“It’s tough to serve people if the people that are serving the people aren’t happy.”
By Steve Moran
I frequently write and talk about the persistent culture problem we have in senior living. The question I have is this: Do we really value our team members? Do we take real, significant, meaningful actions that actually make their lives better?
We have huge turnover problems, terrible ratings on Glassdoor, folks who basically hate their jobs and, well, you all know the rest. A few weeks ago, I spoke at LeadingAge Ohio and crossed paths with Todd Schmiedeler, Senior VP of Employee Services for Trilogy Health Services. I was blown away at what he’s doing and wanted to share some of it with you.
Trilogy is a comprehensive senior living company with 96 communities in the Midwest, primarily Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. They offer the full continuum of care that includes independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and home care. They also own and operate a pharmacy and a rehab company.
A Triple Bottom Line
“We found that it’s tough to serve people if the people that are serving the people aren’t happy,” says Todd. “And it’s really hard if you have an expectation that you’re really trying to love people, not just care for them, but make sure they feel cared about. So our primary customer is actually our employees.”
It’s a great mantra. But actually living by it is not so easy.
Trilogy has what they call their “triple bottom line.” “The first bottom line is to make sure that our employees feel like royalty,” says Todd. “When they feel like royalty they will want to make our residents feel like royalty. And when our residents feel like royalty, they’re going to refer or come back to us for services when they need them. That’s the triple bottom line.”
Here is how that works in real life: Trilogy views their team members as their primary customers and they are doing it in some unique ways. This is what that looks like:
They are very careful about the hiring process, making sure that new hires are trainable and have the right attitude. “We can’t teach you how to love somebody if your parents didn’t teach you how to be a good person,” says Todd. “Once you have the right people, you have to help them get to where they want to be.”
As an example, many of Trilogy’s employees are CNAs, hoping to eventually become nurses, and that takes money. This year they are on track to award over 1,000 scholarships that range from $500 to $4,000. They are available for everyone — from CNAs to food services, etc.
It turns out that food services is the highest recipient of these scholarships after CNAs. Trilogy’s dream is for their team members to become chefs. Beyond that, why not have directors and associate director of food services with culinary degrees?
Scholarships encourage them. And it’s a positive move for the organization to keep them engaged and invested.
Trilogy also has a tuition reimbursement program for those employees who are 200% above the poverty line. Between government dollars, a contribution by the employee of about $10 per paycheck, and Trilogy’s policy of matching 2-to-1, an employee can accrue about $2,500 either towards tuition or first-time home ownership.
This is in addition to their scholarship program, because, as Todd puts it, “I’m an ‘and’ kind of guy. So you can get a scholarship and tuition reimbursement and even an education savings program if you qualify,” he says.
The obvious question then becomes . . . do you worry that you educate somebody and then they go someplace else? Todd’s response was that 82% of the people that we’ve given a scholarship to since 2007 are still with the company.
Todd says, “It is not just the right thing to do for them and to treat people right, it’s the right business move.”