New Year, New Goals: Eliminate “no call, no shows” and build a culture your team loves

Lindsey Daugherty
January 31, 2024

The senior living industry is under increased strain as caregiver burnout continues to plague communities. “No call, no shows” are on the rise. Wage wars, associates with inflexible schedules, and late arrivals have become the norm. Onboarding has taken a backseat to daily operational demands due to excessive paperwork, unreliable call systems, and outdated technology. Meanwhile, residents and families (rightly) expect better service and care. Solving the crisis isn’t simple, but there is a path forward.

My roots in the eldercare system run deep—my grandmother was a caregiver, my mother a nurse, and I began working in senior care at 18. Even then, I realized that the industry needed help. I experienced the day-to-day operational challenges and watched once-passionate individuals burn out. This story has become familiar in healthcare—but it doesn’t have to be this way. Recruiting and retaining staff became the foundation of my success as a leader, resulting in high margins, high census, and low turnover. You can achieve the same for your team, ensuring that they feel seen and valued.

The first quarter of the calendar year traditionally sees increased healthcare staff turnover due to annual bonuses, benefits timing, or employees “resolving” in the New Year to find a new job. But it’s not too late to make resolutions of your own to improve your company culture and even take advantage of potential employees seeking new opportunities.

Five Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Quality Talent in Senior Living

Recruit the right talent.

Your current caregivers are assets. My approach was simple: If my employees loved working for me, I wanted to empower them to recruit like-minded individuals. We set referral bonuses with payouts upon hiring, at six months, and beyond, which encouraged retention. During COVID, many mentorship programs fell by the wayside, but it’s time to hit the reset button. Mentorship not only fosters community building, but also improves morale. When an employee brought in a new hire, I often assigned them as the peer mentor for that recruit, which was a valuable way to offer support beyond orientation.

Promote healthier work-life balance.

We can’t meet demand by pushing past the point of burnout. Fortune reported that 85% of bosses recognize burnout among their employees, noting that “intense workloads, toxic company culture, and pressure from managers” are top drivers of burnout. Senior care can be taxing, high-touch work. Leaders need to help caregivers recover from—or, ideally, avoid—burnout. 

Provide and encourage paid time off, but also consider alternatives for hourly workers unable to miss paychecks or who have to work doubles to accommodate time away. Can unused PTO hours be paid out? Can you better facilitate coverage?

Understand the responsibilities of their home life, create reasonable workloads, and don’t require significant overtime. Think about the flexible work trend. It doesn't necessarily mean remote or hybrid work, which is an impossibility for frontline workers, but may include allowing flexible scheduling through self-scheduling, part-time positions, or shift time alternatives.

Finally, in light of our country’s ongoing mental health crisis, include mental health assistance as part of your benefits package.

Provide adequate technology.

In eldercare, there’s a lot of paperwork—for tasks and assignments, for intake, for reporting a fall, for new medications, for appointments. Things can get lost in the shuffle. Caregivers need access to the right resources, supplies, tools, and technology to excel.

I experienced the difference helpful technology can make firsthand. In 2021, I was working as a VP of Operations, still reeling from the COVID-19 lockdown and resulting industry-wide exhaustion. Then, I met the team at Sage. They took time to understand the pain points of caregivers, nurses, maintenance teams, dietary staff, and residents. Implementing Sage’s solutions transformed my job, streamlining my team’s work and giving us more time for the tasks that mattered. Several years later, I joined Sage because I wanted to help my colleagues in senior living rediscover their passion for their work.

Ineffective or sluggish equipment or software slows down and frustrates employees. What’s more, it creates an air of helplessness when management fails to recognize the need for upgrades. Frustration with equipment is an early sign of burnout, so addressing this can greatly alleviate work-related stressors. Improving your tech has proven results on productivity and retention. For example, Sage-enabled communities have seen up to a 40% reduction in care team turnover. Even something as simple as a scheduling app which allows self-scheduling and communication around meetings can make a radical change.

Establish clear, open communication.

Senior living leaders often complain that their staff seem disengaged or spend too much time on their cell phones. It’s crucial to recognize that these workers aren’t lazy; they often just feel unseen. The solution begins at the top. Leaders need to model a warm, professional culture. This can be as easy as making eye contact in the hallway, saying hello, and asking about their wellbeing. When team members feel that their management values and respects them, loyalty and engagement naturally follow. (It’s also just the right thing to do.)

Extend kindness, open your door—you’ll see a huge difference in morale. A caring, safe culture encourages early communication before burnout becomes a serious issue. Provide regular feedback and check in about your team’s concerns and challenges. What gets in their way? What keeps them up at night? Actively involve them in decision-making processes to foster a sense of ownership of their work. Frontline workers also have invaluable insights about residents and day-to-day operations. Gaining their perspective can lead to major improvements for everyone.

Revive recognition and appreciation programs.

As a leader, I was very intentional about recognition, extending appreciation not only to top performers but also those striving to improve. We gave awards for staff who got compliments from residents’ family members and recognized skilled multitaskers. I brought in food trucks and had a farm animal day for the staff and their families. We celebrated milestones with monthly birthday parties and baby showers. When a staff member reached their goal of enrolling in school, we cheered them on—and offered them time to study.

Acknowledging the hard work, dedication, and efforts of your caregivers doesn’t have to be grand or expensive. It can be a small gift card, recognition at an all-staff meeting, or call-out on social media. Appreciation from colleagues should also be encouraged, as it can mean a great deal. My teams had “Brag Boards” where peers recognized each others’ exceptional efforts. Then, we’d do a prize drawing for those whose names appeared on the board. 

By implementing these strategies, senior living communities can address staffing shortages, attract new talent, and ensure uninterrupted quality of care. Some of these changes may seem simple, but they can transform your team.

We would love to hear from you and your community. What steps are you taking to reduce burnout and enhance the caregiver experience? How can we assist you in this journey? Message me at