By Steve Moran
I find myself wondering if there is another industry that has the same inferiority complex we in senior living have — without cause. We are part of a phenomenal industry that each day makes the lives of countless people measurably better. Yet, we typically react as if (not saying it’s true) we are like embarrassing body odor or dirty, smelly gym socks.
The team at Brightview Senior Living has demonstrated that we are an amazing, vibrant industry capable of being a part of the ultra-elite Fortune top 100 companies to work for — in the whole freaking world. It is the first time a senior living organization has ever made that list.
The day the announcement was made I had a chance to talk to Doug Dollenberg, their CEO, and Andrea Griesmar, Senior Vice President, about what they accomplished. Brightview is based in Baltimore, Maryland, and operates 42 communities stretching from Virginia up to Massachusetts along the I-95 corridor.
I asked what it was like to wake up to the news they made it onto the list. Their response was modest because they landed at 96 but, in truth, this is HUGE. They are the only senior living organization out of all the Fortune and Great Place to Work companies surveyed; alongside companies like Salesforce, Cisco, Hilton, and Capital One.
I asked Doug and Andrea how they got to this point. Doug says it goes all the back to their beginning in the 90s. In the original business plan, they outlined the idea, the belief, that if they made Brightview a great place to work then it would be a great place to work. And their financials would work out well, too. In a very real sense, landing on the Fortune 100 list is the next step in their foundational journey.
Most important for this article and for the industry is how they got there. Here are some key takeaways:
- It starts with genuinely caring about the associates, as a part of their DNA.
- They focus on empowering team members, which includes frontline caregivers.
- It is the frontline team that brings joy, vibrancy, care, and love to residents; they will only do that when they are happy and believe in the leadership team.
- They focus on not just their team members at work but on their home life as well. This was particularly critical during the pandemic. They asked: What do you need?
- They increased staffing, recognizing workload increases.
- They trusted their leaders at the local level to make good decisions about staffing and resource allocation, giving residents and team members what they needed. These leaders had the “discretion to make good business decisions”.
There is more and you can watch the entire interview below. But first this:
I asked them to tell me a story about how their organizational values have been reflected in the life of a resident or team member.
A Story You Have to Hear
There is a medication assistant in New Jersey by the name of Anne Marie. She is originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, and worked in various jobs after coming to the United States until she found Brightview Senior Living.
She joined the company 21 years ago as a nurse’s aide and, with education and experience, was promoted to a Medication Assistant at Brightview Mount Laurel in Mount Laurel, NJ. She frequently shares her thoughts with her team in poems read at their meetings as a way to motivate, support, and inspire her fellow associates.
When COVID-19 became a threat to older adults around the globe, Anne Marie captured her thoughts in this poem that she shared with her colleagues.
Amidst It All
Came like thunderstorms
Never knew where it was from
But faith and teamwork
Led us to the front
They called it a pandemic
Look at all the relics
We did not give in
Only to Strive, only to win
They claimed this was the first phase
But there is much to be praised
All hail Brightview, to the head
And the managers
Our vibrant heroes behind the mask
Forward ever backwards never!
Brightview Mount Laurel, NJ
June 22, 2020