Four for Five program has applications rolling in

System in which employees work four days, are paid for five gives senior facility plenty of employees to choose from

HARBOR CAMPUS senior community in Port Washington has met its staffing needs thanks to an innovative program begun by Capri Communities, said Executive Director Carla Kostecki (left) and Human Resources Manager Victoria Cabrera. The Four for Five program has been instituted at two of Capri’s communities, Harbor Campus and Village Pointe Commons in Grafton. Photo by Sam Arendt


Ozaukee Press staff

While most area businesses continue to struggle to find employees, Harbor Campus in Port Washington has found itself swimming in applicants since introducing the Four for Five program in January.

Where the senior community had traditionally received 10 to 15 applications a year for all the open spots on staff, when it announced the Four for Five program — where employees work four eight-hour shifts a week but are paid for five shifts — would be implemented for positions in its dining program, applications flooded in.

“In the first couple days, we had 300 to 400 applications,” Human Resources Manager Victoria Cabrera said. “We were getting all excited about it. We couldn’t wait to get in and see how many applications had come in.”

The program, which applies to new and existing employees, was so successful that it was expanded to the caregiving staff in March and then the nursing staff. Now, they’re looking to implement it with the housekeeping, maintenance and lifestyles staff as well.

“It has really made a difference,” Kostecki said. “It was a relief.”

The Four for Five program was something Capri Communities, which owns and operates Harbor Campus, had been eyeing for some time as a way to recruit and retain employees, Harbor Campus Executive Director Carla Kostecki said.

Health care workers are in demand, especially as the number of senior care facilities has increased — a situation that’s only increased since the pandemic, she said, adding that historically Harbor Campus has struggled to find workers.

“It’s so competitive, and health care is so hard on people,” Cabrera said. “They want more of a work-life balance.”

And Four for Five gives people just that, Kostecki said, noting it’s like giving people 52 vacation days each year.

“I think people really like that,” she said.

And for people who are coming from a distance to get to work — Cabrera noted that 95% of the applicants are from the Milwaukee area — only having to drive in four days a week is appealing, Kostecki said.

Capri asked its 18 senior communities if they were interested in trying out the program, and Village Pointe Commons in Grafton and Harbor Campus signed on.

Kostecki acknowledged she was nervous about implementing the program at first.

“You need to hire more people,” she said. “That was what I was more concerned about — we couldn’t find the people we needed, and now we’re going to need more staff with this.”

But, she said, it was to the point that they didn’t have much to lose.

“We were at the point where it was, ‘What other options are there?’” she said.

It was even more stressful when they told their employees that the program was to be implemented, Kostecki said.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen, and now you have employees counting on you starting this,” she said. “In the back of our minds, we were thinking, ‘What if.’”

The program, which only applies to employees who work 30 hours a week or more, has taken the burden off staff members who have had to fill in when spots on the staff weren’t filled, Kostecki said.

“Sometimes they were working six, seven days,” she said.

“We’ve seen changes in the attitudes of employees,” Kostecki said.

It’s also reduced the campus’ reliance on contracted outside help, Cabrera said.

And with the number of applicants, she said, they can be picky in selecting the best candidates.

Four for Five is seen not just as a way of recruiting workers but also retaining them. At Harbor Campus, which employs about 70 workers, that’s proven to be the case.

“The staff we hired are still with us,” Cabrera said. “That means more than the recruiting piece.”

“We’re constantly looking for ways to incentivize employees,” Kostecki said, including massages and a reward program for those who pick up extra shifts.

“Those are strategies you have to constantly come up with to keep your staff happy,” she said. “Sometimes food and a thank you aren’t enough.”

The Four for Five program has been such a success that other Capri campuses are considering picking it up, Kostecki said.

“It’s really made a difference for us,” she said. “I think a lot of us were skeptical. I’m really glad they talked me into it, and I’m glad we took the chance and did it.”   

Kostecki and Cabrera will give a Port Conversations talk about the Four for Five program at the Niederkorn Library at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 18.

But that, too, has them nervous that if too many others heard of their success, the program will be adopted elsewhere.

“I don’t want to lose my 600 applicants,” Cabrera said.

“That’s scary,” Kostecki said. “I don’t want competitors.”




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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