There is a pattern behind great workplaces. Senior living is different in that we have all types of staff members. What are some things that the best senior living communities do?

By Jacquelyn Kung

There is a pattern behind great workplaces. Senior living is different in that we have all types of staff members. What are some things that the best senior living communities do?

Here are five things that we have noticed:

1. Have A Quarterly Employee Survey

This helps you gauge how your employees are feeling — and keep improving on critical areas by making quick changes where needed. Before you say quarterly is too frequent or difficult, one solution is randomizing your employee roster into quartiles and administering the survey online or on tablet. Get a good process in place, and future quarters won’t be hard. And, you’ll have great data to see how initiatives are working. 

As long as you have 30 or more employees representing 60% or more of your workforce answering each survey, you should be able to see some statistical differences quarter on quarter. Also, the Hawthorne effect takes place: once people (read: managers) know that they are being measured, things improve.

2. Check Your Glassdoor Reviews

Go online to the Glassdoor website and type in your organization’s name. Do not compensate your managers on this, or else some gaming starts happening. But it is great to monitor and serves as a gauge on how people are feeling — as well as what they are saying about your workplace to future employees.

Go a step further and check your competitors in senior living; they’re your competitors for talent. See what their employees say, rather than get defensive or say that we do something as well, use it as an opportunity to learn what’s working.

3. Ask Your Children or Grandchildren If They Would Like To Work At Your Workplace. Listen To What They Say

Our industry is almost at the tipping point where millennial’s represent half or more of our workforce. Yes, scary. But a reality. Your children and grandchildren will likely give you straight answers about the idea of working at your community (some may say that they’re not trained in the job functions  you have, but ask them if that were not a constraint, how else would they think about it.)

4. Invest In Supervisor and Manager Training; Make It Mandatory

Many of our supervisors and managers (and even directors) have never managed people. They got promoted, and will often confess they are wholly unprepared to be managing people. And this is where our frontline suffers. Develop or bring in high-quality supervisor training that is tailored to hourly staff (think dining, housekeeping, maintenance and nursing). Make it mandatory, even for supervisors who have much experience managing staff (we all have probably picked up bad habits so it’s good to reset). 

Make sure it covers how to have difficult conversations and addresses conflict between staff members Write and have the conversation around performance reviews. Better yet, include a personality test and real examples for group role play discussions. Avoid canned management training courses; they generally do not apply to our industry. 

5. Have An Immediate Reward System In Place

In our industry, employees usually hear about their performance when something bad has happened. It’s rare that employees get complimented beyond Employee of the Month and other traditional programs. So, let’s change that — things that I’ve seen work include $10 Target or Starbucks gift cards with a short but personal and specific note of thanks.

One community has made it a point to ask residents regularly for compliments on things that they see done well, and in weekly/monthly department meetings, makes sure  these compliments get passed or shown to that staff member. It makes a huge difference.

Do you have other things to add to the list? Please leave a comment and share your experiences!