In a time when turnover in senior living hovers around 80%, is it believable that a housekeeping department has managed to keep turnover at under 5%?

By Kent Mulkey

In a time when turnover in senior living can hover around 80%, is it even believable that a housekeeping department has managed to keep turnover at under 5%? I was skeptical, so I sat down with the director of housekeeping to find out.

Gloria, the director of housekeeping, opened the conversation by letting me know, reluctantly, that she has lost a total of three housekeepers in the last three years: the first one passed her Pharmacist exam as she came to America from another country; one finished Physical Therapy school and the third accepted a position as director of dining services at a nearby hospital. It would be very tough to make this stuff up.

Here are her tips to building a dedicated team:

  • She is generous with giving them time off. Family is very important to the team, and she is committed to giving them all the time they need to have a family life. They work together by filling in for each other, which means the staff on duty work extra hard to make up for their teammate’s time off. It is eagerly reciprocated.
  • The team has respect for authority, and their leader is approachable, helpful and stands by her team. She “has their backs,” and they know it.
  • She trains them by teaching and modeling the behaviors she wants to see exhibited. She shows them how to talk to a resident and teaches them tips and tricks to get the job done more efficiently. These folks love to finish their work and go home early!
  • She demonstrates servant leadership. It is not uncommon for her to prepare their housekeeping carts for the next day, so they can clock out and go home.
  • They decide among themselves what buildings they will work in, who will be on their team and how many apartments they will get cleaned in a day. Daniel Pink, best-selling author of management and behavioral science books, calls this autonomy, or self-directed behavior, which is the single greatest driver of employee engagement.

Here’s the best part – these fine folks work for accomplishment, community and being part of something bigger than themselves.

Isn’t that why we all go to work every day?