By Rachel Hill

How do we create a truly inclusive workplace? It’s a question all industries are (or should be) asking right now, and senior living certainly shouldn’t be absent from the conversation.

During the first episode of our latest Foresight livestream, KARE-ing Conversations, KARE CEO Charles Turner made an interesting distinction between culture and morale. Charles shared, “While it’s important to make it fun to come to work, that’s just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating a great culture.”

So What Is Culture?

Culture is “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society,” according to a 2019 Forbes article, in which Sheree Atcheson shared FOUR steps to creating a truly inclusive workplace. These steps so beautifully echoed Charles’s sentiments, and I think they’re worth diving into!

1. Listen

How often are you in a conversation or meeting where you’re just waiting for the other person to finish talking so that you can jump in?! When we listen, truly listen, we can often get to the root of what someone on our team really needs, allow them to be heard, and preemptively nip unnecessary tension or friction in the bud!

2. Provide Action

In therapy, I learned the valuable lesson that it is one thing for someone to say they’ll do something but completely different when they take action to change behavior. I believe this can be applied in senior living as well. How can you build trust with your team if there is nothing tangible for them to grasp onto? If your team expresses they’re low on supplies, provide them. If they express that they are having issues with another team member, address it with mediation, or let that toxic or poor-performing person go.

3. Value All Input

Atcheson shares, “Input from junior/mid-tier employees is equally as important as this will provide a different lens to the organization’s culture.”

Inclusion is really about being heard and respected. All team members, from the C-suite to the lowest paid frontline staff, should feel that their opinions are valued. And oftentimes, the frontline staff has a better understanding of what is really going on in your organization and knows how to fix the problems in ways you might not have thought of.

4. Have Two-Way Communication

Communication between leadership and all employees is, in and of itself, a sign of a healthy workplace culture, Atcheson notes. The National Business Research Institute has found that lack of communication is the No. 1 complaint among employees.

In order for employees to feel included, they need to feel … well … included. They need to feel like they are part of what is going on. Transparent communication is an amazing way to build trust and garner loyalty among employees.

The Big Why

So WHY is focusing on culture so important for your employees’ mental health? Everyone wants to feel as though they are heard. Now that doesn’t mean that your team necessarily expects to be the one to make the final decisions regarding your organization. However, to know they have a seat at the table and that their ideas and concerns are noted is incredibly validating and creates a safe space to work and thrive. And when your team feels welcomed — free to think creatively, solve problems, and know they are supported — it greatly affects their mental well-being. It can make all the difference in showing up at work, and for your team and the greater mission.