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Strategies for Retaining Your RAL Staff

Finding the right people to work in your RAL homes isn’t always the easiest task, so when you find the right people you want to do everything you can to hang onto them. Retaining quality staff is often an issue for assisted living home owners and managers, so it is important to employ as many tools and strategies as possible to make sure that you are taking care of the people who are taking care of your residents. Home owners succeed when proper staff retention strategies are in place, resulting in: caregivers who have less stress and are more productive; caregivers who are happier in their jobs and less likely to leave; and best of all, happy and satisfied caregivers have an incredibly positive impact on your residents and their families.

The goal is to create a team of caregivers that helps fulfill your vision of a care home for seniors. It has been said that each resident will impact at least 10 friends and relatives, and those people will each impact another 10 people close to them. Thus, creating an environment for caregivers to thrive and enjoy the work of providing care for seniors is the best thing you can do to satisfy your residents, generate positive reviews, and build a pipeline of referrals for your business.

There has been talk about high staff turnover in assisted living for many years. Some of these complaints focus on low unemployment numbers and the effect that has on the unreliability of employees, or “Millennial attitudes,” or other reasons that effectively translate into “It’s not my fault that we have an employee retention problem.” Practical owners and managers quickly move past these excuses because they know that they can take on the responsibility to solve the problem.

The truth is that most caregivers are in the assisted living business because they care. They feel fulfilled by helping others. They want to do a good job and be recognized for their work. And most caregivers genuinely want the best for the residents in their care. And as most of you in the assisted living industry will know, a satisfied staff directly correlates to satisfied residents. Employing strategies that address these facts will help owners and managers keep hold of quality employees that will remain effective and loyal for years.

Tools for Residential Assisted Living Staff Retention

Retaining employees requires a multi-pronged approach to challenging your staff and getting the work done while providing proper rewards and incentives.  Employers must provide a safe and comfortable work environment while also communicating to employees that their well-being and career are of importance as well.

Compensation and Other Benefits that Increase Employee Retention

All businesses face tough decisions about employee compensation. Assisted living involves more than simply renting a room to seniors, it is about providing quality care. Caregivers are arguably the single most important part of the business. Accordingly, compensation packages are important and communicate an owner’s and their manager’s view of the value of their caregivers to the business. Salary, however, is only one of the compensation tools at a manager’s disposal. Some other important elements to a successful compensation package involve the following:

Retention Bonuses

Recent surveys report that only about 25% of assisted living residences provide cash bonuses for employees who stay with them. The average tenure required to earn such a bonus is three years, and the average bonus was just over $600. Gift certificates work great here too. Another way to look at this is that only 25% of your competition values staff retention.

It doesn’t take a lot of money to acknowledge the value of your team. Sometimes recognition alone can go a long way toward communicating value. If there is not enough money in your operation to be generous once or twice a year, staff retention may not be the only major problem. Take advantage of the opportunity to acknowledge your caregivers and other staff when you can. They are the principle ambassadors for your business.

Recruitment Bonuses

These tend to be effective when both the new hire and the recruiter get a bonus, and when the bonus is staggered (i.e. not given in full until the new hire has stayed for a defined period). Recent surveys report these bonuses were approximately $570 in 2015.

Tuition Reimbursement

As few as 13% of assisted living communities offered this benefit.  Providing assistance with certification programs benefits all parties and should be encouraged by all employers.

Mentoring Programs

This approach was used in less than 4% of care homes, perhaps because of the resource-intensive nature of mentoring.  Mentorship is very important to both sides of the relationship and helps jump start the learning process and assessment of the employee’s progress.  This could simply be the manager shadowing the caregivers once a quarter to make sure they are performing and learning.  Of course, this is more important for younger people who are new to the field, but still valuable to the more experienced worker who may be asked to mentor them.

Checksheets in Training and Operations

The use of checksheets in training and operations takes the guesswork out of the caregiver’s job and helps them focus on providing care. JJ Dedmon, who owns and operates three facilities with a total of 104 beds, helps illustrate this point. Few assisted living residences have detailed checksheets, according to Ms. Dedmon.

“Checksheets have saved me so much time and headache,” she says. “It clarifies expectations, and forces the managers to think through every single aspect of the job so that every aspect of the work is clear. I come from a nursing background and check-sheets are the norm. But other businesses use checksheets as well. Mortgage businesses, lawyers, even fast food places use check sheets, but most assisted living places don’t.”

Staff Bonuses

Performance bonuses are the most common staff retention strategy. This strategy, when combined with checksheets, will give caregivers clear performance targets.

Crafting performance standards that include clear milestones and incentives, helps your team and your managers who may be involved in the reviews.

Professional Development of Current Employees

The professional development of your staff is critical to your own success as well as to their job satisfaction and growth. Businesses that support professional development are rewarded with loyalty and more effective staff.

Professional certifications are available for both managerial and caregiver positions in most states, and are often available on their Department of Health and Human Services website.  Making certifications and regular training a standard part of your goal setting will pay dividends in both staff and resident satisfaction.

The Residential Assisted Living National Academy also offers online courses for staff and owners that can help improve caregiver performance.

Effective Communications and Friendly Relationships

Caregivers are on the front lines of resident interaction and satisfaction. Management is the key to creating an environment that supports the caregivers and establishes the positive environment desired by the residents. Communication skills are key to creating that supportive and open environment.

Open and respectful communications between owners, management, and employees is also essential for staff retention. Management must go beyond giving instructions to staff to building trustworthy relationships and demonstrating interest in their employees’ careers.

Assisted living residences are very intimate environments. A positive work environment that focuses on collegiality and positive relationships among the staff is what you want to communicate to residents and their families. This is an important part of your marketing and reputation as well, therefore, it is not something that can be left to chance. Fostering positive relationships in the workplace can do wonders for both employee and resident retention.

  • A good communication plan should include at least the following items:
  • Clearly setting detailed task expectations and adhering to them.
  • Setting schedules and allowing some flexibility for personal needs.
  • Seeking feedback to optimize operations.
  • Quarterly updates to staff on both future and completed changes in operation.
  • Allowing staff to communicate with you via the manager, or directly, to voice issues and concerns.
  • Eliciting performance reviews of your caregivers and your operation by residents and their families, and sharing these openly.
  • Setting goals and measuring achievement.

This list, however, contains merely the mechanical steps and tasks associated with a communications plan. Building skillful communication among owners, managers, and staff to establish and maintain a positive environment is more difficult to capture. Accordingly, your initial steps in establishing a positive environment will depend upon hiring people with positive communication styles.

Annual Performance Reviews

It is important and a sign of good communications to adhere to a consistent performance review schedule, usually annually. Employees measure themselves on goals agreed upon and attained, and expect to be compensated for their loyalty. If you are using checksheets, there is little guesswork in performance reviews. Staff bonuses are a common acknowledgment for staff performance. Expect to do what it takes to meet their needs so you can continue to maintain a positive work environment.  Work with each individual to set goals so they can continue to grow in their careers.

Beyond the successful completion of their work by checksheets, staff evaluations can include questions around: attitude, communications, growth, dependability, productivity, initiative and creativity

It is important to develop an objective weighting system describing how important each area is to your operation and how well the employee performed. Totaling up the scores provides a quick measure of the results and allows you to easily compare progress from review to review. Naturally, additional reviews other than the regularly scheduled ones could also be conducted in the event of a promotion or change in duties and responsibilities, or at other times deemed appropriate.

These are just a handful of the tried and tested strategies for retaining the staff in your residential assisted living homes. As with any business, you don’t want to just fill positions, you want the very best employees you can find. This is even more crucial in the business of care homes where the health and well-being of senior residents is on the line.

If you need more tips on how to find the right staff for your care home, check out our previous blog post How Do I Find the Right Staff for My RAL?

Or if you’d like more information about topics like this check out the Residential Assisted Living National Association at Another excellent resource for you covering all things in the Residential Assisted Living community. The Association provides support to members through collaboration, group purchasing power, advocacy, industry marketing, educational services, and certifications. The goal is to strengthen and support the excellent care being provided in residential care homes; high quality, personalized residential care.

The Residential Assisted Living National Association represents the interests of small assisted living providers. The mission is to help small assisted living homes get the resources they need, give them a voice at the national level, and improve the quality of service provided throughout the industry. With a national membership base, RALNA offers a robust set of benefits, including:

  • Training/Education – Provide even better care to your residents through education and training opportunities with nationally renowned experts.
  • Legal Services & Advocacy – Have access to legal experts that understand the assisted living business and the legal issues surrounding it.
  • Improved Industry Standards – RALNA’s certification program tells the public that your home meets rigorous national standards.
  • Save Money – Our national membership base allows RALNA to offer robust group buying power so members save money and increase profitability.
  • Market Your Home – RALNA helps to educate the general public that smaller is better when it comes to assisted living, and we provide a home locator so potential residents can learn about your services.

Also, RALNA will be developing a staff review form for its members in 2019. Although, in the meantime, various rudimentary templates can easily be found on the Internet.

To find out more about RALNA’s training programs and learn what this amazing organization can do for you:



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Gene Guarino


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