From the desk of Rose Saenz, VP of Workforce Development, TALA

Senior Living operators are all too familiar with challenges in attracting and retaining employees. Prior to the pandemic operators experimented with technology, bonuses, and other ways to draw interest into the workforce. Now, the pandemic has shifted priorities from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ actions. 

It comes as no surprise to operators that employees want good pay, good benefits and a good culture. What has taken the spotlight is ever rising pay. The pandemic and political pressures pushed frontline worker wages in some markets from what was considered high in 2019 at $12/hour to new competitive wages of $15/hour. In addition to the $3/hour increase, operators also face increased overtime, agency use, pandemic related expenses, and now, vendor supply shortages and rising prices for everyday needs. 

Operators continue to struggle to attract and retain employees even with starting wage increases in many organizations, added benefits such as large sign-on bonuses, flexible schedules, etc.

How can operators gain some traction in attracting and retaining staff in such a challenging labor market? Here are a few notes from recent surveys on what matters to employees and considerations for employers.

In the recent TALA Workforce Development Committee report: Exploring Retention: A Tale of Two Perspectives, survey results from Caregivers highlight three main priorities:

  • Fair pay in respect to comparable roles is primary and important. However, it wasn’t just that caregivers want to be paid well for their work, they want to be paid well in senior living. Seven out of 10 Caregivers agreed they see themselves working in the role for the next five years. This is great news for senior living operators.
  • Just as important to caregivers was the need to receive respect from management. Caregivers rated “disrespect from managers” second to “low pay” as a top reason for leaving a job.
  • Flexibility in schedules remains important and technology is a great tool to help manage along with supporting ongoing communication.

A survey conducted in the spring of 2021 by OnShift titled “Employee Perspectives”,  surveyed 2,800 employees with 73% of respondents being Caregivers. The OnShift report further validates TALA’s Workforce Development Committee report. Survey results highlighted requests for “Better Pay, Better C

ommunication, Better Staffing and More Appreciation”.

In addition, the survey paints a picture of staff demographics. Assisted Living Workforce Demographics Chart

  • 89% of employees are female.
  • A majority of staff are in the 30 to 49 years of age range.
  • A healthy split between single (42%) and married (40%).
  • A majority (79%) have a child or children.
  • On average 56% work more than 40 hours a week while 23% work 35 to 39 hours a week.

The survey results validate the need for staffing flexibility in senior living given the level of personal staff commitments. To request the full report, visit

Mark your calendars and join TALA on Friday, August 27th, 2021 at 12 pm CST for a TALA HOUR discussing the EXPLORING RETENTION report with TALA committee members and contributing authors James Lee, Bear Wise Consulting and Charles Turner, KARE.