Agencies: Tuition Reimbursement is an Untapped Caregiver RETENTION Lever

Home care agencies: You have one important lever available to use in the fight to keep your caregivers longer – tuition reimbursement. 

According to just-launched CareAcademy research, “Education Pathways for Caregivers: An Untapped Opportunity for Employers,” 85% of the 1,500 direct care workers surveyed indicated that they were more likely to stay with their current employer if they had access to resources to support their ongoing training.

In this incredibly tight labor market, you know that one key to attracting and retaining caregivers is to pay more. However, improving hourly wages is a systemic industry problem that is largely out of your individual control to solve. Congress will act, CMS will evolve, payors will begin to look for outcomes data to increase rates, industry organizations will band together, and the wheels of progress will grind on over the next 5-10 years. All of that is largely out of your control.  

But the data in the survey is clear: Offering tuition reimbursement and support for ongoing education is something that you can do tomorrow to have a meaningful impact on caregiver recruitment and retention. 

Yes, it’s that simple.   

Best of all, that is something that is completely within your control. You can decide to do it or not. You can decide how much to provide and for how long. You can decide for whom to provide it to and at what time. That is all up to you.  

If you do, they will stay. Simply offer support to your care team in the form of ongoing training, including the pursuit of CNA certificates, nursing degrees and higher education opportunities. That support can be in the form of direct tuition support, flexible schedules, and access to ongoing training opportunities, among others.

Yet many agencies are faced with the age-old conundrum: 

“What if I pay them to earn their CNA and then they leave?” 

This is a fair concern, the cost of turnover is at a historic level. However, the data is clear that the opposite is true, as revealed by a key component of the phrasing of the question we asked:

85% of respondents said
they would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they had access to resources to support their ongoing training, including CNA classes, nursing degrees and higher education opportunities.

Note the underlined phrase: “More likely to stay.”  

This is the part to lean in on. How much more likely? And for how long? It’s hard to know, but the good news is that if you offer it, they will stay. And if they stay, then you can bill more hours each week. If they stay, you can likely take on more clients because you have more staff available to take cases. If they stay, you may cut down on your hiring requirements and related costs. 

So our advice? Rather than worry about what happens if they leave, focus on how long you can get them to stay. 

We have created a simple model to help you determine how much you should offer in tuition reimbursement and how many months you need them to stay on for you to break even. You can access the full calculator here, but here is an example: 

As you can see from the model, with a few simple inputs you can adjust the amount of your reimbursement to determine your payback period.

Armed with that information, let’s get to designing a program that will work for you, and for your caregivers. Here are three recommendations: 

  1. Do not be too restrictive. Survey respondents indicated that they want to pursue CNA certifications, nursing degrees and higher education degrees, all of which are good for your business. But your goal is to keep them for as long as possible, so what they pursue is less relevant. Make tuition reimbursement available for anything. 
  2. Structure what you will pay based on value to you. As a corollary to the above, offer more reimbursement for things that will add value to your business. If they get their CNA certificate, perhaps you would be willing to cover more of the cost, as they will be a more valuable care worker that can take on different cases or open up new revenue streams for your agency. 
  3. Tie a commitment to stay to the amount you reimburse. Based on the calculator, if it will take you six months to break even on a $2,500 reimbursement, then ask them to sign a nine-month agreement. Include in that agreement that if they leave before that time frame, there is a prorated amount they would need to pay back.

    One note: Do not tie the amount to the completion of the course; again, your goal is to get them to stay longer, not to ensure they complete the courses.

    Oh, one more thing.

    Ninety-four percent of survey respondents said access to further education is an important consideration in accepting a job offer.

    The results are clear. It is time to get started, today. 

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