Brightview CEO: Company Culture, Careful Hiring Led to Top ‘Best Workplaces’ Honor

Other senior living companies can learn a thing or two about employee satisfaction from Brightview Senior Living.

The Baltimore-based provider took the top spot among 50 other large senior housing and care companies in this year’s Best Workplaces in Aging Services list. And it did it by building a culture where everyone feels valued, according to CEO Marilynn Duker.

“By keeping associate engagement and satisfaction at the top of our business goals, and also empowering our managers to do the right thing, we know that our culture will remain strong well into our future,” Duker told Senior Housing News. “We have built associate satisfaction into everything we do.”

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Top-five accolades also went to Louisville, Kentucky-based Trilogy Healthcare and Chicago-based Vi, which were ranked no. 4 and no. 5, respectively. The list also includes various other types of aging services companies, such as skilled nursing and home care providers.

This year’s ranking is available online and will be included in an upcoming issue of Fortune magazine. For senior housing and care companies, the 2019 list was divided into two categories: large, meaning those with at least 1,000 employees; and small to medium, meaning companies with fewer than 1,000 employees.

This year’s list included input from 223,183 employees working in the U.S. senior housing and in-home care sectors. The top workplaces were evaluated based on a variety of factors, including employee trust, career fulfillment, innovation, values and leadership effectiveness. Entrants were also all required to become “certified” by Great Place to Work.

While this is only the Best Workplaces in Aging Services list’s second year in publication, it’s garnered plenty of interest from people who work both in and out of the senior living industry, according to Dr. Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Activated Insights.

“It was such a popular list last year,” Kung said. “We even had a number of people in the hotel industry reaching out to say, ‘I want to learn more about senior care because we keep losing our GMs to senior care,’” Kung said.

Activated Insights is based out of the Great Place to Work corporate campus in San Francisco, and puts together the aging services list each year.

The 2019 list came with a few changes from last year. Despite more intense competition due to the wider pool of participants this year, some strong performers from last year again did well. Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Senior Star, which was ranked as the third-best workplace on the list in 2018, ranked no. 10 this year, and Seattle-based Merrill Gardens grabbed the No. 6 spot in 2018 and ranked No. 8 spot this year.

But Vi, which occupied the no. 10 ranking in 2018, is now listed as the fifth-best workplace this year.

“Some organizations faltered, while some really rolled up their sleeves and did a lot of work and got a whole lot better,” Kung said. “It just goes to show how difficult it is to be a consistently great provider.”

While it may be difficult to earn top honors on this list, companies that create excellent workplaces generally see multiple benefits, including financially. Companies that have great cultures see three times the revenue growth compared to peers who do not, according to Great Place to Work research.

The complete top 10 lists for large and small providers are included at the conclusion of this article.

Building a winning culture

Brightview has made a name for itself in recent years by developing forward-thinking urban properties such as Brightview West End in Rockville, Maryland. The company owns and manages about 40 senior living communities across eight East Coast states. Brightview’s sister company is The Shelter Group, a real estate development and management firm.

To complement its unique real estate, the company also built a company culture rooted in authenticity, trust, and a shared interest in caring for other people.

“Those qualities manifest in many different ways but we work hard to ensure that our actions consistently reflect those core principles and values,” Duker said. “It starts with being incredibly selective about the people we choose to be a part of our organization.”

To that end, Brightview developed its own tools and processes that allow it to pick out character traits of prospective associates during the hiring process. Those traits include whether they are attentive to others, how empathetic they are, and whether or not they have a service mindset.

The company maintains those hiring standards, even as it’s feeling the pinch of low unemployment and high demand for frontline workers in its markets.

“We’ve found over time that settling for less than a Brightview-quality associate only creates more turnover,” Duker said. “And it creates dissatisfaction not only for other associates, but for our residents as well.”

Once an employee gets hired, they go through a regimented onboarding process. Brightview also maintains a larger-than-average regional management team to aid workers and communities on an ongoing basis.

The provider has employee perks such as free wellness resources, assistance in finding child care, paid time off even for part-time associates and career advancement opportunities. All of these help keep employees feeling engaged and supported, Duker said.

To ensure its workers feel happy and productive, Brightview conducts an annual engagement and satisfaction survey, the results of which are benchmarked over time.

“Those surveys are reviewed extensively with community and home office leadership, and an action plan is put in place to address any concerns. Most importantly, those action plans are shared with the people who provided the feedback,” Duker said. “Keeping everyone informed is an important piece of engagement.”

And when employees do have problems or grievances, Brightview brings them into the solution by pulling together teams of representatives from across the company to tackle problems. The company holds leadership conferences and events where employees from across the company can mingle and swap ideas, and it’s common for home-office employees to visit Brightview communities on a regular basis.

Last year, Brightview filled 41% of its director-level positions with people who already worked at the company, adding to the shared sense of culture.

Looking ahead, Duker expects Brightview’s newest accomplishment to be a boon for its salespeople, marketers and recruiters.

“Passive job seekers — and even those who have no intention of being in the job market — are often swayed to explore Brightview when they learn about these impressive awards,” Duker said. “Similarly, we hope the Fortune accolade will be viewed by prospective residents and their families as confirmation that we really deliver on our promise of a warm, nurturing community.”

Here are the top 10 senior housing and care providers for both the large and small categories:

Large providers (at least 1,000 employees)

  1. Brightview Senior Living
  2. Citadel Healthcare, a long-term care provider based in Morton Grove, Illinois
  3. Signature HealthCARE, a long-term care provider headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky
  4. Trilogy Health Services, a skilled nursing and senior living provider also based in Louisville, Kentucky
  5. Vi
  6. Wesley Enhanced Living, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Warminster, Pennsylvania
  7. American Medical Facilities Management, a skilled nursing and rehab provider in Charleston, West Virginia
  8. Merrill Gardens
  9. Generations Healthcare, a Santa Ana, California-based skilled nursing and rehab provider
  10. Senior Star

Small companies (Less than 1,000 employees)

  1. Embrace Living Communities, a nonprofit in Oak Brook, Illinois that provides affordable housing
  2. Northcrest Community, a CCRC in Ames, Iowa
  3. Peace Village, a CCRC in Palos Park, Illinois
  4. Danbury Senior Living Huber Heights, a Danbury Senior Living community in North Canton, Ohio
  5. Schnepp Senior Care & Rehab Center, a skilled nursing and rehab provider in St. Louis, Michigan
  6. Mansions Senior Living, a senior living provider based in Oklahoma City
  7. Ann’s Choice, an Erickson Living CCRC in Warminster, Pennsylvania
  8. Royal Oaks Retirement Community, a CCRC in Sun City, Arizona
  9. Fox Run at Orchard Park, a CCRC in Orchard Park, New York
  10. Agemark Senior Living, an Orinda, California-based senior living provider

Other senior living providers that made the top-50 list for large companies include Sunrise Senior Living, HumanGood, Holiday Retirement, Benchmark Senior Living, Belmont Village Senior Living and Silverado.

Additionally, operating company LCS works with two of the winners: Continuing Life Communities, no. 16 on the large-company list; and Summit Vista, no. 20 on the small-company list.

Companies featured in this article:

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