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How to Use Performance Marketing to Fill the Hiring Gap in Senior Living



Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash


Digital advertising isn't just for sales and marketing teams anymore—hiring managers must use digital performance marketing techniques to compete for increasingly scarce talent.


The labor market is undergoing a structural change that hits senior living especially hard. Last September, 82% of assisted living communities said they faced severe or moderate staffing shortages. 66% said they were having a "very difficult" time hiring new staff, with 34% saying they were having a "somewhat difficult" time, according to an American Healthcare Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) survey last year.


There is no simple fix as operators address the root causes of staff turnover that have long troubled the industry. (Read more below from the #ICAA report on employee-centered solutions.) In the meantime, it's all-hands-on-deck, and operators must use the entire digital toolbox to fill the gaps.


One part of the answer? Use proven digital marketing practices to boost performance. But many traditional hiring managers don't have the experience needed to drive competitive recruiting campaigns in today's digital-first job market. So, it's no surprise that many marketing teams are getting involved in hiring efforts. High-performance recruitment campaigns use the same fundamentals inherent in great digital marketing efforts. The very best leverage the entire marketing "flywheel" to generate immediate momentum and increase value over time.



Of course, it's important to note that even the best candidate marketing effort isn't a magic bullet. Operators must simultaneously address employee pay, engagement, satisfaction, and retention. That said, no one has the luxury of waiting to become more competitive in acquiring and hiring qualified job candidates.


Attract More Qualified Applicants.


Like consumer marketing, recruiting teams need to keep the "hiring funnel" top-of-mind in tracking conversions at each stage - candidate responses/leads, lead-to-application rate, and application-to-hire rate. (And of course, Cost-per-Lead, Cost-per-Application, and Cost-per-Hire.) Players who have fully embraced digital-first techniques have built analytics dashboards that rival the best from sales and marketing teams.


Indeed, the largest job board offers excellent analytical tools for sponsoring jobs, driving application volume, and optimizing paid listings. Just look at the analytics dashboard, and you'd see how it closely resembles the GoogleAds platform. LinkedIn offers dynamic ads and sponsored listings on par with the most sophisticated digital media. And more sophisticated hiring managers are also selectively testing Facebook, Paid Search, and display re-targeting for crucial roles to complement core job board channels. On the SEO front, Google for Jobs is a free service that uses AI and machine learning to increase the visibility of your ATS or Career Page job postings in search results. Like SEO content, you need to add structured data to your job postings so that they can be easily found and indexed by Google. If you were wondering, there are no paid job search sponsorship options, at least not yet!


The challenge is that few HR professionals have the marketing background to optimize digital efforts and beat competitors to those critical frontline resident care and services staff positions. And, you can't rely on Indeed, or any job board, to dictate and manage budgets for you or, worse, "set it and forget it." Ask your sales and marketing team for help. Find a paid search professional, consultant, or ask your digital agency to assess and optimize your hiring campaign performance in all channels.


Excellent job description copy has always been necessary, but it's even more critical to improving online application conversion rates. As with any copy, while the functional aspects of a given role and competitive employee benefits are the entry price, focusing on what distinguishes your company's culture is key to getting the right fit for each position. And, it's critical to have the right keywords and structured data to make them easier to find across platforms. Lastly, performance data from Google, LinkedIn, and many others suggest that job descriptions with salary or salary ranges convert at a higher rate than those that do not. Not surprising to sales and marketing practitioners who know that presenting transparent pricing to prospective residents improves conversion.


Engage Candidates Earlier.


Many operators have historically not given much thought to the candidate's user experience on their websites' career pages or, more importantly, managing candidate touchpoints and interviewing processes. Like consumer marketing, the user experience and speed-to-lead responsiveness win in candidate recruitment. One of the most significant issues with vastly improving applicant lead volume through performance marketing is handling inbound applications and interviewing volume. It's generally left up to over-burdened local community teams who are challenged to find the time. Not surprisingly, the more local teams focus on recruiting and interviewing in their "free" time, the higher the conversion rates. Operators who understand the need for more candidate responsiveness have opened full-time positions dedicated to managing applicant outreach and qualification--as well as employee ratings and reviews. At least one operator I know hired a call center to ensure that the organization responds with quick outreach acknowledging a candidate's application and a timeframe for follow-up. Those little touches make a big difference in a tight labor market.


Many communities can't quickly overhaul their website's careers pages, especially those on a proprietary platform. A quicker fix is to create separate career landing pages with a complete candidate experience (videos, staff testimonials, etc.) that integrates with your ATS system to display job listings and track applicants and hires. And last but not least, the most competitive organizations make it a practice to continually engage and nurture candidates and former employees they may have lost. A simple check-in email to ask how it's going or an update in a career newsletter can go a long way in building relationships and future hires or referrals over time.


Delight (and Retain) New Staff.


Of course, there is an entire industry focused on employee satisfaction, retention, and career development. The International Council on Active Aging (#ICAA) Forum 2021 offers nine tangible action items for improving staff retention over the long term. That said, a few enlightened multi-location operators have redirected open positions to fund traveling onboarding teams at communities to reduce the burden on local staff in addition to applicant call handling and scheduling. Not only does this set new employees up for success and minimize workload, but it also offers the opportunity to get positive employee reviews earlier.


Share Positive Staff Reviews.


Some operators are only beginning to focus on employee ratings and reviews on critical platforms, like Glassdoor, Indeed, Zip Recruiter, Google, among others. As with any sales and marketing effort, a lack of positive reviews and ratings, or worse, only having negative ratings, will make competitive hiring extremely difficult.


Managing employee and resident reviews is a mission-critical task that every senior living organization must tackle, but it takes time. Start by removing bad employee reviews on your Google My Business listing, now renamed Google Business Profiles, to get some quick wins. Employee reviews appearing on listings are against Google policy, and eliminating bad ones may even bump your overall Google reviews rating. Getting and sharing employee testimonials in promotional materials is another quick win. Long-term fixes must include building a permanent process and culture around proactively managing employee reviews and generating "friends and family" referrals on an ongoing basis.


These are just some ways sales and marketing techniques can help HR teams close some of the immediate talent gaps while addressing more significant, underlying issues. In the meantime, communities adopting a performance marketing mindset to reach candidates earlier and deliver better digital experiences will build a lasting advantage in attracting qualified talent now and in the future.


What are you doing differently to boost hiring performance?