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Category: Relias Learning

In light of both an aging work force among baby boomers as well as new employees entering the senior living business, operators are developing new solutions to accommodate both populations along with their different learning styles and preferences when it comes to training and communications.

Largely, they find, training and communication with employees requires more than a single approach.

And for large providers, that may also mean a third party to help with resources.

“We take a layered approach,” says Natalie Cardenas, director of employee development for Senior Lifestyle Corp. “Very few trainings are one dimensional.”

For Senior Lifestyle Corp., that means approaching the company’s 6,200 employees through multiple channels and always having some form of back-up training in place. The company does some training online, for example, and keeps a hard copy option in place in the event that an employee either isn’t comfortable with the technology or has other problems with a web-based platform.

“We couple [online training] with a hard copy document,” Cardenas says. “The onus is then on the executive director or human resources person to enter the employee’s information into a computer.”

In some cases, Senior Lifestyle Corp. will also help the employee develop the skills needed to complete the online training on a computer.

“If folks are going to continue to be successful, they’re going to have to get familiar with the system in addition to back end training to get the basic computer skills needed,” Cardenas says.

Third party training providers are also noting the multi-generational approach that senior living providers require today, as some employees are more tech-savvy than others when it comes to working in senior living communities.

“As the workforce is turning over, we’re still trying to train [current] clinicians, but now we have the younger Gen X and Gen Y employees,” says Eric Masters, Relias Learning vice president of marketing. “We need to provide relevant content.” To cross generations, that may involve requiring a lunch to discuss training material or creating a book club around a mandatory training, he says.

The younger generation also presents some challenges from a training standpoint, though not generally in terms of technology adoption.

“The older generation may take more time to get the information, but rarely fails to meet requirements. They get it done completely and accurately. With the younger generation, we often have to remind them,” Cardenas says.

Reminders may take the form of email or even text messages, which the company employs regular to communicate with its workforce. Yet still there is room to improve when it comes to adopting technology in a business that historically, has not been on the forefront of going high-tech.

“Because we’re in a bit of an antiquated business, some of our mindsets are different,” Cardenas says. “We depend on our employees to keep us current.”

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As needs rise across the residents of senior living communities, providers are focusing in on training among their staffs, both clinical and non-clinical. Increasingly, that may mean looking to a third-party training provider that can stay up to speed on the ever changing landscape of regulations and other requirements. 

Higher acuity residents are driving the need to ramp up training whether inside the company or outside, with many relying on third-parties to keep abreast of regulatory changes on the federal and state levels that are impacting providers’ staffs on an ongoing basis. 

“There is almost a panic in some markets,” says Traci Bild, president and CEO of Bild & Company. ”Skilled nursing is off the charts. First, because the business is changing so rapidly due to pent up demand during the recession. Training has come to the forefront because of what has happened with higher acuity residents.”

Many prospective residents waited through the recession rather than moving, so they are arriving with greater needs, Bild says, especially in assisted living communities. 

Supply is rising to meet this new demand, with assisted living and memory care communities being built from the ground up in many of the nation’s metros, according to data from the National Investment Centers for the Senior Housing and Care Industry.

Training, too, is rising to the occasion. 

“The key thing resonating with customers has been focusing on senior care and how assisted living is different from skilled nursing,” says Mike Mutka, Relias Learning Chief of Strategy and Corporate Development. “We’re focusing on training as a business process that has been broken. People are doing it manually, their management staff is thin, they have high turnover and increasing regulations mandating training.”

Relias offers tools that cater to a mobile and shift-based workforce, with an online foundation and specific courses that are administered in person. 

“More and more people are looking at online training,” Mutka says. “Some people take the courses but also use us to track live training or live webinars. Or, if there’s a policy or procedure, they can embed a document and test on it.” 

Some courses simply can’t be taught online, however. For those, in-person training is still a mainstay. 

“If there are topics that need to be person to person, do that in the classroom,” Mutka says. “The tool acts as a background for a blended learning approach. Even if a provider wants to do a decent amount of live training, there are still some areas where it makes sense to do it online, and they still want to use an online tool to track it all.”

Tracking and accountability is a feature in high demand, with metrics available via training resources to measure, chart, and drive efficiencies across training activities. 

But it doesn’t stop with technical teaching in the current environment, Bild says.

“Turnover is so dramatic, [many providers are] working on culture,” she says. “Companies need to look at defining who they are. Culture attracts talent.”

It can ultimately impact the bottom line. 

Relias cites research that companies that invest in training can recoup the costs in two to three months, with the primary areas of saving being the reduction of time spent tracking and reporting for managers by 75%. The time saved can be used elsewhere, Relias says. 

“One client has put a lot of emphasis into an effective hospitality model and delivery of down home care,” says Eric Masters, Relias vice president of marketing. “Because they’re able to manage training, folks have had more time to develop that program. Another client has been able to save time in order to help enhance dining programs. If I could give you 20 hours of time this month, what would you do?”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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