10 COVID Related & Accelerated Workforce Trends 2021 by Julie Rupenski, President & CEO, MedBest

The coronavirus will have a lasting impact on the future of the senior living workforce and has accelerated a number of trends that most organizations have had to adopt and adapt to during these challenging times.

Forces beyond our control have changed workforce practices especially in the areas of talent retention, leadership roles, demand for interims, and use of technology for safe interactions such as virtual meetings and job interviews, monitoring residents, providing updates to families, etc.

With that in mind, we present 10 accelerated trends that will continue shape the senior living workforce in 2021 and beyond...

New Workforce Retention Programs Increase in Popularity

Staff turnover has always been a priority in the senior living industry. However, the pandemic has pushed that to a whole new level. The stress and fear of a mass exodus have some providers thinking outside the box and implementing new retention strategies. According to Senior Housing News, flexible scheduling, remote work (if possible), higher pay, free meals and other services were not standard in the senior living industry before the pandemic, but providers now wield these tools with greater frequency as they seek to retain staff.

-Interim Talent Continues to Serve as Safety Net

The need for Senior Living interim leadership has been on the rise due to the urgent nature of the COVID crisis. An abrupt exit or illness of an executive can be detrimental to an organization especially when staff needs all hands-on deck. Interim leadership calms the anxiety of workers as well provides a safeguard when it comes to maintaining organizational stability and success. Having an experienced interim executive allows Senior Living organizations to manage through transitions effectively and buys time for leadership to take stock, think about the role, make necessary changes, and ultimately, recruit the right permanent leader.

-Hiring Remains Top Priority

Prior to COVID, our industry was experiencing a talent shortage. Amid COVID, there's an even a bigger talent gap. 2020 has been a very challenging year to locate and land qualified healthcare professionals. Some providers have fast tracked the hiring process to just 1 week to get the helping hands they need. Others have focused on attracting Millennials from different industries since they now comprise 43.3% of the global workforce.  In some cases, former retired staff have been asked to put retirement on hold and return to work. Many providers have depended on industry-specific search firms that have a strong network and wide reach of vetted candidates. Hiring more workers in 2021 will remain a top priority.

-Infection Preventionist Role Rapidly Expanding

The Global Infection Control Market is forecasted to reach USD $31.99 Billion by 2027, according to a new report by Reports and Data. Within the senior living industry, the need for Infection Preventionists  is in high demand and these professionals are quickly becoming key members of the interdisciplinary team caring for our senior population. The role of Infection Preventionists has been primarily about preventing common acquired infections and advising on hygiene.  While this is still the case, the role has expanded and is rapidly changing to include a focus on how to be ready for future outbreaks and pandemics.

-CDO Position Gains Ground

Hiring practices have shifted to focus on untapped and diversified talent.  Enter the Chief Diversity Officer or CDO.  Since the many nationwide protests we've experienced, employers have promised to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at their organizations.  As a result, many are suddenly searching, both internally and externally, for their first CDO.  While the position of CDO is not new, it is now gaining ground and much attention.

-Leaders Respond to New Environment

As a result of COVID, we probably can't go back to yesterday but need to build a sustainable and better version of tomorrow which will take effective leadership.  In times of crisis and calamity, everyone looks to their leaders for direction. Therefore, what leadership skills will be paramount in a post-COVID era and prepare staff for a future crisis? Adaptability & Resilience, Team Support. Empathy & Compassion, Communication & Transparency, Critical Thinking, Tech Savviness and Creativity.

Technology Spending & Use Will Increase

A recent survey conducted by Senior Housing News in partnership with global health technology firm Philips, finds that out of 250 respondents, 80% reported an increase in tech spending in 2020 to help address the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking ahead to 2021, 87% said they expect their organizations to increase their technology budgets spending more on items that have proved essential for business survival such as virtual meetings and job interviews, resident monitoring, contact tracing, telehealth, and virtual tours.

-Video Interviews Here to Stay

Over these past months, the best way for hiring managers to interview candidates safely and quickly has been through the video interview. Leadership has become so comfortable with using this interview method, that it's here to stay. Video interviews have been especially useful when trying to screen and pare down the first round of job candidates without risking safety or wasting time of all parties.  It has also proven to be very effective when hiring an interim quickly.  However, it's worth noting that there is a right way to prepare for and conduct these interviews. Check out Zip Recruiter's video Interview etiquette for employers.

-Cross Training Becomes Essential

Cross-training has become a central issue in the senior living industry recently and for good reason.  The pandemic has made the practice of training people to work in several different roles essential.  Per our interview with Dennis D., a MedBest Interim NHA, “Senior management and staff have had to adapt to a rapidly changing environment plus, learn how to match their workers to new roles and activities.  The staff has had to learn other jobs quickly to cover all the bases.”  While not every position or skill is transferable, there are tangible benefits when you can bring in employees from other areas who can pitch in during challenging times

-Hospitality Workers Continue Transition to Senior Living

While this unprecedented situation has caused the loss of thousands of jobs in hospitality, there's certainly an opportunity for these workers to take advantage of the many jobs within senior living. We spoke with Ashley Lodi, Executive Director with a Senior Living Community located in Orlando, Florida, and she agrees and added, “Hospitality and senior living industries totally align since both require a caring heart, compassion for people, and the desire to serve. Furloughed hospitality professionals in culinary, sales, marketing, and management could make an easy transition.”


Senior Living Executive Recruiting Firm ABOUT MEDBEST

MedBest is a national Executive Search Firm exclusive to the Senior Living Industry established in 2001.  We recruit and acquire exceptional senior care talent, permanent and interim executives, for all types of Senior Living Organizations and Communities across the US including Assisted Living, Continuing Care Retirement Communities, Independent Living, Memory Care, and Skilled Nursing Facilities.

Contact us at 727-526-1294 /, visit us at and connect on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter @MedBestJobs.



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