Some economists believe the challenge of caring for an aging population in the United States is grave enough to dramatically change our national wellbeing in the 2030s and beyond. That’s right. The workforce issue is not simply a crisis that affects seniors and their families who need access to services. It’s not just a crisis that keeps those who serve seniors up at night. The direct and indirect costs of caring for seniors could potentially be enough of a drag on both our federal and state budgets and nationwide productivity that, without a solution, our collective standard of living will be markedly reduced in the years to come.
The Zero-Sum Battle for Caregivers Doesn't Increase Supply
Why is the solution to our workforce problem so vexing? One reason is that we tend to behave along the lines of zero sum competition: Someone graduates from a particular educational setting, they go out into the world seeking employment, and then Company A or Company B tries to wrestle that person out of the marketplace. But only one of those companies can win the battle for that candidate’s services.
Prior to the moment the candidate entered the marketplace, though, neither Company A nor Company B had an incentive to influence MORE candidates to come into their field since, acting alone, their investments are subject to free riding by competitors. An increased supply of candidates by, say, two times would alleviate the zero sum dynamic and allow both Company A and Company B to be successful.
A Collective Solution to Attracting Caregivers
The word “collective” is, we believe, the key to heading off the impending economic and social malaise of not being able to care for our seniors. Meaning, to raise the tide of the industry we should cooperate at a collective level instead of competing at the company level.
While this ethos is counter to our innate sense that business is a competitive endeavor, there are other models – namely, cooperative models – we can draw upon to alleviate the competitive dynamic. Most notably, member-owned cooperatives are widespread in areas like agriculture, industry-specific group purchasing, and the energy sector.
Cooperatives offer several advantages over the traditional go-to – non-profit organizations (NPOS) – for enabling collaboration among competitors:
Advantages of Cooperatives
Versus having to refresh foundational capital year to year, cooperative membership capital is retained until such time as the group can support itself as a profit-generating concern.
The benefits of the cooperative – including the distribution of surplus – flow exclusively to the cooperative members.
With industry-wide stakeholder representation and governance, there is less potential for the mission of the group to be hijacked by a minority.
If you are interested in working cooperatively on a solution to the home care workforce challenge, please email Tim Bateman to start a conversation!