Despite being “easy” to fix, surprisingly our industry isn’t doing more to quash these issues.

By Jacquelyn Kung

With the data available from Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work surveys, we have a plethora of details about what drives our employees crazy (and often drives them to leave us) as well as what our employees love about us.

Below are just 4 ways we make them crazy. Hopefully, none of these come as a surprise. What is surprising is that despite being “easy” to fix, our industry isn’t doing more to quash these issues.

1. Supplies

The number of aides and caregivers in assisted living and memory care settings who talk about supplies running low is insane. They want to take good care of our residents (as do we) and yet TONS of employees rant about how difficult it is to find or restock the proper caregiving supplies.

Takeaway: Do you have a process in EVERY COMMUNITY to get supplies onto the floor within 2-3 hours? A day turnaround may be too long.

2. Know-It-All Management

We’ve all seen it. The supervisor or manager sits in his office and comes out mostly to give orders. If there is a piece of trash on the floor, he steps over it. When asked a direct question (about wages, time off, or other sensitive topics), his answer is cursory, indirect, or even flippant. As a result, very few employees feel comfortable asking these types of supervisors and managers a question. It’s not someone else’s job — it’s ALL OF OUR JOB . . . to serve residents together.

Takeaway: Do you have a process to measure the LEADERSHIP potential of someone before they get promoted? It’s not right to promote the best individual contributor or the one who shows up most regularly. There is more to good servant leadership.

3. Favoritism

Surprisingly, one of the lowest scoring employee engagement areas in senior living is around politicking and backstabbing. When asked, it often gets attributed to favoritism – in scheduling, in time off, in getting certain rooms or residents to work with. When there is a performance review, only some people get great reviews and others do not, and the scoring is not objective (or is not seen to be objective).

Of course, this is hard when you promote from within and there are circles of friends formed; it takes some extra coaching by the leader to a new manager to avoid favoritism or perceptions of it.

Takeaway: How do you know if favoritism is happening? In which communities and departments? With a turnover of 40-70% or higher across senior living, annual or bi-annual employee surveys don’t cut it. People are long gone by then.

4. Understaffing

This one shouldn’t be a shock. In certain high turnover, hard to recruit for areas, understaffing is a challenge. That said, more engaged employees are shown to be 11-22% more productive (Harvard Business Review 2013 and 2015). So, while understaffing is an issue across our industry, it’s not nearly as bad day-to-day in a community with high culture Trust Index scores because teammates patch in willingly. In low culture Trust Index score communities, understaffing has a ricochet downward effect.

It makes sense: have you had to do something you didn’t like or felt like you were doing more than your share? You drag your feet, right? It’s the worst.

Takeaway: Have you seen a “heat map” of your employee engagement scores to identify the locations and departments where understaffing exposes you to the downward spiral (and possible detriments to care)? If not, get one ASAP.

What do you think about the things that drive our employees mad? What’s missing? Please leave your thoughts and comments!

This article was quite negative — so, next time we will look at why employees love working in senior living.