Benchmark, Major Northeast Senior Living Provider, Reports Early Success with Arena’s Artificial Intelligence Solution for Hiring Staff

October 31, 2018

CHICAGO–Just four months after implementing Arena’s data analytics and predictive modeling solution for hiring employees, Benchmark Senior Living reports it has led to a reduction in overall turnover of 10%. Moreover, turnover among hires recommended by Arena as likely to stay on the job was more than 30% lower in key job categories than hires with weak retention predictions, said Tim Reilly, vice president of human resources for Waltham, Mass.-based Benchmark, which operates 58 independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facilities in seven states across the Northeast.

Like other senior living providers, Benchmark has had high turnover in its 6,100-member workforce, averaging around 45% annually. It is an expensive problem; the average cost to onboard a new front-line employee is approximately $2,500 and up to $5,000 for a nurse.

With average pay running below $15 an hour, and many facilities located in affluent areas, even high school students won’t apply, Reilly said. “Also, Millennials, who make up 33% of the workforce, have different expectations and needs, and many times what is valued is different” than what a senior living company might offer, he said.

Further compounding the problem is that in many states caregiver positions must be certified, and in a state like Connecticut, nurses must have specific experiences in home care or senior care.

Meanwhile the demand for these workers is growing fast, as baby boomers retire at a rate of 10,000 per day. Argentum, senior living’s trade organization, has stated that the industry needs to recruit 1.2 million new workers by 2025. 

At Benchmark, previous strategies such as adopting an applicant tracking system, redesigning its employee on-boarding program, providing additional training and surveying staff satisfaction, had limited impact on turnover, Reilly said.

With Arena, he said the new hiring process starts off in a traditional way: A candidate will apply to an open position and fill out a Benchmark application. Within 30 minutes thereafter, the candidate receives an email invitation to take Arena’s online assessment.

Arena’s platform, Reilly said, puts candidates in an uncomfortable situation. For example, it will ask someone who is applying for a housekeeping role an advanced math question. “The point is not that it is important to know advanced math to be successful in a housekeeping role, it is to see how the applicant reacts, how they respond under pressure,” he said.

“Basically Arena puts applicants through their technology, runs some algorithms and makes a hiring prediction based on whether a job candidate would be a better fit, stay longer and be more engaged,” he said. Arena then generates a retention prediction for that candidate and sends it to the hiring manager. The hiring manager then uses the prediction as an additional piece of information, along with the application or resume, to determine whom they want to interview for a position. From there, the interview is conducted and the ultimate hiring decision is made.

In addition to reduced turnover, the early positive results of the Arena implementation include:

  • Predictions for over 10,000 applicants
  • 140 hires with strong retention predictions
  • Better adoption of the applicant tracking system
  • Initial high satisfaction from hiring managers, who report better-quality candidates at the interview stage and time savings in the recruitment screening process

One key to the early success, Reilly said, has been strong support from senior leadership at Benchmark. That included a company-wide launch message and a monthly leadership check-in on the project.

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