By implementing new technologies and investing in leadership development programs, Elara Caring boosted its caregiver workforce by 21% during the second quarter.
The Dallas-based home-based care provider operates 200 locations in 17 states. Among the strategies driving these gains were initiatives to speed the hiring process. In the second quarter, Elara reduced to nine days the time it takes to hire an employee, down from 21.
“Technology is a big part of it, but then there’s also just been a whole lot of work done internally to bring us back to the basics, so just real alignment between operations and our talent acquisition team,” Laura Hamrick, chief people officer at Elara Caring, told Hospice News. “This is a super important growth strategy of the company. More caregivers, trained and onboarded, allow us to care for more patients.”
A key element of that work was the development of profiles for desirable job candidates across its business lines, including hospice, according to Hamrick. This accelerated managers’ initial assessments of candidates.
The company also began measuring its response times to applicants using hours and minutes instead of days. Prioritizing that quick turnaround contributed significantly to the hiring time reductions.
“If we have a quality person in our market interested in working with us, we want to engage them immediately,” Hamrick said. “We just think that sets the tone for our priorities organizationally. Our candidate pool has increased by five times. We’ve got five times that number of people raising their hands who are interested in working for us.”
Elara’s “back-to-basics” approach has included a renewed focus on leadership development. They have implemented a new leadership competency model that to date, 93% of the company’s managers have attended, Hamrick indicated. The program is designed to help managers improve communication and staff coaching, among other skills.
As part of its leadership initiatives, the company is helping managers develop career paths for caregivers and clinicians within their organizations, which includes mid-year “focus and growth” conversations to discuss their performance, needs and goals.
Elara Caring leveraged technology, including mobile apps, to further streamline the hiring process and to help foster a sense of community among remote employees.
A centerpiece of these initiatives is its ElaraCare app, which enables home-based care workers to clock in and out of visits, receive messages from supervisors, participate in employee surveys and receive messages and updates from corporate leaders.
The app also serves as a social network designed to help employees feel more connected to their colleagues and the larger company. Through this, Elara hopes to create a sense of community that ultimately could aid employee satisfaction and retention.
“A sense of community is important to everyone, and we have worked really hard to make sure that nurses and caregivers don’t feel like they’re on an island by themselves, making sure that they recognize that they’re part of the team,” Hamrick said. “We celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries and the things that you might see if you were in a physical office location.”
The company has implemented steps to allow for more flexible scheduling. This kind of has become a higher priority among health care jobseekers, leading a number of providers to develop new methods of employee time management.
To help achieve that objective, Elara is partnering with the cloud-based software company ServiceNow to pilot solutions that allow for automated appointment scheduling, “on-the-go” schedule management, GPS-based travel route guidance and digital documentation.
The company piloted these solutions in its personal care business, beginning in its New York markets, but it will soon expand to its hospice employees and other service lines, according to Hamrick.
This is in addition to its partnership with the electronic training company Nevvon, which has provided Elara with interactive, remote training modules designed to help employees enhance their skills with limited disruption to their daily schedules.
The enhanced flexibility has been well received by employees, Hamrick said. Employee net promoter scores have risen by 29 points to 104 during the past year. The company’s workforce is 86% female with an average age of 44, including many working parents.
“[The technologies] create some flexibility for team members and an understanding that they can set case preferences. Let’s say that you’re allergic to dogs and didn’t want to go into a house that had pets,” Hamrick said. “It sort of creates a bit more of a marketplace for folks to work out their own schedule and logistics.”