As a summer intern at LeadingAge PA, one of the projects I was assigned was to conduct and assemble research on workforce trends within the field of long-term care. Early into my research I came across a 2009 article published by the Westmoreland-Fayette Workforce Investment Board. The article described an innovative certified nurse aide (CNA) training program that LeadingAge PA member Redstone Highlands Communities took part in. This program – funded by the Westmoreland-Fayette Workforce Investment Board – went above and beyond standard CNA training by using partnerships with universities and other health care agencies. Like many others, I assumed that taking a special interest in employees and giving them advanced training would reduce turnover. Although my information was dated, I thought I had found an innovative solution to a problem plaguing the senior care field.
Continuing my research, I came across the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, referred to as WIOA. WIOA builds upon legislation passed in the Clinton administration and is aimed at cultivating America’s workforce through the use of Workforce Boards. WIOA changed the name of Workforce Investment Boards to Workforce Development Boards; however, not all Workforce Investment Boards have adopted this new title. In the context of this blog, the two are synonymous.
As defined by the PA Workforce Development Association, “Workforce Development Boards (WDBs) are regional entities whose main role is to direct federal and state funding to workforce development programs in their regions.” Furthermore, every community in the commonwealth is represented by a regional Workforce Development Board.
I had exhausted the information I could find online about workforce development boards and the benefits of senior care facilities collaborating with them, so against my millennial tendencies I picked up the phone and called Redstone Highlands. I was put into contact with Jim Hodge, VP of Human Resources. Mr. Hodge was responsible for orchestrating the 2009 CNA training program that I’d read about. As a long-time board member of the Westmoreland Investment Board Mr. Hodge has fostered a great relationship with them.
I was ready for Mr. Hodge to tell me about the great success he’s had working with his regional Workforce Board. Instead, he very patiently described to me that the program I had read about was one of many programs Redstone Highlands had run over the years. He also explained that despite the advanced training the CNAs in that program received, they had turnover rates similar to CNAs who received the standard training. Regretfully, that program is no longer in existence.
What Mr. Hodge presented me with was a realistic view of what it takes to reduce turnover. It takes time and the willingness to try training programs to see what works best for your organization. Most importantly, it does not happen overnight. It takes hard work and a lot of inter-organizational reflection to determine how your company needs to address turnover.
In 2001, Redstone Highlands had a turnover rate of 75 percent. After countless programs and strong top management, they have reduced their turnover rate to about 24% with the ultimate goal of getting their turnover rate in the single digits. Redstone Highlands’ most recent initiative is to support and educate their leaders through an in-house program called Redstone University. In turn, their leaders support the frontline staff.
Unfortunately, my original assumption that advanced CNA training always leads to decreased turnover rates was not correct. Every organization is different and, therefore, must take a slightly different approach towards how they recruit and retain their direct care staff.
Although I can’t offer a one size fits all solution, I can offer some strategic knowledge. The Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act of 2014 is still early in its implementation, and President Obama has mandated funding for it through 2020. As the prominent workforce issues of the senior care field are increasingly becoming recognized by governing bodies it may prove beneficial to establish a relationship with your regional workforce development board. Although the funding is largely inconsistent and not currently geared toward health care, if senior care workforce issues continue to gain traction then government funding could very well be directed toward healthcare before the cut off in 2020.
There is a Workforce Development Board in every region in PA so every senior care facility has the opportunity to make this strategic partnership. Although advanced CNA training was not the answer to Redstone Highlands retention issue, it was still beneficial because it helped them discover the issue they needed to address. Identify your regional Workforce Development Board and contact information here:
About the author
Shaun Smith (https://www.linkedin.com/in/shaun-smith-79b189126) recently began his senior year at Shippensburg University where he majors in public administration. A member of the swim team, he has an excellent academic record and has earned honors as a scholar athlete. Shaun conducted his internship at the LeadingAge PA office in Mechanicsburg from May to August 2016 and provided valuable insight and practical experiences to the LeadingAge PA team as they continue to work through the development of scholarships and new workforce initiatives.