How to motivate teams and build employee culture…

By Steve Moran

I have a goal of reading two books a month during the year 2016. It will be a mix of business books, spiritual books and recreational reading (mostly done via Audible). I got an early start on this project over the holiday season and one of the most intriguing books I read was The Good Jobs Strategy: How the smartest companies invest in employees to lower costs and boost profits.

What made this book particularly unique and important for the senior living space is that most leadership books talk about how to motivate teams and build employee culture in organizations that have mostly educated, skilled, relatively high paid team members. It is all good stuff and has great application for a portion of the senior living employee ecosystem, but they provide only limited insight on how to turn low-paid, hard working, front-line staff into company fans that love to come to work each day.

Creating Higher Value

This book, “The Good Jobs Strategy,” talks about the retail business where many team members are not highly educated, work hard, are largely seen as replaceable or interchangeable and typically receive very low compensation for the work they do.

The author makes the case that a handful of companies have figured out how to turn these traditionally low-paying jobs into much higher paying jobs and make more money than their competitors who do it the old fashioned way. He particularly focuses on four companies that are doing it right: Trader Joe’s, Costco, QuickTrip and Mercadona, a grocery chain in Spain.

While there are clearly a number of things in retail that don’t translate well to senior living, there are others that fit well.

The 4 Keys

  1. Offer Less:  These retailers have figured out they don’t need to be all things to all people. They know how to explain that to customers and to explain to customers why this actually benefits them.  

  2. Standardize and Empower:  This is a curious paradox. On one hand they have very rigid systems that allow them to operate efficiently. Those systems are always about getting the mundane out of the way so team members can interact with customers and serve their needs.

  3. Cross-Train:  Most companies train people to do a single job. The problem is that sometimes those people have slack time and because they are not trained to do multiple things, those employee’s time is just plain wasted.

  4. Operate With Slack:  The idea is that rather than understaffing these companies actually have a goal of overstaffing their stores. They do this because it protects them when someone doesn’t show up. It protects them when workloads are higher than expected. It protects them because it allows team members to have meaningful interactions with customers. Finally, because of cross training, they are able to put those team members to good use always.

This is the high-level view of how to make this happen. This will be a five-part series and I will talk about each of these 4 keys in a dedicated article and how they might be integrated into senior living.