Did you see that yesterday FORTUNE announced the 50 organizations across the U.S. ranked as the best workplaces in aging services?

By Jacquelyn Kung

Did you see that yesterday FORTUNE announced the 50 organizations across the U.S. ranked as the best workplaces in aging services? It’s the inaugural list, so it’s a perfect opportunity to uncover great operators.

In fact, the highest scoring senior living provider flies under the radar so we wanted to trumpet it here – and learn from their best practices! (As a point of clarification, when you look at the list you will see the number one and two spots are skilled nursing organizations.)

Is it because they’re based in the little middle-of-the-US state Oklahoma? Well, it’s certainly not because they are small; at last count, they have 14 communities.

They Are Incredible

And they ARE INCREDIBLE. Their employees sing it from every corner of the company . . . “I LOVE MY JOB” proclaims one employee’s comments in all caps.

So, let’s uncover what Senior Star does by analyzing what over 1,100 employees said about their experience working there. Here are the questions:

  • What are the common themes across Senior Star and other great places to work in aging services?
  • What’s different at Senior Star — and what makes them unique?
  • What business results happen because of Senior Star’s culture?

The Common Themes

  • Across 162,000+ employees surveyed this year, what are the top two things employees in senior living say they love about their job?
    • And, being part of a FAMILY at work

These two themes are echoed again and again by Senior Star employees and in all other organizations.

The Senior Star Difference

1. It starts with LEADERSHIP and CLEAR VALUES.

Their vision is to be a world of difference makers. Their values include C.H.E.E.R – Commit to fiscal responsibility, Honor each customer, Embrace innovation, Enjoy what we do, and Respect each associate. 

One employee puts it this way: “We ‘Do for each other with love.’ This sounds like a phrase you might hear at a church or a synagogue, but instead, it’s the promise of a multi-million dollar company. That promise sets us apart because it’s true. There isn’t a decision made that doesn’t include a heart for people as equal to the bottom line.”

More specifically, what does that mean? Their CEO Anja is known to email about loving one another. What CEO does that? It has outsized implications. Another employee says: “I can contact the CEO or COO about anything and expect a response immediately to whatever I am asking. We do everything with a serve-each-other policy. Employees are just as important as our customers. We enjoy coming to work each day. Makes it easy to smile!”

2. They have deeply rooted PURPOSE backed by SERVANT LEADERSHIP.

Leaders at Senior Star make sure they are not the important folks in the room. One frontline employee said, “Our individual community is small compared to the entire company, but upper management treats our community just the same as if we were a huge place. They have always made us feel important and we are included.”

3. They listen to their employees, which means they care about them.

Senior Star’s staff frequently describe the work environment as a family. “Senior Star has helped me evolve as a person, not just an employee of the company. When I began my career at Senior Star, I was married with no children. The way leaders of this company have supported me through having children and being a working mom has been amazing.”

4. WOMEN are promoted and supported.

Senior Star’s executives, mid-level managers, and frontline managers are all 65-75% WOMEN – usually, the percent of women decreases the higher up in management you go. But not at Senior Star. Even the CEO is a woman. And for an industry where the vast majority of employees is female, women in leadership sends a compelling signal that your company invests in you.

5. They offer UNIQUE benefits.

Senior Star talks about being a family-oriented company. And it shows in their benefits. For instance, several employees described, “We have paid holidays including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. When Senior Star bought us in 2003 they gave the long term employees their current vacation time and we did not have to start from the beginning. That was huge considering I had 4 weeks vacation.”

The goal of this list is to celebrate the achievement of the best of the best and to elevate the whole industry. Are you on the list? Will you be on the list next year?