How to Manage a Diverse Senior Care Workforce

A diverse workforce brings many advantages to senior care communities, including enhanced creativity and innovation, varied perspectives, improved problem solving, and more. But managing a diverse workforce also brings some unique challenges. Grant Harris, a Certified Diversity Executive, (CDE®), consultant, speaker, podcast host, and autistic author, shared advice and insights about diverse workforce management with I Advance Senior Care.

The Advantages of Diversity in the Senior Care Workforce

Grant Harris

Grant Harris, a Certified Diversity Executive, (CDE®), consultant, speaker, podcast host, and autistic author

A diverse workforce brings many advantages to senior care settings. Diversity leads to cultural understanding that enhances understanding of residents’ backgrounds. “Having a diverse team brings a plethora of perspectives and experiences, promoting deeper respect and understanding for the residents’ diverse backgrounds,” explains Harris. “This can lead to more personalized care and create a more inclusive atmosphere for staff and a more caring environment for residents.”

In turn, resident satisfaction often increases. “Residents tend to feel more comfortable and satisfied when they interact with staff members who not only look like them but share similar cultural backgrounds,” notes Harris. “This connection is particularly crucial for residents from marginalized communities.”

The multiple viewpoints of a diverse workforce also spark creativity and innovation that can contribute to innovation and creative problem solving. Teams may also display improved performance. “Diverse teams often excel compared to homogenous groups due to their range of skills, experiences and insights,” says Harris. “This diversity enhances communication and teamwork, ultimately elevating the quality of care provided.”

Challenges in Managing a Diverse Workforce

Diverse workforces offer valuable benefits, but Harris notes that there are several challenges to managing such workforces. Language barriers can occur when staff members speak various languages. Additionally, differences in cultural communication norms can lead to misunderstandings, either within the team or between staff and residents.

Unconscious bias and lack of cultural sensitivity are also common issues. “These obstacles can lead to tensions and discomfort among employees, potentially isolating or hurting residents, which goes against the community’s goal of providing support,” says Harris.

Additionally, some staff members may be reluctant to embrace the change that comes with a culturally diverse workforce. Harris explains that some staff members may push back against diversity and inclusion efforts. This can occur if staff don’t understand or believe in the importance of diversity, or if they feel uneasy about differences.

Strategies to Attract a Diverse Pool of Job Seekers

Establishing a diverse workforce starts with a recruitment process designed to attract a variety of job seekers. Community engagement and recruiting efforts can help connect a senior care community with a wider pool of job applicants. Harris encourages senior care communities to collaborate with minority-serving organizations focused on underrepresented communities. Senior care facilities can also promote job opportunities on minority-owned media platforms and participate in local job fairs that cater to a diverse audience.

Harris highlights the importance of creating inclusive job postings, too. “Crafting job descriptions that use inclusive phrasing provided in multiple languages, highlighting the community’s dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion, [and that] focus on degrees and/or experience, can draw candidates from diverse backgrounds,” he says.

These inclusive practices should extend to the interviewing and onboarding processes. Harris encourages senior care communities to provide interviewers with bias awareness training, including guidance on recognizing and mitigating biases. This training can help ensure that candidates are evaluated based on their qualifications, not other intersectional elements.

Senior care communities should also evaluate the onboarding and welcoming process. “Customizing the onboarding process to be sensitive to all backgrounds, including offering language assistance and cultural competency training, can help new hires feel supported and appreciated,” Harris says.

Creating an Inclusive Workplace Environment

It’s also essential to regularly review and evaluate the workplace environment’s inclusivity. Communities should promote inclusive language and policies. “Regularly reviewing policies, procedures, and practices to guarantee inclusivity while avoiding discrimination is essential,” Harris explains. “Employee benefits may need to be adjusted to accommodate traditions, and dress codes might need to be updated to embrace culturally relevant clothing.”

He notes that training and awareness initiatives can also help combat unconscious bias among leaders and employees. Communities that encourage transparency and learning from senior leadership can encourage staff to identify their own biases.

Senior care communities can establish an inclusive atmosphere through additional efforts, such as setting up employee support groups, organizing cultural awareness programs, and providing platforms for staff discussions. Regularly gathering feedback from staff on diversity and inclusion initiatives allows communities to make needed changes and foster an inclusive environment.

“Ultimately, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in a senior care facility not only enhances the resident experience by offering culturally sensitive care but also improves the working environment for employees,” says Harris. “It demands a commitment, to education, adaptation, and growth. The result—a caring, inclusive, and efficient care community—is truly rewarding.”

Topics: Featured Articles , Leadership , Staffing , Training