In today’s post-pandemic landscape, labor challenges are quickly becoming the No. 1 headache for business owners across every segment. The home health industry, which provides services and treatments for patients outside of medical offices, is a prime example, with demand among aging baby boomers significantly outpacing the available labor force of therapists.
Some agencies rejected as many as 40% of new referrals last year, according to CNN, because physical, occupational and speech therapists have become so difficult to come by in today’s environment. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. By elevating their training and development programs, employers can bring talented practitioners back into the profession — and keep them there.
Especially among the younger generation coming into the workforce, therapists want to know they are going to receive the training and development necessary to become a pro and take that next step towards their future goals. Therapists sign up for a lifelong learning profession, and employers need to be able to provide an infrastructure that promotes upward mobility, for both the individual employee and the organization at large. In the words of Henry Ford: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”
Make culture a priority
To start, home health employers need to focus on their culture. They need to gain real clarity around their purpose and outline what success looks like within the agency. From there, home health care providers need to understand the goals, aspirations and skill sets of their therapists. This can be learned through an assessment or an engagement survey, which will tell employers what is most essential to employees, and allow them to start building the training tools and programs needed to provide those resources.
But training is not simply a box employers check off on a to-do list; organizations need evidence that the development programs are actually creating a behavioral change. When it comes to measuring these changes, organizations often have trouble closing the gap between the quantitative metrics, such as increased sales, and the qualitative metrics, like communication. This is where ongoing retention data and stakeholder satisfaction surveys can be extremely valuable.
For example, a trait like “positive attitude” may be difficult to quantify in the field, but with a survey, organizations can create a scale of 1 to 10 and start to generate a picture of how their employees fit in with the profile and whether or not training procedures need to be tweaked in that area. If surveys show that documentation is the therapist’s least favorite part of the job, organizations need to develop new training procedures that will help them overcome those obstacles so they enjoy their job more and be better-positioned to succeed from day one.
Training key to retention
The training experience, whether it be an orientation or shadowing established employees, will not only dictate the primary success of the new employee but also play a critical role in retention long-term. By emphasizing continuing education and development opportunities, agencies can ensure therapists feel confident that this specific organization will help them achieve future career milestones. These are upfront investments that pay tremendous dividends for the employer moving forward.
Today’s generation of therapists don’t give employers much leeway — organizations need to get it right the first time. That is why it is essential to look at training and education as a primary tool to attract and retain top talent in the industry. Keeping therapists well-equipped to provide high-quality care in any circumstance will help create a more satisfied workforce and a more successful home health care organization overall.
Matt Murphy is the chief executive officer of InHome Therapy. Previously, he was CEO of Griswold Home Care, a national franchisor of private duty home care services. Murphy also led FHS, a revenue cycle management business in the senior care industry, and served in business leadership positions for several other private equity-backed services businesses.
Meaghan Chitwood is the chief operating officer for InHome Therapy. She previously was a franchisee of BNI, and served as the director of global training and president of franchised countries for BNI Global LLC. Chitwood has also been a lean six sigma consultant for school systems.