This past week I was talking to Will Nowell, the founder of ServiceTrac, a Senior Housing Forum Partner, about resident satisfaction and he made a really interesting point.

The Housekeeper’s Perspective

If you ask a housekeeper what her job is, she will likely say it is to get into a certain number of resident units each shift, clean the bathroom, vacuum the floors, dust the flat surfaces and replace things like toilet paper and tissue.  And . . . as time allows, chitchat with the resident.

She will know, either instinctively or explicitly, that as long as she is polite to her residents, even if only perfunctorily, she will not be in trouble. She also knows that if she spends too much time in chitchat, she will not get her assigned tasks done and will be in trouble. While she knows that resident interaction is important, she will know that, for her, it is not most important.

The Resident’s Perspective

If you ask a resident about the job of the housekeeper she may say . . . or perhaps will want to say . . . that it is to be someone who is a friend to the resident . . . someone to visit with, to share stories with, to care about and be cared for by. And along the way also cleans his or her residence.

While the resident understands that this is not in an equal or peer friendship, there is or can be a quality relationship that can be extremely meaningful to the resident and the team member.

The Tension

These differing priorities result in a natural tension between efficiency and satisfaction. Some communities do a terrific job of managing the tension and others not so much. Will finds that communities that do a great job have the following characteristics:

  • Each staff member has a schedule that allows time for human interaction. This is not as tough as it sounds because different residents have different needs. Knowing the individual resident’s needs and creating work schedules that mix high touch and low touch residents makes a big difference.
  • Every community needs to have a satisfaction survey process that is capable of teasing out these subtle needs and provides the senior living community with the data they need to know how they are doing.
  • They provide residents and team members consistent schedules so that the same care givers interact with the same residents each week, enhancing those relationships.

The Look of Success

When a senior living community gets it right it looks like this:

  • Occupancies remain high because seniors and families are having great experiences every day.
  • Residents look forward to their next day of living. They look forward to their staff interactions. They tell their friends and families about how good their lives are.
  • Families are delighted that they encouraged their loved one to make the move to senior living.
  • Team members feel they are having meaningful interactions with residents and making a real difference in the lives of seniors. This translates into easier recruiting and lower turnover.

Finally, Will finds that a well-crafted and disciplined survey process helps senior living communities quickly identify areas that need improvement or, at least, watching.

How do you manage this tension in your community?

How do you make sure it is tuned right?