Does Senior Living as a whole have a fear of success?

By Jacquelyn Kung

My friends on Senior Housing Forum know I’ve been working to get folks to apply for the new FORTUNE Best Workplaces in Aging Services list.

It’s a hard process: you need to survey ALL your employees and complete a culture brief.

Lessons Learned . . .

What I’ve learned in the process is revealing some broader trends. Here is what I am seeing, hearing and thinking:

Senior living as a component of the broader aging services sector seems to be the MOST scared and fearful of not winning. Even though senior living organizations brag like crazy about how AWESOME and AMAZING the industry is as a place to live and work. There is this underlying worry or fear that looks something like this:

  • What if we’re not? “Um . . .

  • We know that we suck.

Two Things . . .

Two things we have noticed:

  1. This fear of failure or incompetency is holding us (senior living) back. Contrast this with Medicare home health agencies or private pay home care groups — who have the balls to say, “Let’s do it.” And, guess which sector is growing faster? Home care is growing at 10-20% versus senior living at 3-5%. Innovation comes out of the lack of fear. So let’s do it!

  2. Many organizations that are certifying as great places to work are actually pleasantly surprised that they’re not as bad as they thought they would be. When we deliver survey scores and benchmarks to organizations, we’ve had several say that they thought they would be much worse. In fact, one SNF CEO this morning said, “I was worried about what the survey would reveal, so we were pleasantly surprised with what employees say they like — we never hear about these things.”

Where is this fear coming from? Especially when compared to other sectors of senior care (e.g. at home services), which are also quite hard to operate.

Your thoughts?