We all succeed when we all succeed.

This adage from Labor Secretary Tom Perez found a fitting place this summer on the Labor Day 2015 website hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor.

It belongs there.

Ensuring the success of the people who work for us really should be a central focus of every Labor Day celebration. After all, we’re not just marking the unofficial end of summer vacations this week. Instead, we should be acknowledging the fact that our workers are the lifeblood of our organizations.

I’m proud of the way LeadingAge celebrated Labor Day.

We didn’t hold a parade. But we did publish 2 very important, evidence-based guides outlining the core competencies that are required to be a successful personal care attendant and mid-level manager across the continuum of care and services in the field of aging services.

Our competency development guides, developed in collaboration with the LeadingAge Workforce Cabinet, are designed to help aging services organizations celebrate their workers by giving those workers the tools they need to succeed.

That success is really important, as Tom Perez’s 7-word maxim so aptly points out:

We all succeed -- including our workers, our organizations, older consumers, and their families-- when we all succeed.

4 Reasons I’m Proud

The competency development guides for personal care attendants and mid-level managers come at a time when the long-term care workforce is in great need of strengthening. 

I’m really proud of our work for 4 reasons:

  1. The competencies identified in our guides are backed by research. CFAR conducted a thorough review of the current literature about competencies for personal care attendants and mid-level managers. Members of the LeadingAge Workforce Cabinet carefully reviewed this research and used their professional experience and expertise to ensure that the competencies were reflective of the demands of our field and would be useful to a variety of audiences.

  2. The competency guides were developed in a very deliberate manner. It took more than 2 years for CFAR and the Workforce Cabinet to develop these 2 guides. And the work didn’t take place exclusively in a conference room. Once the competencies were drafted, cabinet members held focus groups around the country with the leaders of LeadingAge member organizations and with personal care attendants and mid-level managers working in those organizations. They wanted to make sure that the competencies were realistic and meaningful. They revised the competency guides based on the feedback they received.

  3. The guides send a very important message. The competency development guides tell our colleagues in the field of aging, our health care partners, and older consumers and their families, that we value our workers, view them as professionals, and are willing to invest in helping them be the best they can be. That message raises our workers to a new level in their own eyes and in the eyes of the public. But it also raises the credibility of your organization and reassures consumers and their families that they chose well when they selected you as their provider of services and supports.

  4. Educators are on board. The CFAR staff shared both sets of competencies at a number of prestigious professional meetings, including the annual meetings of the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education and the Gerontological Society of America. Our guides received enthusiastic support at both meetings. Community colleges, in particular, have expressed serious interest in integrating both sets of competencies into the curricula they use to train personal care attendants and mid-level managers in our field. 

Next Steps

The Center for Applied Research will be working hard over the next several months to create a broad-based initiative around the core competencies for personal care attendants and mid-level managers.

We plan to continue meeting with educators to raise awareness about the competencies and to explore ways to incorporate them into training programs that can help personal care attendants and mid-level managers excel at what they do.

We’ll also be helping LeadingAge members put the competencies to work in their organizations. We’re hoping that members will follow the example of Workforce Cabinet Co-Chair Fran Kuhns, who has used the competencies to evaluate the education, care partner development, and skills training at WRC Senior Services, and to evaluate the job descriptions in use there.

Most importantly, Fran recommends using the core competencies as a basis for ongoing strategic planning.

“If you have strategic plans around expansion or adding new services or enhancing your buildings or renovating, and you don’t have something in your plan that speaks to the investment you’ll make in workforce development, education and training, you’re not going to get anywhere,” she recently told LeadingAge Magazine.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.