Business owners had a tough start to 2022. According to the Census Bureau, 8.8 million workers reported missing work between December 29 and January 10 alone. It’s a familiar story for home care agency leaders, who have been dealing with labor shortages long before last month, let alone the last two years. But lately, attendance has been at an all-time low, with many care workers snowed out, on mental health leave, isolating after exposure to the Omicron variant or caring for sick family members.
Home care organizations scrambled to cover shifts, were forced to turn down referrals and begged care workers to work overtime. Finally, operations in our industry seem to be returning to something more predictable as case counts trend down rapidly. And agencies can breathe a bit easier.
But as you reflect on these last few stressful months and look ahead to the spring, how can you ensure your agency is better prepared for the next disruption?
- Get creative with your hiring practices
Increasing your pool of available staff starts with a better funnel for hiring candidates. Agency owners are constantly bombarded with articles telling them they need to find, hire and retain quality candidates. But how? By thinking outside the typical hiring box.
Outsource to recruiters. Home care can be a chaotic industry. And managers need to be reactive. While hiring is always essential, many leaders find that handling urgent operational issues frequently takes priority. By engaging with recruiters or staffing agencies, you can let your back-office staff focus on their most time-sensitive work and ensure your hiring goals are always at the top of someone’s list.
Consider non–traditional care workers. Of the 168 370 direct care workers displaced from work in 2020 (including home care, residential care aides and nursing assistants), just 9% or 14 760 returned to the direct care field in 2021. The need for care workers is growing, but the pool of experienced talent is shrinking. Many agencies are looking to candidates without home care experience, especially those from other service industries such as retail and hospitality, to address this supply and demand challenge. Curious how candidates without home care experience stack up? Learn more about the top ten qualities caregivers have in common.
- Stock up on rapid tests
It’s somewhat unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the home care industry throughout 2022 and beyond, especially as parts of the country begin to take an endemic approach. But chances are, rapid antigen tests will be an important part of any strategy that minimizes disruptions. Whether you use them to implement a “test to stay” policy, set up regular screenings or keep them as a stockpile for another potential wave – you’ll feel more prepared with ample rapid tests on hand.
While it’s been challenging to source rapid antigen tests recently – especially at reasonable prices – inventory is rebounding quickly. And you may be able to find them at low or even no cost through your local chamber of commerce. Texas, for example, has recently launched a free pilot program to support small businesses across six participating Chamber of Commerce organizations.
- Network with other agencies
It takes a village to grow and sustain your business. Entrepreneurship can be lonely without peers to support and mentor you. In industry networking groups, many agency owners seek resources and opportunities ranging from tax questions to cross-referrals or operational secrets. While you may already belong to your state’s home care associations, have you considered local Facebook groups for home care leaders? Many of our customers have found the Home Care Business Learning Station and Home Care: Start. Grow. Profit incredibly helpful for building their agencies.
But collaborating with other home care business owners can go much deeper than administrative tips and tricks. Consider piloting an employee share arrangement with other agency owners. Many care workers are employed at multiple agencies anyway. Why not coordinate this with the other organizations? By establishing a pool of on-call employees, you can increase your scheduling flexibility while increasing your part-time or casual employees’ access to reliable hours.
- Improve how you manage information about your staff
Recruiting, interviewing and hiring more staff isn’t the only way to increase your agency’s flexibility. Using the information you already have about your team more effectively is key to better operations. While Excel or general scheduling software may have been enough in the past, it’s time to start using a platform designed for home care. And for a few reasons:
- Efficient scheduling. Home care software platforms help you easily keep track of your caregivers’ most up-to-date availability. See vacation requests immediately to ensure you never schedule a caregiver on their day off, leaving you scrambling to cover the shift at the last minute. Sick calls? Send shift offers via push notification to your team so you can get them covered quickly.
- Skills and qualification tracking. Finding the right match between caregiver and client is both an art and science. Until you need to replace that caregiver for two weeks while they re-certify on an essential qualification. With home care software, you receive notifications before necessary certifications expire so you can avoid those unpleasant scheduling surprises.
- Mobile caregiver app. What agency owner hasn’t dealt with last-minute shift swaps or call-offs because a caregiver double-booked themselves or forgot they were scheduled? With a mobile caregiver app, your team has their schedule right in their pockets. Not only does this make ADLs and clock-in/clock-out a breeze, but it reduces scheduling headaches by keeping your team in the loop. Need to send a different caregiver than usual to a client’s house? No problem. They’ll be able to review the information they need when they need it.
2. Getting prepared can be a win-win
Frustrations and struggles with operational continuity are top-of-mind for home care leaders. And for a good reason – December and January deeply challenged us to provide essential care to clients.
It’s hard to predict what future disruptions could be caused by or the extent of their impact. But being prepared will not only ensure you’re resilient to change but will improve your agency’s daily operations. Who wouldn’t like to provide more continuity of care to clients and a stable schedule to your caregivers?
If you’re interested in exploring FirstVisit’s mobile app and scheduling capabilities, we’d love to chat. Contact us today to see why private duty agencies trust us with their operations.