Why the Worker Shortage Continues

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, May 7th that there are many reasons holding back potential employees from the labor market. Over 4-8 million fewer people are currently in the labor force than before the pandemic, depending upon how they are counted.

  • Fear of Covid-19, sickness (the USA still averages over 45,000 positive cases a day). If 45,000 people quarantine for 14 days, that removes approximately 500,000 from the available workforce even if they don’t get really sick
  • Lack of childcare and open schools
  • Previous employer has offered to rehire soon
  • Few job openings in their area
  • Extended jobless benefits

“I think this is just as much about a shortage in labor supply as it is about a shortage of labor demand,” Jason Furman, an economist at Harvard University commenting on the weaker than expected April jobs report, told CNBC. “If you look at April, it appears that there were about 1.1 unemployed workers for every job opening. So there are a lot of jobs out there, there is just still not a lot of labor supply.”

Census data taken in recent weeks suggests the closures of day-care centers and schools have forced millions of Americans to stay home and care for children or oversee online learning.

According to a Census Household Pulse survey taken in late March, 6.3 million people reported that they were not working because they needed to care for a child not in a school or day care. Another 2.1 million were caring for an older person.

An additional 4.1 million Americans said they were not working because of concerns about getting or spreading Covid-19.

The labor shortage should ease in 2021, but the process may take months as:

  • Vaccination rates continue to rise
  • Schools fully re-open
  • $300 per week federal unemployment bonus above and beyond what states provide, expires in September

For a more in-depth look into hiring, download the eBook: Tips for Boosting Applications and Hiring in 2021 or the myApplicants fact sheet.

To discuss hiring, onboarding and training, email agencysuccessteam@mitcsoftware.com.

Employers Start Requiring Vaccines for New Hires

The Wall Street Journal reports that employers are starting to require Covid-19 vaccinations for new hires. Read more here.

Among the companies and positions requiring vaccinations were:

  • Restaurant in New York
  • Camp guide in Alaska
  • HR assistant in California
  • Meatpacking giant, JBS USA Holdings
  • Recycling plant in Kentucky
  • Houston Methodist Hospital is requiring all 26,000 current and future employees to be vaccinated

Employers can legally require vaccines as a condition of employment, though religious beliefs and pre-existing medical conditions must be accommodated. Employers can also require proof of vaccination.

Many employers are offering paid time off (4 hours) for vaccinations especially now that a tax credit is available and vaccines are becoming widely available.

Eligible employers, such as businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees and certain governmental employers, can receive a tax credit for providing paid time off for each employee receiving the vaccine and for any time needed to recover from the vaccine. For example, if an eligible employer offers employees a paid day off in order to get vaccinated, the employer can receive a tax credit equal to the wages paid to employees for that day (up to certain limits).

Using Texting in the Hiring Process

There are multiple reasons to use texting in your hiring process. Here are the 10 main ones:

  1. Today’s future employees use text, not email.
  2. Increase your message open rates over email with texting.
  3. Younger employees, like millennials, particularly use texting.
  4. Phone calls, without engaging first through text, is off-putting to many.
  5. Your competitors are using texting. If you are not using texting, you are not competing.
  6. Convert a higher percentage of good fit candidates to new hires.
  7. Accelerate the first engagement to hire cycle.
  8. Streamline the recruiting process.
  9. Cut time to schedule candidate interviews.
  10. Fill positions faster with texting.

In summary, SMS communications and experiences offer the most simplified, convenient application experience especially for lower paid positions.

We would love to hear what you think! Is this something your agency will be implementing? Do you already use texting in your hiring process? Let us know by commenting below!

The Limited Labor Market

The labor market should be awash with job seekers swamping demand for work, but that is not happening. The Wall Street Journal recently published a very revealing article on this topic.

  • Median wage growth was 3.4% in February
  • Earnings were up 2.8% for Q4 2020
  • This month’s Federal beige book reported a shortage of applicants for many lower-paid positions from drivers, child-care, nurses, landscapers, and restaurant staff
  • 4 million jobs were open in February
  • 5 million fewer people are looking for jobs than before the pandemic

Why?

  1. Many available workers are in the wrong part of the country, or have the wrong skills. Workers laid off in Florida from Disney World can’t apply for a position as a care giver in New York.
  2. A significant number of potential employees have withdrawn from the labor market to look after their children.
  3. Covid-19 itself is keeping lots of workers out of the job market. In March, 2.6 million people were not working because they were sick or caring for someone who was sick.
  4. 2 million people were staying at home because they were afraid of catching or spreading Covid-19.
  5. Stimulus checks and extended/enhanced unemployment benefits, which was extended to gig workers, may have kept potential job seekers on the sidelines. However, several studies in 2020 found the aid didn’t depress employment, rather, the above factors mattered most. Many potential employees simply are not “available”.

That is likely to change if vaccination rates continue to rise as virus-related obstacles to working should recede. Economists expect the labor force to rebound during 2021.

Either way, providers can’t do much about the economy, but having the best systems in place for attracting applicants, hiring and retention is key. Check out the 12 Top Tips for Boosting Applications and Hiring in 2021 to learn more.

10 Ways to Increase DSP Job Applications and Hires

Finding good, qualified applicants to fill your DSP roles is not always an easy task.

Getting more job applications only causes extra work if the percentage of applicants accepting positions and staying longer than 30 days is low. Hiring is important. Weak hiring leads to higher overtime and training costs.

Don’t focus on competing with McDonalds, fast food outlets and retail chains. Agencies need different types of employees. Agencies need someone to care about their job. McDonald’s employees don’t need that quality. Emphasize the caring part of the job!

Depict the job by providing examples of “wonderful outcomes”. Employees love to know what it is in for them. Make sure you highlight any potential growth or long term outcomes of working with your agency.

Think of your ideal candidate and write the application with them in mind. Who is your star DSP? If you want more employees like them, create an application that includes their qualities.

There is a lot to keep in mind when looking for your perfect DSP, so we did some research and put together our top 10 tips to keep in mind in the hiring process.

  1. Think about the job descriptions. Avoid wordy, cold and impersonal lists of responsibilities and skills
  2. Make sure your stability and “extras” are highlighted
    • Benefits
    • Paid training
    • Bonuses
    • BYOD plans
    • Overtime opportunities
    • How the job will make you feel
    • Advertise the typical weekly gross pay of a DSP after 30 days including benefits instead of the hourly rate
  3. Don’t use content that creates barriers:
    • Industry jargon
    • Acronyms
    • Unspecific text
  4. Paint the applicants a picture of what they’ll be doing day to day. Stress the impact on them and others. “Make a difference in someone’s life”, “Be special”, “Want to be more than a cog in a wheel”.
  5. Write different job profiles for different roles – it is easier to get a response from your ideal candidate.
  6. Make sure your adverts appear on all job boards. Indeed is the leading, but not the only source of DSP applicants. Employee references are very beneficial and Facebook ads work if you have a “great story”.
  7. If you go to job fairs, only go to specialized job fairs. This will narrow down your search and guarantee that are you are only looking at applicants that are interested in, and qualified for the position.
  8. Respond quickly to applicants. Make sure they know that you are interested in them, so you won’t lose them to another organization.
  9. Work on your online content and forms:
    • Make applying easy.
    • Tell applicants what they should expect next in the process.
    • Keep it simple – name, email, phone and option to upload resume is all you need.
    • Apply to your own jobs via mobile phone – over 60% of applicants do so on their phone.
    • Don’t link the homepage of your website or Facebook or Instagram – applicants get lost down rabbit holes.
    • Don’t require driver’s license number, social security number, emergency contact, or anything the applicant might not have readily to hand at the time – this is not necessary on an application.
    • Don’t link to PDF applications – not smart phone friendly.
    • Avoid a slow loading page – Google reports people move on if it takes longer than 2-3 seconds.
  10. If listing a hiring contact, do so as personally as possible.
    • Give name
    • Extension
    • Personal email address 

Learn more about applicant tracking; download the myApplicants fact sheet.

Missouri Providers are Struggling with Employee Retention

Missouri workers providing care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities make less than a Walmart or Target worker, even after a pay increase that went into effect last month. 

The low pay is the main reason about half of Missouri workers quit each year, according to Missouri Developmental Disabilities Division Director Val Huhn.

Starting wages now range between $9.50 and $10.50 an hour thanks to Missouri state lawmakers appropriating $20 million more in general revenue to providers. But advocates worry this isn’t enough to address the chronic worker turnover that affects the quality of care people with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive.

“It’s just devastating, not having that reliable staff,” Huhn says. “Can you imagine constantly training somebody on how to brush your teeth if you can’t do that? I mean, just you’re just constantly teaching people how to help you.” 

Crisis levels 

Travis Anderson has spent about a year trying to find a personal care assistant. He’s 45, has a disability, and uses a power wheelchair to get around. 

Anderson works as a receptionist and self-directs his care, meaning he hires a worker and the state pays for it. While Anderson is looking, his aunt has stepped in. But she’s almost 70 and Anderson says he’s not sure how much longer she can do this. Travis Anderson interviewed five people for a personal care assistant job the day KCUR spoke with him. Anderson said once they found out the pay, none of them were interested.

Every time he thinks he’s found someone to hire, there’s an issue. Sometimes they can’t work the hours. Anderson needs help getting ready in the morning and then the worker would have to come back in the evening to help him get to bed. Other times they don’t pass the criminal background check. 

Nationally, the direct support workforce has reached crisis levels, according to a 2017 report by the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

“Not only does the crisis facing this workforce threaten people with intellectual disability and their families; it also undermines the stability, efficiency and ability to grow much needed long-term services and supports and, therefore, undermines the overall U.S. economy,” Jack Brandt, the committee’s chair, wrote. 

It’s been almost a year since Anderson’s aunt said she could help out for three months. Without his aunt, Anderson doesn’t know what he would do. He says his service coordinator wants him to consider going to a nursing home. 

“I don’t think I would fit very well into a nursing home,” Anderson says. “…When you envision how your life’s going to be, I mean, nursing home doesn’t even come up right now. But I’m really struggling to find good staff.”

The Developmental Disabilities Division doesn’t “encourage placements in nursing homes,” Debra Walker, the director of public affairs, said in an email. “ That being said, sometimes there are circumstances when a nursing home would be an appropriate placement.”

Walker said Anderson’s support coordinator is from a private organization and not a state worker. Walker said the state can’t speak to the specifics of the case, but generally, it’s “certainly important to have a support coordinator that is helpful and seeks out all the options.”

Anderson is two classes short of a bachelors degree in psychology but he said he’s had to put his future on hold. 

“I can’t very well get back in school when I literally don’t know from week to week or month to month how I’m getting out of bed,” Anderson says. “I mean, you have to prioritize.”

You have to really like this” Pagi Bowls and Rojai Morris both work at White Oaks, a residential home for people with developmental disabilities.CREDIT AVIVA OKESON-HABERMAN / KCUR 89.3

Rojai Morris got a pay raise because of the additional state funding. She works at White Oaks, a residential home for people with developmental disabilities. It’s run by the Center for Developmentally Disabled in Kansas City. CDD increased their starting wage for workers from $11 to $12.25.

The additional $1.25 an hour isn’t enough for Morris to quit her second job. Between her two jobs, she says she works 70 hours a week to get by. She says she loves her job but the long hours take a toll. 

“It kind of makes you want to second guess working in this field,” Morris says. “Is this really for me because of what I’m going through? I’m only 21 so I kind of look at it like I’m stressing going through this now. Is this where I see my future?”

Nationally, high turnover has been an issue for decades but a strong economy means workers can make more money at less demanding jobs, according to Amy Hewitt, the director of the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. Hewitt says an aging population also means workers are serving people with more complex needs. 

“We continue to place higher expectations on this workforce,” Hewitt says. “So it really is a highly-skilled workforce. But we don’t talk about it that way. And we don’t support it as a highly-skilled workforce.”

“It’s heartbreaking” 

David Earls took care of his son Edward, who is nonverbal, for about thirty years. 

I like to think of myself as one of the shallowest, insignificant, heartless people ever created until I started caring for my son,” Earls says. “And luckily, my son has an enormous amount of patience. And so he’s been working with me for 33 years now.”

Earls was getting older and he wanted to make sure Edward would be taken care of, so about three years ago, he moved Edward to a residential home. Almost immediately, he noticed issues with turnover. 

“When you become attached or very fond of a staff member because you’ve seen this person interact with your son for three, four, five, six months, and then all of a sudden, they’re gone. It’s heartbreaking,” Earls says. “Because you know that there’s a relationship being formed there that positive for both Edward and the caregiver.”

12 Retention Ideas That are Working for Providers

In this labor market, where agencies face tight margins and increasing shortages, many agencies find they are being pushed into new territory. Many are forced to consider new benefits, new management strategies, and new staff programs that were never options before to maximize hiring & retention.

The following ideas came from a recent agency conference.

Implement Specific Policies to Increase Manager/Staff Interaction

An employee who feels respected and valued is more likely to stay with an agency. However, in the rush of day-to-day management, that can be difficult. It’s important for agencies to create policies that encourage meaningful daily interaction among all employees and their supervisors.

One agency discussed their policy of encouraging supervisors to “round on employees,” meaning that every day the supervisor needs to check in with every one of their direct reports, much like a physician rounding on their patients in a hospital. The formal term is MBWO (Management By Walking About).

Good communication within the agency is important for many reasons, but it mainly helps with retention.

Centralize and Optimize Recruiting Strategy

In a tight job market, agencies can’t afford to have an inefficient hiring process. If the process is dragged out, or the agency appears unresponsive, people will accept other positions and potentially great hires are missed.

Centralize the recruiting process (rather than leaving recruiting in the hands of individual departments or teams), and build a clear hiring process that utilizes applicant technology and on-boarding automation wherever possible. Having an affordable but effective applicant tracking system is key.

Formalize Training for Interviewers so The Right People Are Hired

Make sure you are hiring the right people by training interviewers on what questions to ask and what responses to look for during the hiring process.

Standardize the On-Boarding Process

Most DSP employees leave within three to six months of their start date. If you can get them over that initial stretch, they are more likely to stay. Create a formal on-boarding process that focuses on welcoming the employee to the agency as a whole; explaining your agency’s mission, values, goals, and how the employee fits into that picture. Build a relationship among the employee and their supervisor and coworkers, and use good training to prepare them to do their job well.

Eliminate Drug Screening Where Possible

This is a controversial option and not a real solution for direct care professionals, but there are many other positions where it may help with recruiting issues. Many agencies noted that with marijuana becoming legal in many states, it doesn’t hold the same stigma it once did – particularly among younger generations. This creates a major staffing problem.

One agency explained that this became such an issue that, while they still have drug testing for employees who provide consumer care, they eliminated drug testing among housekeeping, janitorial, grounds keeping, and dining services staff at their facility.

Create a Sense of Camaraderie Among Employees

You want your employees to have multiple ties into your agency at every level. To do that, create opportunities for socialization and build a sense of community. For example, create a Young Professionals Association and allow a small budget to support their activities outside of work, or offer days of service during work hours that allow employees to volunteer together in the community.

Build Connections Through a Peer Mentoring Program

Peer-to-peer mentoring can help employees build confidence in their role and feel a greater connection to the agency. Peers can assist with on-boarding, be a part of training, demonstrate quality work, be a resource for questions and concerns, and offer encouragement in tough situations. Prioritize the role of peer mentor with employees so they don’t feel overwhelmed and unable to meet their role as mentor and employee.

Give Employees a Concrete Personal Growth Plan

Map out the possibilities for advancement and new skill building with every staff member during reviews, and then check in periodically with their process. Offer scholarships for advanced education (that come with commitments to the agency) that allow employees to meet their personal goals. Investing in employees’ personal development helps them grow in their positions and see a long-term future within your agency.

Create a Culture of Visible Recognition and Appreciation

 An email or a personal word of thanks is important, but you should also show that you value employees in more tangible and high-profile ways. Many studies show that recognition is a huge driver in employee performance and satisfaction. Highlight employees in your newsletter, recognize their work publicly at staff meetings, feature staff profiles on your website or social media, or invite a different high-performing employee to attend your board meetings monthly for a special introduction and thank you.

Allow for the Flexibility to Shift Small Policies That Can Make a Big Difference

Employee expectations about workplace culture are changing and creating some freedom in office policies that can have a big impact on day-to-day employee satisfaction. For example, several agencies saw employee satisfaction increase when dress code restrictions were relaxed. One agency improved morale by redesigning the break room for comfort and providing free drinks and snacks, and another noted that allowing employees to bring dogs to the office created a surprising amount of goodwill among employees.

Offer Debt Reduction as an Employee Benefit

Debt is a real concern for many employees, one that often outweighs the desire to save for retirement. For many agencies, offering debt reduction, particularly student loan repayment assistance, can be a major attraction to potential employees. This has gotten a lot of attention across all employment sectors. Last fall, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a private letter stating that companies could offer contributions to 401k retirement plans matching employee contributions to student loan debt.

Offer Child Care On-Site or a Credit Towards Day Care at Another Provider

Quality, affordable day care is a primary concern for many working parents, so offering subsidized day care can be a huge motivator for employees. Building your own day care center can be a challenge, but several agencies noted that they think of the day care as part of the employee benefit package, and offer anywhere from a 30% to 50% discount for employees. That discount is then charged back to the employee’s department, like their other benefits.

For more information on generating more job interviews, managing the hiring and on-boarding process, download the myApplicants fact sheet.

For more information on an affordable system for inter-agency HIPAA compliant communications, download the myCommunications fact sheet.

For more information on how to manage employee schedules more effectively and keep employees engaged, download the mySchedules fact sheet.

The War for Talent: 3 Ways to Boost Retention

The turnover rate among health care workers is reaching a level of concern for many agencies. The median turnover rate among caregivers in the home care industry reached 66.7% last year, according to a study by Home Care Pulse. Among direct support professionals, turnover averaged 45.5% in 2016 according to a National Core Indicators report. In addition, the entire human services industry is facing a labor shortage, so providers cannot always fill vacancies as quickly as they would like.

The economy, stagnant wages, and workforce demographics all contribute to high turnover rates. But providers can increase retention in several ways even if these outside forces do not change.

Make It Easy

The key to attracting and retaining staff is to make things easier for them. You might never call the job of a caregiver “easy,” but you can certainly make processes like on-boarding, scheduling, and documentation easy. That will let employees focus on their clients, which is why they chose the profession in the first place.

Reduce the administrative burden on your staff by providing as much as you can online. Don’t make them come into the office to sign on-boarding papers if they can do so electronically. And provide a digital platform for them to complete client documentation before they clock out. Small moves like these can make routine paperwork a lot less stressful.

Focus on Culture

Many agencies cannot afford to increase pay and benefits. Fortunately, those aren’t always the most important factors in employee retention – workplace culture is an even bigger factor to some employees than pay. So even if you can’t give the whole staff the raises they deserve, you can still help retain them by nurturing a healthy culture.

Culture is formed by the values, attitudes, and behaviors of your organization as a whole. A healthy agency is focused on quality care more than anything, so ideally the desire to serve vulnerable individuals will motivate staff to show up on time. But when an agency stresses timeliness for its own sake without showing support for the valuable work its employees do, the staff may feel policed. That feeling quickly leads to burnout.

To promote a healthy culture, work together to create a list of values the entire organization can stand behind. Then, use those values to inspire compliance. Reinforce your appreciation for staff by always paying them on time, responding quickly to their requests, and giving them the tools they need to serve their clients well.

Hire Smarter

When your applicant pool is rather small, it can be tempting to hire “poor fit” employees. These employees usually quit within the first year, simply because they cannot handle the job.

The first way to fix this problem is to expand your applicant pool by using an advanced applicant tracking system. This can push your applications to dozens of job boards, with no effort on your end. Make sure your applications include detailed questions about any required licenses/certifications, experience, and what type of work they enjoy. You don’t want to be surprised by their lack of qualifications, and you don’t want them to be surprised by the type of work they are signing up for!

When you have a solid candidate, set your organization apart by emphasizing your culture/values. You may not be able to attract them with amazing pay and benefits, but you can appeal to them with your mission. Those who fit your culture are the most likely to stay with the agency long-term.

Tips to Combating the Effects of the Labor Shortage

Human service providers face a labor shortage, as the demand for services outweighs the supply of workers. Unfortunately, the problem is here to stay. There are multiple factors causing the labor crisis, but even if one or two go away, which is unlikely, the others are sufficient to continue to cause problems for providers. So, agencies will need to learn to live with a labor shortage for the foreseeable future as best they can.

Hear From MITC’s Agency Solutions Team Lead

Sarah Dickey, MITC Agency Solutions Team Lead explains in this video the driving factors behind the shortage. She also offers tips and tools to help providers mitigate its impact. Watch the video for our ideas to rise above the competition!

New Hires

Tips for Competing with Walmart and Others During the Hiring Process

Walmart and other retailers or fast food outlets use aggressive marketing tactics to attract, hire, and retain employees. Agencies must compete with these industries in order to build and retain the best workforce they can.

One way to make your organization stand out among competing employers is to compile a checklist of advantages your agency offers. Communicate these benefits to all prospective new hires through your job listings, and feel free to share with existing employees as well!

Here is a sample list you can use to market your agency for new hires and existing employees:

  • We have a mission to help others
  • The average weekly pay for a direct support professional is ____
  • Minimum 40-hours a week
  • Overtime available
  • Any qualified employee can request extra hours from our website
  • Never miss a shift! We remind you by text of your next shift
  • 150% to 200% extra pay for working on any of the ___ holidays per year
  • Fixed schedule with the option to pick up more hours
  • View your schedule anytime, anywhere
  • See who you are working with
  • Earn paid time off
  • Receive unpaid time off with no penalties
  • Get 6-month reviews
  • Structured career path

Speed Up the Process with myApplicants

The labor shortage has a dramatic effect on human service agencies. Higher turnover and extra overtime make things even harder. In times like this, we know that applicant tracking and onboarding are more important than ever. That’s why MITC is pleased to announce the addition of myApplicants to Agency Workforce Management!

myApplicants is a robust, web-based, end-to-end hiring solution complete with applicant tracking, pre-employment assessments, background checks, and drug screens. It even has the ability to push your new hire data right into MITC Time & Attendance with just a click.

Contact info@mitcsoftware.com or read this free fact sheet for more information on myApplicants.

Fill out the form below to be emailed the download link.