The past year was an interesting year for the field of aging services and specifically skilled care – challenging workforce dynamics, funding reductions, and increased regulatory scrutiny. I guess you could take the positive approach and say aside from those it was a pretty good year. Those with a less positive view could see 2018 as the beginning of the end to care delivery as we’ve known it.
A leader’s perspective should be a bit different. Leaders recognize the world of long term care as a volatile world where many of the changes are out of their control. Leadership is not about control since one can’t always control the work environment rather – about how we choose to respond. The difference is in how true leaders will respond to the tumultuous environment. Beginning with questions such as: Where do we start? What can we as leaders really do to impact those we serve? How can we transform our approach to the reality we live in and embrace the potential that could be? In other words, what can we control about our surroundings?
It may sound a bit simplistic, but we believe it starts with true leadership, your approach and attitude about the challenges faced. It starts with two simple steps (both in your control):
Open your Minds – change will happen with or without your permission.
As we work with long-term care organizations we see the challenges that change brings. At times, we hear references to “the good old days” when qualified staff stood in line to apply and communities had ample budgets to serve. Those days are gone.
In order to build teams, serve residents, and thrive in the years to come leaders must ‘open their minds’ to new ideas, approaches and talent. An example of this has been the influence that the hospitality industry has had on many organizations. More and more we see teams led by executives that come from, or are greatly influenced by the hospitality and resort community. Expectations of families and residents are changing, and we need to open our minds to approaches that have traditionally been outside the field (and the exciting opportunities presented).
Open your Hearts – It’s time to focus on the well-being of staff, not just our residents.
In a recent conversation with an executive director they shared that 2018 turnover was tracking at 50+%. We wish this was a shock to us, but it was really no surprise.
The historic focus on residents first, while appropriate for the risk associated with their care, has negatively impacted the workforce. In simple terms, staff have gotten lost in our cause, a casualty of resident care. With workforce issues being what they are, and retention being so important to building healthy organizations, it’s time leaders started taking an ‘employee first” approach. It’s time leaders open their hearts and proactively care for those that serve the residents we care for. If our staff are healthy, appreciated, and developed. they may be more inclined to stick with long term care, and improve the quality care residents deserve. It’s time to care for the caregivers as well.
So where do leaders start?
Yes, it can seem overwhelming at times but there is hope. In simple terms ‘We just have to decide, to decide’. Commit to new ideas, approaches and plans that will enhance and reshape how we do, what we do. We also need to commit to employee centered cultures, where staff are not just a tool in the care model, but the architect of it’s very design.
The coming year will bring unique challenges of its own, most are unforeseen at this time. The question for you is “what are you prepared to do to open your mind and open your heart”?