team identify the right person, they attempt to make onboarding really easy for them.
Justin suggests you streamline the onboarding process by doing it remote and online, something most people appear to prefer. It’s not until orientation day that new hires arrive on-site at their community.
Communication is the key to a successful onboarding. It’s all about creating comfort for the new team member. Let them know what to expect next, what to expect on their first day, what onboarding is like and orientation, too. Give them a cheat sheet for names, titles, and faces. Give them a go-to person, someone who can answer those basic questions after they get the deluge of new information, and even take them to lunch. Newbies want to get it right, but if they aren’t well equipped it takes them longer to get past natural anxiety.
Bottom line: People want to know what they’re walking into ahead of time. So, communicate clearly.
#4 – Get to Know Your New Hire
Few things make us feel more cared about than when someone remembers something specific about us, or gives us a meaningful gift, no matter how small it is. It’s what we do for our prospects! Justin says, “treat your team members like you do your seniors. Roll out the red carpet for them on their first day!” which means you have to get to know them before they set foot in the door.
When your salesperson learns that a potential new resident loves Hershey kisses, they will have a bag full of them when they arrive to sign the contract. When you discover a new team member, for example, loves horses and red wine, buy that $10 bottle of Dark Horse Cabernet and place it in their welcome basket when they join your team. We all just want to feel heard and valued.
Bickford is about to start using new hire surveys for this purpose which will reduce the guess work. The survey answers will help them get to know their new team member before they arrive. Modeling this level of attention reflects the company’s motto to do “Whatever it takes” for their residents and for their staff. When you treat your team members just as thoughtfully as you do your prospects and residents it increases bonding with your team.
#5 Check-ins for 100 days.
The first 30 days in senior living is typically the toughest for new hires and it’s when many of them transition out. Justin says it’s fairly common to see. That’s why Bickford conducts several check-ins between Day 1 and Day 100.
“We know that after onboarding there will be bumps along the way. We don’t want them to read those bumps as not being the right fit for the position or the company and then transition out.”
Bickford spends a lot of energy on creating an environment to bond with new staff members early on as they navigate the new environment, equipment, software and co-workers. Justin says they’ve found retention numbers increase once they get the new team member to 30 days. It’s a critical window of time to weather so they are more apt to stay long term.
Bickford is moving from monthly team member survey to a first 30 day, 60 day and 90 day survey, followed by a voice to voice with their leader at 100 days. Justin adds, the questions don’t have to be intense. Include open ended questions like, “How do you enjoy it here?” “What has your experience been like?” Justin says that constant feedback loop always helps to make the experience better.
Justin’s final words of advice: Your hiring plan is never finished. Stay open to feedback. Be willing to act on that feedback. Labor redistribution is real so where possible adapt your environment to meet the needs of those you want to hire. Perhaps give them the ability to pick up shifts when they want to or access their paychecks earlier – after all they have already put in the hours. It’s a shift in mindset that Justin believes will make his brand and yours a place where more people will WANT to work.