By Denise Boudreau-Scott

Are you frustrated that your employee turnover rates are worse than your competitors? Or maybe it isn’t that, maybe you don’t even know what your turnover rates are, because you are afraid of them.

Well, hello there! Welcome to the Senior Living Turnover Commiseration Club! We just literally made this club up this very second and we already have an unbelievable membership. Look around you, there are one, two, three . . . a bazillion of you here, in the very same position. The reason you have joined this club is because you are utterly, unbelievably, throw-your-hands-up-to-the-heavens-and-plead-for-help, gonna-have-a-nervous-breakdown overwhelmed by your staffing crisis.

Well, have a seat, and here’s some lukewarm coffee for you.

The Worst Club You Ever Joined

I know you are not supposed to talk about your competition but for our purposes today, we need to. We need to figure out why they are rocking it and you are, well, a member of the Senior Living Turnover Commiseration Club. To which you reply “I am not just a member of the Senior Living Turnover Commiseration Club, I am also the President”. Oh gosh, sorry, probably not your finest moment or the proudest entry on your resumé.

As the title of our get together today promises, I want to offer you 4 reasons why your competition is rocking a better/lower turnover than you and hopefully this will get you closer to improving your situation (even though this may mean we lose you as a member). But, without further ado . . .

The 4 Reasons why that other senior living organization has lower turnover than you:

  1. They prioritize culture
  2. They prioritize culture
  3. They prioritize culture
  4. They prioritize culture

You blink wildly, only to realize your eyes have not failed you. While there may be many ways to prioritize culture in your organization, really the only way to impact your turnover, and all your staffing woes, is by prioritizing your culture.

Well, what does that mean, you plead, as you start to think joining this club was a giant waste of time?

Status Quo or Culture Pro

You see, someone has to be the exception, why not you? Out of the bazillion leaders in senior living who are struggling with turnover someone is about to break away from the pack, do things differently, and experience a disruption in the pattern. The pattern is difficulty recruiting a new team member, hire a new team member, lose that new team member within the first 90 days, and back to difficulty recruiting again and so on and so forth.

The average turnover rate in senior living is quoted as 40% but I doubt this is accurate. I think it’s much higher. The difference makers in senior living have culture on the top of their priorities for 2020, just as they did in 2019, 2018, 2017 . . . they get the connection between a healthy culture and success on all fronts.

They understand that culture can be measured and managed just like all of the other imperatives in this business. You wouldn’t dream of not knowing your financials, would you? That’s crazy talk! So, why don’t you have a deeper understanding of your culture? Everything hinges on culture, after all.

When you prioritize culture you become intentional with it. You shape it yourself through set values and behaviors that support those values. As a result of your culture-driven leadership, your teams get on the same page and work in cohesion towards the realization of your mission. There is synergy and accountability and it is a beautiful thing.

Culture on autopilot is a lot like the autopilot in the movie Airplane. It has a mind of its own and if left to its own devices it can be an out of control little devil. Culture that is left to chance in an organization manifests in confusion, bullying, blame, and all sorts of other unsavory things. Ultimately, your culture becomes one hell of a tangled mess that rears its ugly head as a full-blown staffing crisis.

Do the Damn Thing

Are you the leader that is bold enough to break away? Understanding your culture will allow you to be strategic with it. Instead of throwing any old program at your challenges you will know which one will stick and how to make it stick. The guesswork goes away, in its place is effectiveness.

Do you still feel like you are in a murky area here? Still confused about how to be intentional with culture? At Drive, I use a tool that I first heard about from the high-end hotel industry. When I learned about it I was blown away. I am now fully convinced that this tool is what my 30 years in senior living has been building up to and bringing it to senior living is one of my proudest accomplishments. The Barretts Values Assessment allows the Drive team and you, the now ex-President of the SLTCC, to see exactly what’s holding you back as an organization. In black and white data, for the first time ever, you will see where the disconnects exist in your culture and you’ll also see where there are areas to celebrate in your culture. For example, I find consistently that senior living organizations hire people who value caring and compassion. That is so good and it’s a hopeful sign that we can get the rest right!

When you know what you are working with you can begin to be intentional and strategic with it. Without this type of culture understanding, you are perpetuating the other vicious cycle of the staffing crisis: identify a staffing problem (recruitment, retention, turnover), pull together a program to fix it, roll out the program, find the program isn’t working, stop the program, try to think of another program, pull hair out, scream, burn a pile of money, repeat. You need to drill down to the WHY before you come up with a successful HOW. Anything else is a giant waste of time, money, and resources. And hair, don’t forget the hair.

So, here’s the good news and the bad news. Bad news first, this club has been disbanded, sorry no refunds. The good news is now is the perfect time for you to do the damn thing. Take your blinders off, prioritize culture, be strategic, and start winning. Oh, and if you are one of those leaders who does not know your turnover, for the love of all that’s holy, please figure that out, NOW!