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At Incite, we have had a lot of conversations with our members regarding staffing over the last 10 months.  If you’re a manager in senior living, you likely experienced it: staff needing to quarantine, call-offs from panicky workers afraid of falling ill, and employees needing to stay home with children during remote learning. Some talented people walked away from a full-time job due to burnout or exhaustion or chose early retirement to safeguard their health & wellbeing.

No one can blame employees for feeling overwhelmed while providing care during a pandemic.  At the same time, turnover is nothing new in Senior Living.  The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the critical role of a hiring pipeline to fill senior living roles.

While senior living communities faced a staffing crisis, many skilled workers faced the hardship of mass layoffs in the restaurant and hospitality industries; industries where skill sets are transferrable to senior living.  Clever hiring managers took notice and connected the dots between the needs of workers and communities to fill staffing gaps in senior living.

One such individual is Katy Zahrte, VP of Talent Management with Marquis Companies.  We connected with Katy to get the details on successfully pivoting talented workers into senior living roles:

Incite: Have you seen increased turnover since the pandemic began?

Katy: We saw a small spike in March & April of 2020 when COVID first began; there was a fear factor that went along with the unknown. There was a second, more significant spike in late August/early September. With schools not returning to in-person learning, we saw another wave of people temporarily exiting the workforce or needing to reduce their hours to support their children in a remote learning environment.

Incite: Are their certain roles in senior living communities that are more challenging to fill, or departments hardest hit by turnover?

Katy: Certified/Licensed positions are the most in-demand. Prior to COVID they were in limited supply, this has only increased with the strain on our healthcare system brought on by a global pandemic.

Incite: Lots of people lost their jobs in 2020, with the restaurant & hospitality sectors among the hardest hit.  Have you hired individuals with these work histories to fill positions in senior living, perhaps despite their having no direct senior living experience?

Katy: Yes! Some of our greatest employees have a background of previously working in the restaurant and/or hospitality sectors. There are multiple entry points into Marquis Companies where individuals receive on-the-job training, or paid training opportunities to further develop their skill sets. Some begin in our Dietary department; others begin as a receptionist or decide they wish to take our free C.N.A Training course-there are multiple opportunities depending upon their interests. (Visit https://www.marquiscompanies.com/ to learn more!)

Incite: What is the biggest advantage to hiring restaurant & hospitality talent to work with seniors?

Katy: They are team players who are used to working in a fast-paced environment, with many different types of people.  In addition, they tend to have strong communications skills, and a customer service-based approach to problem solving. They are hardworking and can multi-task. These skills are an excellent foundation for all our positions.

Incite: What is the biggest challenge that these individuals face in pivoting into senior living roles?

Katy: Often, we hear that people want to work in healthcare, but don’t know where to start or think they MUST have previous experience to be considered. This is a common misconception-we have several opportunities that do not require healthcare specific experience.

Incite: What advice would you give to a job seeker whose traditional role is hard to come by, as to a pivot into senior living? Are certain personality types better suited to the senior living environment than others?

Katy: We have a wide array of personality types that thrive in our setting. If you have a passion for helping others, want to feel connected to the work you do, and know that you make a difference each day in a meaningful way-Marquis Companies is the place for you.

Incite: What else should senior living organizations and job seekers know about hiring restaurant and hospitality talent for their organizations?

Katy: Many people have found a true and meaningful connection to their work after pivoting into senior healthcare. They are relieved to have stability in their career, while working in a fun and supportive environment where they truly make a difference.  Marquis Companies loves to mentor and support employees along their career pathway. We have a $25,000 Education Benefit that we have seen people use in a multitude of ways: to become a C.N.A, a Business Office Manager, a Social Worker, an Activities Assistant, a Registered Nurse-and many more! Those individuals who are looking for a stable and rewarding opportunity, look no further, Marquis Companies would love to connect with you. (https://www.marquiscompanies.com/)

2020 challenged us all to be more adaptable, flexible, tough and persistent than we ever thought we could be.  If you’re a talented food service or hospitality individual, consider a pivot into a senior living role!  Many communities are actively hiring and provide excellent on the job training.

Our thanks to Katy Zahrte and Marquis Companies for helping job seekers make a pandemic pivot of their own!