When it comes to retaining staff in long-term care, taking the time to hire the right people is paramount. Use the carpenter’s framework: “measure twice—cut once.” Vet people carefully upfront. Include others in that vetting process so that you don’t have people leaving within the first 30 days and staff saying, “I knew she wouldn’t work out.” Staff stability starts with these five keys to good hiring.
Focus on character
Look for people with maturity and the ability for self-reflection; people who are compassionate and sensitive to others’ needs. Hire people who have high self-esteem, the ability to communicate and learn, and, most important, strong relational skills. Use a five-smile rule—look for people who are warm and friendly, and look for at least five smiles during the interview.
Enlist your receptionist as the first screen
Make sure your receptionist is included as a key member of your recruitment team and that he or she has information about available jobs and benefits. Teach him or her to screen applicants and to look for key clues about their appearance, courtesy, demeanor, and communication skills. How applicants treat the receptionist provides insight for how they might treat others. If an applicant passes the receptionist screen, the receptionist should immediately let the administrator or department head know to tour the person.
Make it a priority to screen good applicants
People who are looking for work and are applying at your nursing home may also be applying at lots of other places. Any of your competitors can scoop up a good employee. Make it a priority to meet applicants and do a quick screen on potential applicants when they apply. Even if your company has an online application process, do a quick screen. This is hard to do if you are casting a wide net with your recruitment resulting in dozens of applicants. It’s easy to do if you have targeted your advertising to attract specific candidates motivated for the right reasons and get only a few very good applicants.
Give an applicant a quick tour and observe the person very closely to get essential information about his or her character and suitability that you can’t get through reference checks. Walk quickly and see how the candidate keeps up. Place the candidate next to residents who are likely to engage the person to observe how he or she responds. After the tour, have the applicant wait in your office while you retrace your steps and ask staff if they have ever worked with the applicant. Seek their input about the candidate.
Include others in the interview process
Microtarget your interview process, just as you mircotarget your advertising. Hire for the unit and shift where the opening is and have staff from that unit and shift be involved in the interview process. As you become consistent in your assignments, you will want to hire into those assignments. Don’t just look for any nurse or CNA for every opening. Look for nurses and CNAs who are naturally good at working with people with dementia for your memory care unit, and for working with people recovering and returning home for your short-term rehabilitation unit. The jobs are very different. The skills needed are different. Advertise by opening, and interview accordingly.
Involving staff in the interview process provides many benefits. Staff can give a good idea of what the job entails so that applicants know what they are getting into. Staff can assess someone’s ability for the job from the perspective of doing it themselves. Having staff contribute to hiring gives them faith in the people who are hired, and it is the first step toward a warm welcome.
To do this, teach interview and hiring skills. Let people know what can and cannot be asked, legally. Help staff construct interview questions by sharing typical scenarios and asking how an applicant would handle them. Have them practice their skills and debrief after interviews so that they feel comfortable and can think together about what they learned from the interview. Consider job shadowing or having an applicant spend some time on the unit he or she would be working in, so that they applicant can see the pace and nature of the work, and staff can see how the person responds.
Provide a warm welcome
Make your welcome as warm and friendly as the people you are hiring. Remember that they didn’t just apply to work in your long-term care setting. They put in applications at a number of places. While they are sitting in your orientation, they may well get a call from one of those places. What will make them choose to stay with you? Are they nodding off while watching endless mandatory videos and signing forms, or are they engaged and feeling like they made a good choice to join your team? Make a connection immediately—it starts with you. Greet all new employees each day the first week and find out how they’re doing. Have a welcome sign for new staff and a little gift bag. Take them around for introductions. Make sure they eat meals with some of their co-workers for the area they will be working in.
This post was adapted from A Long-Term Care Leader’s Guide to High Performance: Doing Better Together by Cathie Brady, David Farrell, and Barbara Frank, Copyright © 2018 by Health Professions Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
Read the book!
A Long-Term Care Leader’s Guide to High Performance
Doing Better Together
By Cathie Brady, M.S., David Farrell, M.S.W., L.N.H.A., and Barbara Frank, M.P.A.
Copyright © 2018 by Health Professions Press, Inc.
Implement leadership practices and systems for continuous quality improvement in your long-term care organization with this practical guide.