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Has Work Ethic Gone Missing in the United States?

By Stephen Tweed

I was out for my morning walk this morning, and listening to a podcast by Dr. Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary here in Louisville, KY.  This morning Dr. Mohler was talking about some new data that show shifts in our society around work in America.

I thought this was particularly relevant to the discussions we have been having with home care leaders about the “Perfect Storm” in caregiver recruiting.  It is more and more difficult to find folks who want to work as caregivers. Data show it is more and more difficult to find folks who want to work at all.

Dr. Mohler quotes Daniel Henninger writing for The Wall Street Journal who asked the question, “Is the American work ethic dying?” He goes on to trace the development of this problem in the United States. And he makes it very clear that current government policy is both revealing and driving this disappearance of the American work ethic. He writes this, “This week, surveying the gulf between the millions of jobs available in the United States and the startlingly smaller number of people taking them.  

Some interesting quotes from this article that got me thinking about the dilemma we face in home care:

  • “What if this $300 unemployment insurance bonus on top of the checks sent directly to millions of people turns out to be a big, long-term mistake?”
  • President Biden said, “People will come back to work if they’re paid a decent wage.” Henninger then asked, but what if he’s wrong?”
  • “It’s now clear that Mr. Biden expects these outlays effectively to raise the minimum wage by forcing employers to compete with Uncle Sam’s money. Still, it is impossible, he says, not to be struck by how many employers say that former and prospective employees after a year of forced unemployment simply will not work.”

While I don’t want to get into a political discussion, I do believe that we as leaders in home care need to be aware of how government policies and philosophies affect our ability to do business, and how these polices affect our caregivers and our clients.  If, in fact, the work ethic in America has gone missing, what does that mean for the future of our businesses?  We’ve been saying for a decade that there are simply not enough caregivers to meet the growing needs of an aging population, and a growing home care industry.  

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

First, let me say that I don’t believe the work ethic in America has totally gone missing. You and I both know of hundreds or thousands of dedicated caregivers who are taking care of our frail elder family members in their own homes.  The home care industry is growing at a staggering pace, and many companies in the top 10% of the industry demonstrated double digit growth in 2020.  

It does mean that we need to be more focused on creating the kind of companies where low wage hourly workers want to work because they care about their clients and they want to do work that matters.  They are out there. There just aren’t enough of them.

What Can We Do as Leaders?

As you know if you have been reading our newsletters, we’ve been working on Conquering the Crisis for more than a decade.  As the Crisis gets more serious, there are some significant things you can do.

  • Craft a Culture of “Attraction and Accomplishment” in your agency to build a great place to work.
  • Be more selective in hiring caregivers who bring a work ethic and a value system that are in alignment with your company culture.
  • Build a leadership team in your agency that values and appreciates your caregivers and makes them feel like what they are doing is important.
  • Learn more effective techniques for attracting the best caregivers out there.

You can also do some things on a bigger scale:

  • Work with your local leaders to create programs to attract more young people into careers in health care.
  • Join your state home care association or your local chapter of HCAOA, and support the legislative and regulatory efforts of your association.
  • Get to know your local, state, and federal legislators and find opportunities to share with them your perspective and your experiences in finding caregivers to meet the growing needs of their elderly constituents.  

If you would like to listen to The Briefing, or read the transcript, you can find it at

If you would like to engage in regular conversation with other home care company owners about how to find and keep better caregivers, consider becoming a member of a Caregiver Quality Assurance Mastermind Group.