How Engaging Residents Can Boost Senior Living Employee Retention

Senior living providers who want to keep their employees from leaving for other opportunities might do well to consult the advice of their residents.

That’s exactly what happens at Holly Creek, a Christian Living Communities (CLC) life plan community in Denver that houses roughly 320 residents. Christian Living Communities has eight senior housing properties in Colorado, with two more under construction in Colorado and Missouri.

Once a month, 10 Holly Creek residents meet with the same number of non-supervisorial staffers for an hour as part of the “Keepers Committee.” The group is aimed at enabling residents to help solve internal challenges such as employee turnover, according to Jayne Keller, vice president of operations for Capella Living Solutions, CLC’s sister company.


The benefit of the committee is twofold: residents have a greater bond with employees, and employees feel more valued on the job. Since the Keepers Committee’s formation, turnover has turned downward, Keller told Senior Housing News. Today, the community’s turnover rate is between 25% and 27%—an achievement in a job market like Denver, which has just 2.2% unemployment and a high cost of living.

The idea to form such a group came from a LeadingAge Leadership Academy project in early 2016.

“It’s a blended committee of residents and team members [designed] to tackle the age-old issue of turnover in our community,” Keller said. “That’s a big reason why we created the committee, for the residents to have an opportunity to make a difference.”


Most employees who leave Holly Creek for another job do so in their first 6-12 months of employment, which has caused Holly Creek’s residents some anguish.

“It was disheartening to see someone come and go so quickly when the residents liked them and wanted to see them grow,” Keller said. “A lot of effort has been put in to reduce new employee turnover.”

During the meetings, Keepers Committee attendees discuss the market conditions or management issues that may have led to staff turnover and what solutions might be implemented to help reduce it in the future.

“If residents saw examples of poor leadership, we would talk about it,” Keller said. “They also would also bring suggestions of different leadership training that they had done throughout their careers.”

The meetings also include opinion surveys and critiques from staffers to give residents more perspective on what employees value.

Since the committee’s creation two years ago, group members have helped implement several retention-boosting measures, including welcome parties for new employees, tours, help with recruitment and even a program where residents can mentor a new hire. Other resident-led initiatives have included personal cards to employees and a monthly newsletter highlighting the efforts of behind-the-scenes workers.

The Keepers Committee fits into Holly Creek’s overarching theme of rejecting the hotel-like hospitality model for more of a closely knit community concept.

“[More providers] should tap into the human value they have within their communities rather than trying to solve everything themselves,” Keller said. “It really gives purpose and meaning to residents to be part of the solution.”

Written by Tim Regan

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