The 3 HR mistakes you are making today, that will lead to employee turnover tomorrow

In analyzing thousands of job postings and communicating with job candidates throughout the application process, we have found a few troubling HR trends in senior living and skilled nursing hiring practices.  A significant number of employers treat job seekers in a way that discourages applicants from fully engaging in and completing the hiring process.  Given the importance and ongoing need to hire and retain quality employees who will deliver quality care and service, it is surprising that these HR mistakes are occurring with such frequency.  

There are two ways that errors in the talent acquisition process wreak havoc on achieving goals related to quality care:

  1. By failing to attract the best possible job candidates, employers are left with applicants who may not perform as well as those who gave up on the process.  
  2. By hiring excellent prospects in a way that sows seeds of distrust and misgivings, employers are laying the groundwork for worker turnover when new employees leave at the earliest opportunity for a position or employer that seems to value them more.  

Both hiring a poor quality ‘team member’ and losing new hires at frequent intervals has a negative impact on quality of care and resident/patient/family satisfaction. It leads to recurrent new hire turnover which threatens the well-being of both the staff who stay and the families of your residents and patients.

Fortunately, it is not an impossible task to improve these inflection points in the candidate experience. With a few tweaks, you can ensure the applicant pool is as strong as possible, and top choice candidates are excited to join your team.  We highly recommend reviewing processes to ascertain whether your organization is making these mistakes.  

HR Mistake #1

Does your job description highlight the benefits of being a part of your community?  If you think you are covering this message in your website’s images, quotes, and descriptions, you may be forgetting that the typical applicant pathway does not begin with – or even include – your website.  The candidate journey begins with a job posting that lives on a different website – job board sites like Indeed, Craigslist, or Google-jobs search results.  

We have noticed job postings that only state the job title/role and a brief organizational description. We’ve seen job postings that list more than 20 bullet points of job-related tasks and requirements.  

The corporate websites related to these job postings, however, include more information about benefits and perks and the caring culture.  But applicants, most likely, never see this.

Put yourself in the position of a candidate. Discover your job postings online. Do they appear as a list of qualifications and tasks, without any detail around benefits, salary, and the warm and supportive culture you value and actively nurture?  

Click the ‘apply’ button and see what happens. After applicants read your posting text, are they brought directly into the job application process? This is most likely the case. This means the candidates are in your Applicant Tracking System, which is not even framed by your corporate website. 

When you exclusively focus on the requirements of doing the job and omit the up-side for workers in joining your organization, applicants receive a message that you are not offering benefits and are not the type of organization that cares about its workers.  


SUGGESTIONS: Review your job posting through the lens of an applicant, keeping in mind that this posting may be the only opportunity to court the applicants you desire.  Tell them you value them and offer benefits such as a living wage, health insurance, 401k matching, free meals during/after/before shifts, paid time-off for illness, humane paid vacation time policies, relevant training/tuition reimbursal, career pathways, and PPE. Begin the posting with this information. Follow it up with the job description and the mission-driven nature of the work. Then, end with desired qualifications.

HR Mistake # 2

Does your process guarantee that you review and respond to job applicants within 2 business days of their submitted application?  Are there job applicants who never receive any response at all?  

It is truly a loss to an organization when promising applicants are not reviewed and contacted within a few days of submitting their applications.  You can be sure that these job candidates have applied to other jobs on the same day that they applied to you.  If you recognize them 4-7 days later, they are most likely already moving along the hiring process elsewhere. 

We noticed that, all-too-frequently, job candidates who Arena has analyzed and predicted for job success are never contacted at all.  These experiences result in poor ratings on job board sites that now have ongoing data analysis intended to optimize the applicant’s experience.  When employers regularly fail to follow up with candidates, the organization’s later job postings appear near the bottom of job search results. It will only become harder moving forward to attract an adequate number of applicants.


SUGGESTIONS: If you do not have sufficient staff to personally review and communicate with job candidates, consider automating parts of the process and inserting evaluation tools to provide your hiring managers and recruiters with a prioritized list of candidates to contact. Delve into the data to find out how many applicants you have for each open position, what is the timeframe by which candidates are contacted, and what is the criteria that informs these communications. At least quarterly, try to review the track record of these processes.  Is the criteria that informs candidate communication, interview selection and, ultimately, hiring inconsistently resulting in a high quality, retained employee? No process is perfect but we have sufficient data and tools these days to continually learn and improve upon our processes. 

A number of pre-hire assessments and HR technologies claim they can ‘assess’ job candidates and efficiently provide recommendations to your hiring managers and recruiters. Often these tools are theoretical word matches between applications and job descriptions or between test responses and idealized employee qualities. It is important to check the results of these recommendations against the realities you are experiencing – in other words how do these ‘recommended’ candidates work out?  If you are spending money to utilize these evaluation tools, the vendor should be providing monthly data analyses to all stakeholders at your organization.  Ideally they provide easy-to-understand data visualizations that shed light on granular and higher level trends and results.

If you find your ‘recommended’ candidates are not performing well, it’s essential to change that criteria/system. Arena’s team can provide staff turnover analysis going back 2 years, identify areas for improvement, and determine how predictive analytics can strengthen your communities.

HR Mistake #3

Are you acknowledging the reality of COVID-19 and assuring candidates of the different ways you are protecting all staff and residents?  

Mentioning the pandemic in a job posting may seem like a mistake. However, the opposite is true.  We have all seen enough news reports detailing the Covid-19 outbreaks at nursing homes and assisted living communities. Avoiding any mention of Covid-19 raises the question in an applicant’s mind: How safe will I be at this job? 

SUGGESTIONS: Identify the proactive and aggressive ways you are protecting people from the virus in order to reassure job candidates. Include as many assurances as you have implemented: provisions of appropriate PPE, efficient testing of staff and residents, continued salary if workers need to quarantine as they await test results, etc.

Next Steps

Correcting these mistakes increases the likelihood of hiring staff who will be committed to your organization, and who will deliver excellent care to residents, patients, and families.  

The first step in reducing worker turnover is hiring the right person. Mis-steps on Step One all but guarantee workforce instability and challenges to your core business and mission.