Honoring Workers on Labor Day

Conversations with Katie | September 01, 2016

As the Labor Day holiday weekend approaches, 3 stories have captured my attention from towns and cities across the country about our field’s most pressing challenge: workforce.

I recently read about a vacation resort hotel that is closing before the end of the season because they simply can’t attract an adequate amount of staff to operate. I cringed at a story about public health nurses working at half their staff capacity against increased needs. And, I read still more about small towns, schools, and businesses that are relying on foreign workers and students to fill their workforce and classroom gaps. 

These challenges mirror closely the ones that keep LeadingAge members up at night in every corner of the country.

Recruiting and retaining quality staff at all levels is EVERYTHING in aging services. Workforce challenges are driven by local market conditions and national policies. They are influenced by demographics, wage competition, and a wholly unfair stigma about working in our field.

LeadingAge, in partnership with our states, is taking on the tall order of finding solutions to overcome these challenges as outlined in our new strategic plan.

Here are a few of the activities already underway:

  • The Center for Applied Research at LeadingAge has uncovered truths about our workforce through analysis of major data sets and the development of tools to clarify the competencies needed for middle managers and frontline workers.
  • Our Leadership Academies tap into innate leadership potential, fostering opportunities for career and professional growth while deepening a commitment to our field. To date, thousands have completed the program and are serving as leaders in a variety of diverse settings nationwide, contributing to strengthening our workforce.
  • We have advocated for mandatory reporting of staffing in nursing homes as a key indicator – for consumers and regulators – of quality. We have evaluated the overwhelmingly positive role that a wellness nurse can have in improving quality of life for low-income residents of affordable housing while saving healthcare dollars. And, we have supported legislative efforts to incentivize clinicians to practice in geriatrics.

And, yet we have only scratched the surface.

In the coming months and years, we will double down on these initiatives and more. This is a “put a man on the moon” challenge for our field over the next decade and it won’t be met without our concerted and collective effort.

In early October, we will send LeadingAge members a survey so we can understand more deeply how workforce challenges impact your organization and what you are doing to face them head first. We hope you will take a few minutes to respond so we can target our strategies to most closely align with your needs.

I promise to review the results closely and read every answer to open-ended questions so I can learn from you and report back to you on our plans. Together, we can be the trusted voice on workforce solutions   

This weekend, I encourage you all to take a moment to reflect on the reason why Labor Day was created in the first place: to recognize the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

There are no workers more deserving of this accolade than those who serve our older adults every day.