Millennials care about meaningful, rewarding work and flexibility, and home care offers both.
Providers of in-home care must turn down 50% of those seeking care due to a lack of staffing, but part of the solution may be attracting millennials to the private duty and home care industry.
“In the private duty industry and the home care industry, staffing has always been a challenge, but then throw the pandemic into it and that punctuated things exponentially,” says Kristen Wheeler, executive director of Private Duty Home Care at the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). “The worker crisis is massive, and it’s only going to get worse.”
For example, according to NAHC:
- The caregiving workforce needs to increase by 8.2 million jobs to accommodate future needs.
- Since March of 2020, providers have seen a 23% decrease in home care aides working for them, which led to a 28% increase in open shifts since before COVID.
- Nearly half of all direct-care workers abandon the field each year.
NAHC is working to turn the ship with the recent creation of the Home Care Workforce Action Alliance, a combination of NAHC, the Homecare Association of America, and, going forward, other stakeholders — patient representatives, direct care professionals, US and state legislators, governors, and educators.
“[We] realized that there is no silver bullet to answer this crisis and the only way to address it is if we work together, ”Wheeler says. “All stakeholders in the industry need to get onboard with this, because the crisis is just getting much, much bigger as Baby Boomers age out.”
A job with meaning
Compensation is a major hurdle in recruiting and retaining home health aides and direct care workers, Wheeler says.
“These are generally very low-paying jobs. Minimum wage is going up, but reimbursement rates are not nearing that, so why would someone decide to be a home health aide if they can make more money working for a retailer? ” she says.
Professional perception of home health aides and direct care workers needs to shift, Wheeler says. “People need to understand what a critical piece of the healthcare continuum this is,” she says.
That understanding may best come from millennials who, studies indicate, are more focused on making a difference than making money.
“Compensation, of course, is still key. Everybody needs to make a living, everybody has bills to pay, ”Wheeler says. “But when you look at the millennial generation, they’re equally as concerned about what they’re doing needs to mean something; purpose over paycheck, ”she says.
Daniel Goleman, author of the bestseller Emotional Intelligencewrote of a survey that found 63% of millennials said the primary purpose of businesses should be “improving society” rather than “generating profit.”
Home care fits that bill, Wheeler says.
“Something that speaks to them is going to be that much more attractive and I think that the home care industry, it is an easy sell, for lack of a better way of putting it,” she says.
“That type of work is so rewarding when you realize the difference that you’re making in these people’s lives, and that you can be a part of somebody being able to stay at home rather than go into facility-based care,” Wheeler says . “They can live at home, largely independent, and age the way that they want to and that is a great position to be in to attract this population of workers.”
Flexibility in the workplace is also important to millennials.
“Where home care agencies may have an advantage is another area that millennials often say they’re looking for in their work, and that is flexibility. If you’re working in the home care field, you pretty much can dictate your schedule, ”she says.
Indeed, when 14,655 surveyed millennials were asked by Deloitte Global which employee behaviors are most critical to the success of their organizations, 46% of them ranked flexibility and adaptability first.
Where a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or assisted living facility generally dictate schedules, home care providers can choose which days and times they work — or don’t work.
“That is an incredible way to attract that millennial population,” Wheeler says.
Getting out the message
Private duty agencies need to get that message out where millennials will hear and see it, Wheeler says.
“You can have the best mission statement ever, but if people don’t know about it and don’t know to look for it, it doesn’t make any difference,” she says.
“When agencies are writing their job ads, their job boards, or posting to job boards, they have to drive those things home that really speak to millennials — the flexibility or the mission,” she says. “It needs to be hammered home that home care is an extraordinarily rewarding industry to work in and more people should consider it.”
Millennials are very technology forward, so job openings must be placed where they’ll see them, she says.
Posting openings on online job boards — general employment sites as well as specialized sites — can reach millennials, she says.
Social media is another potential staffing opportunity, she says.
“Many providers are still not using social media to their advantage, and that’s oftentimes because they don’t have the administrative manpower to be on top of that,” she says.
“But to succeed with this next generation of workers, they’re going to have to, because that’s where people are looking; they’re going to follow social media, ”she says. “And if they see jobs there, they’ll look for them there.”
Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.