4 Tips For Home Health Care Agencies To Survive The Worker Shortage

Home health care agencies are facing a worker shortage. Here are some key tips for home health care agencies to get through it

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July 17, 2019
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It’s estimated that by 2025, there will be a shortage of nearly 450,000 home health aides. An aging population will hit the home health care industry twice, as it will simultaneously cause more demand for this industry’s services while many of its workers retire.

What can home health care agencies do to survive this time when demand for workers is higher than the availability of workers? Looking at the top reasons employees leave home care agencies is a strong place to start.

By addressing the main reasons employees leave, and thinking outside of the box when it comes to accessing talent pools, home health care agencies can ease the stress of the current worker shortage.

1. Offer More Flexible Hours (And Benefits)

According to research from Home Care Pulse, one of the main reasons home health aides leave their jobs is that they are dissatisfied with their hours and scheduling. There’s no question this is a challenge — clients often need support outside the regular 9-5 — but offering more part-time and flexible hours can help. If two or three workers can each work a part-time schedule to share the load of caring for a client, each worker can achieve a more satisfying work-life balance, making them more likely to stay on with your agency.

In the U.S., one reason part-time work can be unappealing is that part-time workers are less likely to receive benefits. It doesn’t have to be this way. Just because state laws don’t require employers to offer benefits to part-time employees doesn’t mean your company can’t offer benefits. Consider offering part-time employees paid vacation, personal and sick days, and overtime pay.

This can make working for your agency more attractive for people who, for various reasons, may not want or be able to work full-time — such as parents, senior workers, and college students. This flexibility can open up new talent pools for your organization to find qualified candidates.

2. Pay Employees More

Let’s not tiptoe around the elephant in the room: your agency may not be paying its employees enough. Pay and benefits is the number three reason home health aides leave their jobs, and it’s no surprise. Wages grew just 3.4% in 2018. Did your agency give its employees a raise?

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Some economists like Paul Krugman, citing research from M.I.T. and others, question the very idea of a skills gap. Krugman argues, “If employers are really crying out for certain skills, they should be willing to offer higher wages to attract workers with those skills.” If your agency is having trouble finding a supply of employees, it might be time to increase the wages you are offering.

While a growing number of large companies — including Costco, Target and Amazon — have raised their entry-level wages to $15 an hour, home health aides only have a median salary of $11, or $23,130 a year. Though many home health aide positions don’t require education beyond a high school diploma, the work is nonetheless physically and emotionally demanding.

For many low-skilled workers, the idea of working check-out at Costco and earning $15/hour may be more attractive than doing the hard work of a home health aide while receiving lower pay.

3. Train Staff to Keep Them Learning and Growing

According to Home Care Pulse, little or no training is the number four reason home health aides leave their jobs. Proper orientation and ongoing training can help employees become more confident in their skills and better at their jobs.

Plus, offering professional growth opportunities makes employees more likely to stick around. Agencies that provide five or more hours of orientation training see turnover rates that are roughly 27% lower than their industry peers. Home health aides are more likely to recommend employment at their agency if they are satisfied with the training they receive, which makes it easier for your agency to find other qualified candidates.

Ongoing customer service training and other trainings improve your employee retention rate, boosts your employees’ skills, makes your agency a more attractive employer, and may even increase the number of referrals you get from existing employees. Given the benefits, your agency can hardly afford not to offer training.

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4. Recruit Older Employees

Some home health care agencies are turning to older employees to address their labor gap. For many of these older workers, part-time work is more attractive than either full-time work or full-time retirement (as in our earlier point: part-time work opens avenues to different employees).

More than ever before, workers over the age of 65 are staying in or reentering the workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of workers aged 65 to 74 and workers aged 75 and older will increase the fastest through 2024. The number of workers aged 65 and older is projected to grow by 75% by the year 2050, while the number of workers aged 25 to 54 is only expected to grow by 2% over this same period.

This brings the opportunity for a mutually beneficial situation: the talent pool of candidates aged 65 and over can provide home health care agencies with much-needed workers, and home health care agencies are well-suited to provide reliable work for this demographic. Older workers sometimes face roadblocks with limited employment options, being considered ‘overqualified’ for many roles, or experiencing employer discrimination because of their age.

Home health care can be a fitting field for these candidates. In certain ways, older home health care aides may be more suitable for clients than younger ones. As one older home aide in Tomball, Texas described, she feels she can relate to her clients better than a much younger aide. Plus, research shows that older workers tend to stay in their jobs longer than younger workers.

Conclusion

By offering part-time work (with benefits), better pay, more training, and satisfying work for older employees, your home health care agency can not only survive the home health care worker shortage, but also ensure your employees are happier and more skilled at their jobs — which can only lead to happier clients.