Question of the Month: What’s Your Staffing Situation?

Is your labor and staffing situation better, worse or the same as it was earlier in 2021, and why?

Focus on engagement

By Monica Friedman

Chief HR Officer


We are continuing to experience staffing challenges to a greater degree than we did earlier this year. Although it varies by location, the challenge of attracting new talent to our industry remains. 

We have faced increased wage pressure from staffing agencies that offer higher wages to experienced workers only to charge those higher wages back to clients. And, while most healthcare settings are requiring the COVID-19 vaccination, the federal mandate for nursing home workers does not apply to hospital workers. Staying focused on employee engagement and culture is the key to increasing retention in this environment.

Rising occupancy raises stakes

By Thomas Grape

Chairman, CEO


Labor and staffing trends are as challenging as they were in early 2021, particularly with the recruitment of frontline staff and nurses. The difference today is that our occupancy rates are skyrocketing, thus making the issue more pronounced. 

Thankfully, Benchmark continues to be an employer of choice, and a recent survey found that the vast majority of employees looked favorably upon our COVID-19 response — two factors that speak volumes about our culture and influence retention and recruitment. I’m curious to see the impact on workforce availability as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation funded by the Cares Act ends.

Challenges abound

By Lori Jones

Chief Operating Officer

12 Oaks Senior Living

Staffing has gotten a lot more challenging since the beginning of 2021 due to a couple of factors. Potential associates have chosen to stay at home during the pandemic for various reasons. The expanded unemployment benefits have encouraged people to stay at home. 

Another factor is mandatory vaccinations that are taking root across the country. There is still a strong personal conscience around the decision to get the vaccine and many people are still refusing. In senior living this is particularly challenging as there is a need to do all we can to protect our most vulnerable population.

Face the problem head on

By Wyman Hamilton

President, COO

Atlas Senior Living

Our labor and staffing situation is better than it was earlier in 2021. That said, it is still the greatest challenge that our community leadership teams face on a daily basis and it will continue to be for some time ahead. 

We have gained some traction by facing this problem head on. We have increased wages in certain markets; beefed up our associate referral program where new and referring associates get permanent pay increases after 90 days; and added retention bonuses. In addition, we saw an uptick in applicants and new hires in the states where the additional federal unemployment benefits were stopped.

It’s never been tougher

By Michael Stoller

Managing Partner, CEO

LCB Senior Living

The labor market is the worst we’ve ever experienced. Turnover is higher than ever. After making remarkable progress reducing turnover before the pandemic, burnout has caused people to leave the industry. Other causes are fear of COVID, higher unemployment assistance, family safety concerns and constantly changing protocols. 

Progress on hiring from outside the industry has stalled. Once the industry’s success in handling the crisis is told, we will return to normalcy. The thrill and happiness we feel caring for others will drive associates back to the industry.

Connection is important

By Lisa Rogers

Chief Clinical Officer

Distinctive Living

Seniors housing has long been challenged with recruiting and retaining great staff. Distinctive Living recognizes this challenge as one of our greatest opportunities and is continually working within our local and regional leadership to recruit great talent and identify programs and incentives to retain our employees.

COVID-19 brought on a whole new set of variables to overcome and highlighted the importance of connection between people. We recognize the significance of constant recruitment and once that employee is hired, demonstrating our culture to foster caring communities where team members know how important their role is.

No improvement yet

By Chris Sides

President, CEO

Senior Solutions Management Group

Our staffing situation is pretty much the same as earlier in 2021. Some communities have rebounded from dire shortages, others have and continue to struggle.

Quality of applicants is problematic, as only 25 percent of applicants actually show up for an interview and of that only 2 to 3 percent actually make it to the first day of employment. We’ve tried all the gimmicks with little to no success. 

We really don’t have the solution other than to continue to reward those that come to work each day and help us maintain a minimum standard at the community level.