NIC Notes

Insights in Seniors Housing & Care

By: NIC  |  August 05, 2021

Senior Living Executive Fee Stubblefield: The Workforce Is Key to Resident Satisfaction, Industry Success

Ideas and Discussion  |  NIC Fall Conference  |  Seniors Housing  |  Skilled Nursing

The rapid growth of the older population is a bright spot for growth in senior living. But will quality keep pace with this demographic growth?

Stubblerfield_Fee_photo_9-21-20-1“The workforce is the key to the future,” said Fee Stubblefield, founder and CEO at The Springs Living. Based in McMinnville, Oregon, the company owns and operates 18 senior living communities in the Northwest. Two new developments are underway. “Solving the workforce challenge is the number one issue impacting the quality of senior housing,” he added.

Like many industries, senior housing and care is currently struggling with a labor shortage. Competition for workers is fierce.

The uneven course of the pandemic has many of the unemployed with young children waiting to seek work until schools fully reopen. Other workers are taking time to reevaluate their job options. Some may be waiting until their personal savings run out as unemployment and federal relief payments end.

“Solving the workforce challenge is the number one issue impacting the quality of senior housing,”

Though the worker logjam may be temporary, now is the time to address the workforce issues facing the senior living industry, according to Stubblefield. “We need to think deeply about the challenge.”

Stubblefield is among the thought leaders attending the 2021 NIC Fall Conference in Houston. The Conference is NIC’s first in-person convening of leaders in senior housing and care since the pandemic began. Many industry leaders will seize the chance to share ideas with others weathering the same challenges, while simultaneously building the relationships that will help them succeed in the future.

The biggest workforce challenge is retention, according to Stubblefield. His company is able to hire people to be fully staffed. “But the industry has to figure out how to retain folks. At the end of the day, we don’t have enough job candidates,” he said.

Employee turnover adds to operating costs. More importantly, turnover affects the quality of care. “Nothing impacts resident satisfaction more directly than when a trusted caregiver leaves the job,” said Stubblefield.

Mandating higher minimum wages isn’t the answer. Instead, Stubblefield thinks more resources should be dedicated for worker benefits and career training. Those are the strategies that help retain workers. “If workers stay with us for a year, they tend to stay with us,” said Stubblefield. He added that public policies play a role in creating good jobs.

Lessons Learned
The pandemic has tested the workforce, and retention issues, like at no other time. At the outset, The Springs Living quickly pivoted operations, relying on its core value to embrace change. The number one focus was to keep people safe, both residents and workers. New infection protocols were immediately put in place and have been so successful that they will be kept going forward.

Assets were redirected to keep the staff safe, such as quickly securing personal protective equipment. “We advocate for our employees,” said Stubblefield. “That is the role of leadership.”

The company has ongoing initiatives to help retain workers. All staff are trained for their role and responsibilities. Continual education courses are provided to keep staff up-to-date and current. A leadership training program provides opportunities for front-line staff to develop the soft skills needed to grow their careers.

Mental health benefits were added to the employee insurance plan this year, and the company absorbed cost increases for employees’ health insurance. The Springs Living also offers a scholarship program for employees and immediate family members of employees.

Stubblefield’s best advice: create a supportive culture and don’t stop innovating. “We’re passionate about having an organization that people are proud to be a part of,” he said. “Happy employees mean happy residents.”

About NIC

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to support access and choice for America’s seniors by providing data, analytics, and connections that bring together investors and providers.

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