This isn’t another story about the shortage of qualified long-term care workers. You know the headlines: Federal Mandates Chase Out Nursing Home Workers, Experts Predict Widespread Closures of Long-Term Care Facilities. It’s such a constant refrain, it’s not news anymore.
Your customers are reeling, and you sympathize. But truly creative pharmacy managers will do more than commiserate – they will engage.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare had an 8.8% job opening rate in 2022 versus 7.5% in 2021 and just 5.2% in 2020. The most recent freely available Nursing Home Salary & Benefits Report, released by Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service, showed nursing home staff turnover rate was up 25% from the year before.
Data reveal a close association between facilities’ Medicare quality scores and turnover, with lower scores correlating closely with high turnover. While analyses vary, most agree that facilities will spend $5-10 thousand dollars to replace a staff member.
LTC pharmacies are no strangers to employee losses. There is less data available, but industry analysts put the turnover rate for all pharmacists at around 8% and 20-30% for pharmacy technicians. While LTC pharmacies experience fewer employee defections, replacement costs can run much higher.
Nursing home administrators report that employee retention is one of the biggest issues facing them for the foreseeable future. There’s no shortage of proposed solutions, both state and federal, to lessen the impact, but your customers face a problem that can’t wait for a distant solution. They need help now.
Shift your approach to connect more deeply. The next meeting when the nursing home administrator gives you an opportunity to listen, rather than simply sympathizing, practice “active listening” by clarifying and confirming. Ask questions: Why do they believe employees are leaving? What options could help solve the problem? What limitations are they facing? What does success in reducing turnover look like?
Active listening is a bit of a lost art, so when you engage another person actively, they tend to notice. You become not just another business associate, but more of a partner. Revealing the retention issues your own pharmacy faces reassures them they’re not alone, and this commonality can help build a bridge toward a positive relationship.
Once we have a better understanding of the customer’s pain points through active listening, what’s next? Curious managers persist by continuing the dialog. This is critical to developing a real understanding of how to help. Although lack of money is often cited as the primary barrier to retention, many employees, especially younger ones, value other job motivators.
Reframe conversations to reveal one or two ideas that hold promise. Then help to find relevant resources. Three areas are especially important:
Maybe you can collaborate to hold informational meetings or job fairs to introduce entry-level workers to future, fulfilling roles. Focus on ways to engage that enhance mutual understanding. The options are only limited by your imagination.
Which customers are the most valuable to your pharmacy – the chronically understaffed with high turnover, requiring frequent interventions by your team, or the ones with experienced staff that collaborate to serve residents more efficiently? Helping your customers improve makes life easier for you and your staff.
The most important benefit from authentically engaging with customers is the bond that results from deeply connecting with the people you support and communities you serve. When relationships are strengthened, business can better withstand the negative forces that challenge the work of your pharmacy.
It is, and has always been, a relationship business. What steps will you take to develop better customer relationships?