Do you allow residents to say thanks for a job well done to your staff using gifts of things or money?

I recently wrote an article asking if a “pay what you think it’s worth” strategy would work in senior living.  Jennifer a regular reader and active commenter posted a thoughtful response where she suggested senior communities should perhaps make allowance for some form of tipping.

The Downside of Tipping

I know there are some risks in tipping.  It can be an uneven process that creates a “luck of the draw” situation for team members where one care giver might get a resident who is inclined to tip and another a resident who is not for the same level of service.  I also appreciate that it has the potential for care givers to either subtlety or explicitly demand tips or favors for basic or even good service that should be part of the package. The problem is further complicated by the reality that there are some great hard working, dedicated line staff that residents never see and would be left out of a tipping system.

The Upside of Tipping

I know many communities have some type of employee appreciation fund that tends to be specifically for line staff and allows residents and families to contribute to that fund which is then divided evenly among all line staff.  This is a nice gesture that puts extra cash in the hands of staff, usually during the holidays.  The problem is that it also rewards mediocre staff (come on . . . you all have some who are not as good as you wish they were) at the same rate as those team members who go above and beyond. It seems to me that allowing residents and families to tip specific staff members for exceptional service if done carefully and thoughtfully could be a powerful thing for the entire community in at least two ways:

  • Residents are typically more generous with tipping/employee gifts when the money goes to a specific individual.
  • Talking about and even celebrating tips given to care givers has the potential to motivate other team members to go the extra mile.

What It Might Look Like

I am not sure I would allow it, but if I did it would look something like this:

  • All tipping, cash or otherwise, would have to go through local management.
  • Particularly with cash gifts, I would have a policy to share a portion of those gifts with the behind the scenes team members such as laundry staff and dish washers, similar to how many restaurants require servers to share a portion of their tips with support staff.
  •  There would be severe penalties for taking undisclosed gifts.
  • There would be severe penalties for doing anything to coerce residents into paying tips.
  • I would openly celebrate the receipt of tips/gifts in staff meetings as a motivator.
  • The policy would be provided to residents and families so they understand it is optional.

Your Turn

I have put together a short 4 question survey about how you handle this issue in your communities.  I will provide the results in about 4 weeks.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Steve Moran

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