8 Senior Housing Execs Share What It Takes to Be a ‘Best Workplace’

All of the companies included in this year’s Best Workplaces for Aging Services list share one thing in common: one way or another, they built a winning culture.

The list, released Thursday, ranked the top 50 companies for employee satisfaction for both large and small-to-medium senior housing and care companies. Some notable names on this year’s rankings included Brightview Senior Living, Vi, Merrill Gardens, Senior Star, Sunrise Senior Living, HumanGood, Holiday Retirement, Benchmark Senior Living, Belmont Village Senior Living and Silverado.

Here is what top executives from some of the senior housing honorees shared about how they hire, build a winning culture and invest in their workers:

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Vi President Randy Richardson on hiring:

“Despite an ever-growing, challenging labor market, Vi continues to maintain high-levels of retention with an average employee tenure of six years and with nearly one-third of Vi employees with 10 or more years of service.

Along with other organizations, the availability of talent and time-to-fill positions has been more challenging over the last 18 months. Like many organizations, our greatest opportunity to bridge this gap is to focus our efforts on hiring right and retention of new hires. While continuing to maintain overall part and full-time attrition in the low twenty percentile, over the last several years, we have implemented programs … and frontline employee onboarding captains to improve our retention of new hire employees.

Additionally, Vi continues to focus on proactive recruitment of individuals seeking encore careers through our partnership with AARP. Deliberate focus on developing partnerships with high schools, community colleges and pursuit of apprenticeship programs are some of the strategies we have pursued to fill our talent pipeline.”

Sunrise Senior Living CEO Chris Winkle on building culture:

“Culture cannot happen overnight and is more than words on paper. Culture must be constantly nurtured and rooted in a deeply held mission. It includes inspiring team members to bring their unique selves and apply the best version of that as they work across their team. For us, that also means servant leadership, creating environments where people feel valued and respected, honoring traditions like starting each meeting with a ‘mission story,’ and making professional growth a top priority.

We are grateful that our culture and mission have endured for more than 35 years and team members, both new and long-standing, continue to believe in them.”

Senior Star CEO Anja Rogers on using the accolades in marketing:

“We adapt our Great Place to Work certification and ranking by Fortune Magazine as a powerful ‘cover page’ to our Senior Star story. These accolades grab the attention of people who are interested in working for us or doing business with us and help us elevate those relationships. The groundswell of pride from the individuals who are at the heart of our story—Senior Star associate across the country—spark conversations that marketing dollars cannot begin to match.”

Eskaton CEO Todd Murch on employee feedback:

“Eskaton works diligently to establish a trusting, welcoming and caring environment. Actually, our highest scores from employees were in these three areas. There are a few best practices we have implemented since 2016. These include: implementing a real-time satisfaction and engagement survey for all staff, residents and families that continuously and randomly survey 15% of all community/service sites each month to provide us with continuous feedback and trending data to help us understand where we need to improve and where Eskaton is upholding our brand promise.

We also implemented an employee advisory committee that meets three times each year with our COO. This provides us with valuable feedback from staff members across each service and community. Finally, we implemented the ‘red carpet’ welcome to all new employees including wage and benefit improvements across Eskaton.”

Ohio Living CEO Laurence C. Gumina on investing in leaders:

“This industry is going through a transformational time. As we experience increasing payment reform challenges and population growth, we need more talent entering in the industry than ever before. We strive to hire employees who are both competent and mission-oriented. As new employees join Ohio Living, we invest in them and help them succeed. We count on our leaders to sustain this culture that makes Ohio Living a Great Place to Work.

My expectations of our leaders are simple: to provide support to our teams so that they can provide exceptional care and support to those we serve — period. As we invest in our leaders, they will generate significant and stellar outcomes in care delivery, satisfaction, financial performance, and market share growth.

At the risk of oversimplifying it, the more we can continue to invest in our leadership team, the happier our teammates and the stronger the outcomes for those we serve. Just like many other aging service providers, we’re doing all that we can do during this transformational time to recruit and retain talent, but honestly, I think we’re just getting started as our best years are in front of us!”

Embrace Living Communities EVP Susan Sinderson on touting Great Place to Work:

“We definitely use the Great Place to Work (GPTW) certification in our marketing both to residents and prospective employees. Our employees are proud to be a part of the Great Place to Work family. They are our best resource for new employees and are proud to talk about why we are a GPTW when making recommendations to friends and others about working here.

This year we are purchasing sweatshirts that have the GPTW logo as well as the Embrace Living Communities logo. Our employees love to show off our accomplishment in being a GPTW and they tell me that wearing the shirts are great conversation starters!

Also, we have posted the GPTW banners in the entrances to each one of our housing communities. Both employees and residents alike are proud to show this off to others. Residents are our best marketers!”

Buckner Retirement Services SVP of Operations Charlie Wilson on the tight labor landscape:

With a great economy we are seeing a lot more competition for associates. An example is fast food employers now paying very competitively to obtain entry level workers. Buckner is focused on creating a great environment to work where people feel respected and a sense of control/ownership of their work.

Finding ways to be flexible with hours and recognizing each person’s situation is something we continue to work on also.

Summit Vista CEO Mark Erickson on how purpose fights turnover:

We are seeing the highest turnover in our front line positions: housekeeping, dining, maintenance, etc. We are trying to overcome them by creating a high-purpose environment. We are improving people’s lives.

The second differentiator is to connect employees with residents. You could work at a restaurant or hotel, but you will never have the depth of relationships that you do when you live and work with your customer every day. You become part of the family. The back-of-house positions are the hardest. Connect them with the purpose and relationships.

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