It’s well-known in senior living that an engaged workforce can lead to better health outcomes for residents and higher profits for providers. Over the years, senior living has turned to other industries like restaurants and hospitality for ideas to keep their workforce engaged.
With engagement becoming a top priority, more providers are seeking the best solutions. After embracing a technology-forward platform to better engage its employees and communities, one California-based nonprofit senior living provider has seen a significant reduction in turnover. Beyond the measurable outcomes for the bottom line, the provider, be.group, has also seen improvements in the resident experience.
“Every company is looking at employee engagement,” John Cochrane, CEO and president of be.group parent company Cornerstone Affiliates, told Senior Housing News. “We’re looking at ways to boost our employee engagement, and second is how we can have a measurable impact on the customer experience.”
Measuring Behavior, Culture
As a major senior living provider with multiple communities, be.group was searching for a way to bridge its staff across campuses with technology that would engage team members with the company’s values and mission. However, previous strategies were not able to measure improvements, according to Cochrane.
“I think we were doing what a lot of companies were doing—a hodgepodge of different initiatives and attempts to drive employee engagement,” Cochrane said. “But it wasn’t coordinated, and it wasn’t measured. Nothing was tied together; we’d be doing one thing in dining, another thing at the front desk, and nothing with transportation services. We were leaving things to chance and leaving things to individual managers.”
After looking around for an engagement solution and attempting several programs and services that aimed to improve workforce culture, be.group paired up with Brand Integrity, a New York-based company that offers software technology to measure, evaluate and drive employee engagement.
“If you don’t have engaged employees, it’s really difficult to create an experience, a better place to work where people are engaged,” Gregg Lederman, CEO of Brand Integrity, told SHN. “We define engaged as both motivated and committed to doing what’s best for the organization.”
Since integrating Brand Integrity, more than 75% of be.group’s employees are engaged with the software regularly, which measures behaviors through surveys, engages residents and enables the technology to reward employees and managers for a job well done.
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“In order to optimize our profitability, we have to have a good place to work,” Lederman said. “They’re defining a better place to work, but how do we cascade those values from the CEO down to the manager and down to the workforce, and make sure people are reminded of it on a day-to-day, month-to-month basis.”
To get employees to utilize the platform, be.group starts the experience when it onboards new employees. The engagement also begins from the top, as be.group first rolled out the platform to managers.
“What this does is bring some degree of measurement and science behind the desire to do good,” Cochrane says. “I see a high degree of desire of team members to be engaged, a desire to create measurable impacts on customers.”
The Facebook Effect
Since implementing the platform, be.group has seen its nursing turnover drop 45%. In its dining services alone, which is a major driver of senior living success, be.group reduced turnover by 67% in two years. The focus on employee engagement and resulting reduction in turnover has helped improve customer experiences.
“You can’t deliver outstanding experiences to any customer unless you’re starting with the team members,” says Cochrane. “It all starts with team member engagement. If you want to design a memorable and desired customer experience, you’ve got to start with engaged team members. For us, it was understanding that the customer experience began with the employee experience, and that’s where we made our first efforts.”
Utilizing a technology platform also helped be.group through its merger with another major non-profit senior living provider, ABHOW.
There are several components to the engagement platform, according to Lederman. The first is defining the behaviors behind the values of an organization so that they are measurable. By surveying employees, the platform measures how consistently employees are doing those behaviors with an engagement index. That index score, which shows how engaged people are to how they are living the values, can be compared to turnover rates and other metrics, Lederman says.
In addition, the platform engages with a social recognition component that is similar to Facebook for the business. It allows the business to post examples of when an employee “lives the values and achieves some sort of a business outcome,” says Lederman, such as improved costs or delighting a resident in some way.
For clients as large as be.group, the shares can become an important reward incentive for employees and reach hundreds of posts. The shares can be compared to metrics, as well, and have been shown to influence turnover.
Another component of the platform is to collect feedback from customers and residents on their experience. The survey can help create a launching point for improving the resident’s experience.
“The survey is the beginning of a conversation, not the end of a conversation,” says Lederman. “If a resident is going to take the time to take a survey, they should be followed up with a ’thank you’ and more about the experience.”
For be.group, these results enabled the company to be better informed of its shifting culture through its merger. The technology allowed be.group to have some science and methodology in place across its expanding team.
“Technology doesn’t change culture,” Lederman says. “People change culture. The definition of the values and the usage of the tools is about who you are and how you do things. It creates reminders, enables managers. People feel respected for their work and understand the relevance and importance of it.”
Written by Amy Baxter