Your Executive Director should be in the kitchen washing dishes!

By Steve Moran

This is part 4 in a 5-part series about how to create culture where every team member loves coming to work each day:

Introduction:  4 Keys to Having Employees Who Love to Come to Work Every Day

1st Key:  Why Trying to Meet Every Need Every Time is a Senseless Idea

2nd Key:  Standardize and Empower

The third key is:

Cross Train

The Big Idea

Henry Ford taught the nation about manufacturing efficiency having one person do just one thing over and over again. It allowed them to get really good at that task and make cars faster and more cheaply.

It turns out, though, that it is not quite that simple for a couple of reasons. The most important of which is that it is not good for the human soul. It leads to boredom and poor quality work.  

It is not good in senior living either. Here’s why:

If a caregiver only knows how to do caregiver stuff and comes in to find she has lost three residents to the hospital, management has two choices, send her home for all or part of the day to save some money or keep that employee working at suboptimal efficiency or even worse keep them on to do nothing. This  might benefit the community but is not so good for the family of the employee.

What could be even worse, is that on that same day, a food server didn’t show up, leaving the dining staff scrambling. So now you have one part of your community where they are shorthanded and another where they are overstaffed and because there is no cross training the care worker is not so helpful in the dining room.

It still gets even worse . . . so the care worker goes in and does the best she can in the dining room but messes things up, making residents and families mad. She gets yelled at because she is incompetent; it makes everyone grumpy so they say bad things about your operations.

Imagine . . .

Imagine your goal was to cross train everyone to do everything, from the front desk, to dining and kitchen work, to being a care aid, to helping in the sales and marketing office . . . maybe even in the maintenance department.  

And yes . . . this might mean that the Executive Director ought to know how to wash dishes, serve in the dining room and even help with the bathing and dressing of a resident.  

What you now have is, in effect, a large universal workforce that can be adjusted to meet the changing needs of your community. It means greater efficiency and it will make team members happier by providing variety in their job.  

I can envision a caregiver spending a few hours at the front desk helping organize things or in the marketing office working on a special project.  

Ultimately this kind of cross training is a way of saying, “We are all in it together”, which is great for the organization.