The LeadingAge Leadership Summit 2024

A close up of a female nurse in scrubs placing a comforting hand on the hand of an elderly female patient on a bed in a long term care facility bedroom.

Understanding and solving the senior care industry’s ‘mission-critical’ challenges

Comprising 5,400 organizations that serve older adults throughout the nation, LeadingAge is “committed to being a just, inclusive, antiracist, and equitable community that values and honors the unique qualities, wisdom, and lived experience of all people.”

Its annual leadership summit brings together the best minds in senior care leadership to probe the industry’s most pressing problems and explore its most promising solutions. The workforce shortage continues to be the No. 1 challenge senior care leaders face, and data overwhelm runs at a close second. Read on to learn more about the challenges, innovations and themes we discovered this year.

Challenge No. 1: the workforce shortage

At Leading Age, conversations and sessions were tightly focused on offsetting the workforce shortage by engaging foreign-born workers. In direct care, one in four workers is a U.S. immigrant.

With a senior care population poised to bloom and fewer U.S.-born workers entering the industry, many are touting the benefits of leveraging the foreign-born workforce. A short documentary featuring the unique program at Goodwin Living, a facility based in Virginia, screened at the summit and underscored that idea.

Nearly 27% of Goodwin Living’s team members are foreign-born workers without U.S. citizenship. The cost of applying for citizenship is an investment for many of these workers. Rita, a resident whose grandparents were Irish immigrants, wanted to help. She inspired Goodwin Living’s citizenship program, which tags community residents to tutor team members looking to take the U.S. citizenship test and provides financial support.

In 2023, Goodwin Living’s novel program drew the attention of Claudia Myers and Laura Hinson, film professors at American University’s School of Communication. “The Test” features the relationship between a Goodwin Living team member and two residents. It was an official selection of the Austin Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival, among others.

Goodwin Living has made its Citizenship Program available via a playbook, which can be found on their website.

Challenge No. 2: data overwhelm

In sessions and conversations, it became clear that the sheer volume of available data is overwhelming the C-suite. It’s no wonder: with multiple vendors for every facet of senior care, the signal often gets lost in the noise.

Solutions ran the gamut — some even suggested that facilities create data analyst positions to help discover the story behind the data. For a few, this may be possible, but for the majority, who are facing rising workforce costs, inflation and more, it may not be financially feasible to create another administrative position. If a facility doesn’t have the budget to hire a data analyst, they can leverage technology to help.

Predictive analytics will be key in combating data overwhelm, as the ability to forecast mitigates the need for reactivity while enabling proactivity. Another strategy is to reduce the number of vendors, which will reduce the number of data inputs.

This has been historically difficult when it comes to workforce management, which is why we created SAMI, Schedule Automation Marketplace Integration. SAMI seamlessly integrates OnShift’s software to make scheduling and budget utilization data easily accessible and actionable, enabling leaders to make strategic, data-driven workforce decisions. SAMI users have been able to cut agency usage by an average of 45% while increasing census by 8% on average, leading to a $111 million increase in annualized revenue.*

Keynote: Choosing persuasion over polarization

This year’s keynote was helmed by Anand Giridharadas, author, political analyst and journalist. Focusing on the division in today’s world and expounding on concepts from his best-selling book, “The Persuaders,” Giridharadas inspired us to think about the ways we can come together to achieve the common goal of delivering high-quality care to residents while preserving the mental and physical health of the critical healthcare workforce.

He highlighted that during a time when most are willing to write off opposite points of view, we need more people who are willing to listen. He said that we must not be complacent to what’s going on and need to step up to challenge others, with the aim of persuading them rather than reducing them to “the opposition.”

Session recap: 15 easy (ish) ways to retain workers

It’s no secret: Onboarding programs lead to more engagement (33%), more commitment (18x), more effectiveness (38%), and more profitability (21%). It can, however, be a challenge to retain workers in the post acute care industry. This clever workshop was designed around the speed-dating model, where each participant chose five subject matter experts to talk to, enabling them to tailor the workshop to their areas of interest within the retention space. Some strategies on the menu were new staffing models, apprenticeship programs, personal and professional development programs, and recognition programs.

LeadingAge also talked about the importance of having an onboarding/orientation plan (according to OnShift and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, 40% of long-term-care and senior-living turnover happens in the first three months), compensation and benefits statements, and weekly check-ins.

Session recap: Transforming the C-suite to reflect evolving priorities

If an organization is looking to evolve in lockstep with the swiftly changing industry, the traditional roles of the CEO, CFO and COO — also known as the “big three” — may not be adequate. This session featured CEOs who had expanded their leadership teams to fit the organization’s goals and support its strategic efforts. The speakers asked attendees about their teams’ missing areas of expertise, and recommended filling those gaps to ensure their teams could continue to innovate and focus on strategy.

They also highlighted other roles, such as chief revenue officer, chief human resources officer, chief growth and communication officer, chief information and technology officer, and chief administration officer, as being integral in gaining the agility needed to adapt to a rapidly changing healthcare landscape.

Keynote: Thriving in a world of constant change 

"Change is inevitable. Thriving is up to you." That's the headline on Jason Feifer's website, and it encapsulates the keynote talk he gave at the conference. 

Feifer is the editor-in-chief at Entrepreneur magazine, a startup advisor, and the author of "Build for Tomorrow: An Action Plan for Embracing Change, Adapting Fast, and Future-Proofing Your Career." 

His presentation included his conceptualization of the cycle of change: "panic," "adaptation," "new normal," and "wouldn't go back." He encouraged us to break what is already broken, and instead of aiming for perfection in our solutions, ask ourselves: "Is our new problem better than our old problem?" 

People in our industry are often resistant to change, but the reality of change is upon us, with workforce shortages and a growing, aging population. Feifer suggested that organizations that are able to create agility will thrive, while organizations that hold fast to the old ways will fail.  

Creating the future together

Our team left the summit feeling inspired by the novel solutions organizations are employing. We’re determined to continue creating technology that supports our partners in delivering the highest quality care to their patients and residents while supporting the vital workforce that delivers that care. In planning for the months and years ahead, we encourage you to think about how your organization might implement the strategies and innovations discussed, including how you might use technology like ours to overcome data overwhelm and optimize your workforce. To learn more about how organizations are using ShiftKey to achieve their census and revenue goals, schedule a demo today.

*This is not intended to represent or guarantee that current or future users will achieve the same or similar results.

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