Employee Turnover in the Industry…

This past week, I’ve been wondering quite a bit about employee turnover in the eldercare industry, and how to minimize it. According to Paul Osterman, MIT economist and author of Who Will Care for Us?, a book on the role that home care aides play in the delivery of eldercare, turnover in these jobs is about 61%. The brief research I’ve done on the subject in other industries suggests that the ideal turnover rate is only 10%. So, there’s definitely something off about the eldercare industry in terms of its ability to retain employees.

While I was mulling over these numbers, my mom sent me a New York Times article entitled: “‘It’s Almost Like a Ghost Town.’ Most Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing for Years.” In this article, Jordan Rau reports: “[w]ith nurse assistants earning an average of just $13.23 an hour in 2017, nursing homes compete for workers not just with better paying employers like hospitals, but also with retailers. Understaffing leads predictably to higher turnover.”

This is concordant with my research about the nature of low-skilled jobs in eldercare, which are laborious and emotionally intense. From the perspective of those workers, why not take a less exhausting job in retail where you get paid virtually the same amount?

How can we reduce turnover in the eldercare industry, then? The obvious step would be to increase pay. And, with the shortage of low-skilled labor in the industry, it’s intuitive that pay would likely rise on its own in the near future to recruit more employees. But, I have discovered it is possible that the healthcare economy functions differently than the general one, in that (as cheap labor is essential to its functioning), healthcare will continually look abroad for cheaper labor instead of raising pay.

So, there are probably other ways to reduce turnover than increasing pay in the eldercare industry. According to Boamah, Read, and Laschinger, among new nurses (in a hospital setting, instead of that of a nursing home/ assisted living facility), the factor that influences job satisfaction the most is having managers who are “authentic leaders” – people who lead by building honest relationships with their employees whose input is valued. Conversely, antecedents to burn-out and higher turnover are under-staffing and high levels of responsibility outside of work (work-life interference). Because regular nursing and the nursing that is involved in eldercare are functionally very similar, it is likely that these indicators of job dis/satisfaction could be adjusted for for the better in the eldercare industry.

More research is necessary about the antecedents of high turnover rates in the long-term care industry, and what factors reduce employee turnover rates. An honors thesis in the works, perhaps…

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