LeadingAge Magazine · November-December 2017 • Volume 07 • Number 06

Drawing the Best Out of Our Workforce

November 16, 2017 | by Gene Mitchell

From the Editor: A look at this issue of LeadingAge magazine.

Gene Mitchell, editor
Gene Mitchell

By my count, educational sessions on workforce and leadership topics outnumbered the sessions in any of the other educational “tracks” at the recent LeadingAge Annual Meeting & EXPO in New Orleans. If you consider the strong workforce elements involved in many other sessions, it’s clear that finding and managing talent is a major preoccupation for people in our field.

Workforce issues—especially recruiting and retaining direct-care workers—are not only a priority for our members, but are a leading cause for sleepless nights as well. In this issue, we outline some of the problems members are facing, discuss what LeadingAge is doing to help members, and offer some optimistic looks at promising practices in staff training, retention and more.

Our Vision column, “How Better Direct Care Jobs Can Benefit Everyone,” is an interesting interview with labor economist Paul Osterman, discussing his new book, Who Will Care for Us? Long-Term Care and the Long-Term Workforce. Osterman believes that any hope we might have to meet the needs of a huge generation of elders will depend on our willingness to increase the training and responsibilities of—and society’s respect for—direct-care workers.

Difficulty in recruiting frontline workers into our field is causing serious problems in many places—and solutions aren’t always readily available, given the reimbursement and regulatory environments that our members work in. Read “Understanding the Recruitment Challenge” to learn more about the scope of the problem and some examples of promising workforce initiatives.

LeadingAge’s new Center for Workforce Solutions, designed to be a comprehensive resource for members facing workforce challenges, has identified the “pipeline” of new talent as its top priority. Read “A New LeadingAge Resource to Help With Workforce Challenges” to learn more about the thinking behind this new effort. The new Center has amassed an impressive collection of resources—including best practices, tools, statistical information, podcasts, presentations and more—in its first year of existence. Take a while to look around at the Workforce Center’s website, and give us your input on what you’d like to see from us in the future.

In “Ageism and Workforce Education,” we show how staff trained to recognize and overcome ageism can offer better care and services to elders while building better relationships. (Those better relationships could be the difference between staying and leaving for some employees, too.)

Managers who supervise staff from several generations will tell you there are recognizable differences between them—especially millennials and baby boomers—when it comes to the role of work in their lives, attitudes toward authority and much more. In “Finding Commonalities, Bridging Differences,” we interview 3 thoughtful providers (from 3 different generations) who share their insights and wisdom on how the generations can be blended into a superior staff. The good news: We’re much more alike than we are different.

Speaking of wise leadership, you’ll like the story of this year’s winner of the Joan Anne McHugh Award for Leadership in LTSS Nursing. Read “Building a Care Team with Respect and Relationships” to learn more.

LeadingAge’s mission is to be “The Trusted Voice for Aging,” and members are, rightly, holding us to that promise. In “Why LeadingAge Must Be a Trusted Voice for Aging,” president and CEO Katie Smith Sloan discusses a variety of ways—through advocacy, research and media outreach—LeadingAge is working to meet that promise.

Though much of our work against ageism involves updating the language we use, ageism can also be manifested in the physical environments we create for the people we serve. “Fighting Ageism by Adapting the Community to Residents” is a member-written article about how one provider is working to make sure that the environment residents live in adapts to them, not the other way around. It also has a strong workforce component, including special training to help staff understand the physical limitations some residents live with.

This issue’s “People We Serve” article highlights another group of older adults, and one employee, that makes it easy to understand why our members fall in love with the work they do. This is a continuing series, and we’re always looking for more stories from members about remarkable people they serve. Please send your stories to gmitchell@leadingage.org or 202-508-9424.

Gene Mitchell is editor of LeadingAge magazine.