The Labor Problem and Culture

As we approach Labor Day, we really need to work on solving the industry’s labor problems.

I know it’s a bit of a cliché to talk about labor just before Labor Day, but what the Hell. To me, this is the most pressing issue for the entire seniors housing and care industry. Not only because labor represents well more than half of your costs, but because your employees are so critical in their interaction with your customers, both the residents and the family members. And to your success. But you know all this.

Why is it that every time I walk into a hotel, from the bellhop to the desk clerk to the housekeeper walking down the hall, they all greet me with a smile and a hello? Are they all that happy in their jobs? I really don’t know. But as long as it appears that they are, I feel better about my stay.

It has to be all about culture, and customer first. So how do we, as an industry, get there? Is the answer hiring certain immigrant groups who seem to have something embedded in their cultures about caring for people, especially the elderly? Unfortunately, that’s not a long-term solution. But it may be a starting point. What is it that makes them such good caregivers? What is it in their cultures that provides that spark of compassion that is needed when things get tough and messy in the care of our elderly? 

When we solve this, we can solve the labor problem. But the solution will not involve finding people at the lowest cost to fit neatly in the budget numbers. Those days are over, at least for those who want to be a top performer in the long term. Have a great Labor Day weekend.     


3 comments on “The Labor Problem and Culture

  1. Steve. Great comments on our Labor market. Could it be that Americans (Like the one in my mirror) have adopted a cultural “norm” of outsourcing care for loved ones rather than maintaining the cultural norm of participating in the care of one’s loved ones? My mother receives wonderful care from her care givers at her Assisted Living residence here in Metro Boston. Her care givers are almost entirely “of color”. Interesting and not unnoticed that these wonderful folks caring for mom, actually “care” about mom and their other charges…

    1. Thanks Matthew, and I am glad your mother is receiving great care. And yes, we all have to look in the mirror from time to time and see what it tells us. Perhaps the whole “outsourcing” thing needs a revisit. I don’t know, but I do know that change is needed.

  2. Happy Labor Day (how timely). Good side-stepping Steve on the cultural third rail. Over the arc of my career in geriatrics, mortality from the top four or five causes of death is cumulatively down about 35%. People still get the diseases but don’t die right off and while the blessing is evident, the curse shouldn’t be a surprise. We created a “generation” of 85 year olds with multiple co-morbidities and dementia got a foothold. Implementing personal care training and nursing aide programs in high school voc/tech and welcoming diverse cultures to the health care work force can’t happen soon enough.

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