St. Mark’s Living, an Ecumen-managed senior living and healthcare campus in Austin, Minn., has received a $24,840 Workforce Solutions Grant from the LeadingAge Minnesota Foundation to help recruit new employees to senior care and to retain them after they are hired.

While demand for senior care in the Austin area is increasing, the available workforce is shrinking. St. Mark’s Living is using the grant money to develop a multi-faceted education and training program focused on mentoring new employees and providing career advancement for top performing employees.

St. Mark’s is creating a “peer mentor” program for newly hired nursing and resident assistants to support them during their first 90 days of employment. Experienced employee mentors will help train and guide them in a structured approach to becoming familiar with their new jobs. The mentors, in turn, can grow their careers and receive higher compensation.

“We’ve found that most turnover in senior care happens in the first 90 days of employment,” said Murray Finger, Executive Director at St. Mark’s Living.  “One way we can stay ahead of issues that might prompt new hires to leave is by having experienced peers guide new employees through the adjustment process. Many of our new hires are younger, and research shows that members of the millennial generation are more likely to stay at a job where they have developed friendships and a support network at work.” 

The grant from LeadingAge Minnesota, the state’s largest association of aging services providers, was awarded through a $1 million Workforce Solutions Grant program. The program goal is to improve the experience of care for older adults by funding workforce strategies that increase the quality, quantity and capacity of the caregiving workforce.

Mark’s Living provides a full continuum of living and care options for older adults,, including rehabilitation services, independent living, assisted living, memory care, long-term skilled nursing care, respite care and hospice.