By Steve Moran

This is the second article based on my interview with Dean Palombaro, the executive director of Breckenridge Village, and his HR director Billie Daugherty. In this part, we talk about the impact their leadership has had on the team culture in their community. You can read Part 1 HERE.

Starting With the Numbers

When Dean started at Breckenridge Village they were only retaining 25% of their new hires beyond 90 days. Today they are retaining 70%. For the month during which I did this interview, their turnover was an astonishingly low 0.9% or just over 10% for the year.

What They Did

The first thing they did was to create a culture of trust and caring. They needed to operate under the assumption that people were not trying to do bad things — that, at the end of the day, they were coming to work wanting to do a great job.

The first thing Billie and Dean did was to get out and meet with team members, to get to know them; to understand what was going on in their lives, and share how the community could help them with their work and home challenges.

This didn’t particularly mean more pay or more time off, but helping them to accomplish their goals and resolve their challenges. So, for example, if you were struggling to get to work on time because of transportation issues, they’d help you figure out how to solve that problem.

In one case, five working adults in a single household were using a single car. The community’s team member was late every day and getting written up because they were the last person to be dropped off. What they did was give them Uber cards so they could get there on their own and not be late. The idea was to relieve the team member of this burden so they could save enough money to get another vehicle.

At the end of the day when they started focusing on people and their real-life situations, it showed they cared about them as individuals and, in turn, staff members are better able to care about and for the residents. They have found this has earned them tremendous respect from the staff.

The First 90 Days

When someone new is hired, for the first 90 days they have a green ribbon under their name badge, signifying to other team members and to residents that they are new to the community. It makes those first 90 days for team members a lot safer. It tells both team members and residents that it is okay to go up and introduce themselves. It also affords new staff a degree of safety when they don’t get things quite right.

They worked hard on training hiring managers to be better at selecting new hires. There was a renewed emphasis on hiring for fit rather than experience.

They also, before the first day, send every new hire a $5 Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks gift card. It is a way of saying, “We are excited you are joining us. We can hardly wait for you to start your journey with us.” Each new hire gets a two-and-a-half day general orientation. It is all about setting up people for success.

After their initial orientation, they have a department level mentorship program, so when that person joins the team they will be a fully functioning member. The problem is that when a new team member steps onto “the stage,” they are expected to know everything and they just don’t. They can’t. Mentorship goes a long way toward making this better.

Words of Wisdom

I asked for some words of wisdom and got some powerful stuff:

  • At the end of the day, be kind, do the right thing, and everything will be okay.
  • Don’t get frustrated when you see someone doing a job that you know you can do in a minute as opposed to a whole week.
  • Let people learn what works best for them and, along the way, help them, coach them, and guide them.
  • Create a culture of supporting each other.
  • Surround yourself with the right people because it makes all the difference in the world.
  • No matter what you do, you are going to have naysayers and you’re going to have people who are working against you, but you’ve got to surround yourself with the right people.

You can watch part two here: