The state of healthcare foodservice: Lost labor

Staffing has become a particular pain point in the era of COVID-19.
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Over 80% of FSD survey respondents say that staffing shortages and employee illness have been a challenge during the pandemic. Many have advertised open positions online and at local businesses, while some have used word of mouth to fill out their teams.

Israel Rivera, director of dining at Albuquerque Heights Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque, N.M., says that he has been combating staffing shortages by asking her staff if they know anyone looking for a job. “It's working,” he says. “I have two new employees.”

When no new staffers are to be found, some operators are jumping in where needed. “I am helping on the floor more to help with staffing, and in return, they help me out,” says Richelle Oisten, dietary director at Allegan County Medical Care Community in Allegan, Mich.

Others are implementing cross-training and new positions for staff that involve more responsibilities. “I’ve had to be very creative with staffing,” says Cindy Thomas, director of food service at Luling Living Center in Luling, La. “I’ve had to create new positions in which multiple tasks could be performed.” 

Mayer Rosen, executive chef at Beechwood Home in Cincinnati has also gone the cross-training route, saying it has not only helped with staffing gaps, but has also boosted employee motivation. “It tends to stimulate growth within the team,” he says. 

Boosting morale

Many survey respondents came up with creative ways to show staff that they are appreciated as times got tough. “Making employees feel safe, protected and appreciated is the most important thing in employee retention,” says Kelli Fritz, director of support services at Green Hills Community in West Liberty, Ohio. “People want to feel heard.” 

Here are some methods operators have been trying to boost morale among staff. 

“We are giving employees extra pay and thank-you gifts. If it wasn't for our employees, we couldn't keep our doors open, so we want them to know how grateful we are for all of them”

Penelope Bourque
Culinary Director
Villa Maria Retirement
Lake Charles, La.

“We have a pep talk every day to get us psyched up for the coming day. I keep an open-door policy so that staff can come talk to me about any issues or concerns they have in and out of work.”

Jeanette Brown
Certified Dietary Manager
Kimball County Manor and Assisted Living
Kimball, Neb. 

“We try to keep up spirits with positive encouraging music in the kitchen. We set little challenges to foster competition. Our residents have written thank-you notes and we put them on the doors.”

Steven Szilvagyi
Director of Culinary Expressions
Pine Ridge of Plumbrook
Sterling Heights, Mich.

“[Keeping staff motivated] has been hard. We have tried to offer some extra employee appreciation events in this past year. We have offered special bonuses. passed out gift cards and created a new ‘key to the operation’ board to recognize hard work and dedication.”

Keith Martin
Assistant Food Service Director
Trinity Village
Hickory, N.C. 

“Daily huddles, so we know how staff are feeling and trying to minimize problems (equipment, staffing and safety concerns) before problems can get worse.”

Brian Seto
Executive Chef
Legacy Health
Vancouver, Wash.



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