Senior Star, Sunrise, Erickson Living CCRC Among ‘Best Workplaces’ in Senior Housing

Senior Star, Sunrise Senior Living and an Erickson Living continuing care retirement community (CCRC) are among the top 50 senior housing workplaces in the U.S., according to a new list focused on the aging services sector from Fortune magazine research partner Great Place to Work.

The first-ever list, which is currently available online and is set to be published at least partially in an upcoming issue of Fortune magazine, took into account survey results from more than 162,000 employees in the senior housing and at-home care industries. Top workplaces were evaluated based on a variety of factors, including respect, fairness and leadership competence.

To be considered for inclusion, senior housing and care providers had to complete an initial application process by June and become “certified” by Great Place to Work. The organizations also had to achieve a certain score based on employee survey results.

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Here are the top 10 senior housing providers in the inaugural Best Workplaces for Aging Services 2018 list:

  1. Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, a skilled nursing operator based in Commack, New York
  2. Van Dyk Health Care, a skilled nursing operator in Hawthorne, New Jersey
  3. Senior Star, a senior living operator based in Tulsa, Oklahoma
  4. Seabrook Retirement Community, an Erickson Living CCRC in Tinton Falls, New Jersey
  5. Embrace Living Communities, a senior housing nonprofit based in Oak Brook, Illinois
  6. Merrill Gardens, a senior living provider based in Seattle
  7. Sunrise Senior Living, a senior living operator based in McLean, Virginia
  8. Raya’s Paradise, an assisted living provider based in West Hollywood, California
  9. Pomperaug Woods, a life plan community managed by LCS in Southbury, Connecticut
  10. Vi, a senior living provider based in Chicago

Other senior living providers included in the top 50 list included Holiday Retirement, Belmont Village Senior Living, Benchmark Senior Living, MBK Senior Living, Buckner Retirement Services, Watermark Retirement Communities, Silverado and Solvere Senior Living.

The 2018 list came with a few surprises, according to Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Activated Insights. Activated Insights, based out of the Great Place to Work corporate campus in San Francisco, led the creation of the aging services list. Kung also brings lots of industry knowledge to the table, gleaned during time with organizations such as senior housing provider Erickson Living and home care software giant ClearCare.

“We were pleasantly surprised that [Senior Star], the highest-ranking majority IL-AL-memory care community, was out of a state like Oklahoma, rather than one of the coasts,” Kung told Senior Housing News.

Another surprise was that two skilled nursing providers beat out senior living heavyweights such as Sunrise.

“That was our surprise, as well, given that the skilled nursing industry has been pummeled in so many ways, by regulatory, by labor, et cetera,” Kung said. “I guess it goes to show that there is really great work going on.”

Badge of honor

For Senior Star CEO Anja Rogers, the accolade brought on a feeling of joy.

This is a badge of honor that we’ve earned and now is something that we will build on,” Rogers told SHN. “It inspires my thinking in what the future of Senior Star as an employer of choice can mean.”

Senior Star’s culture is a blend of concepts the provider has embraced over the years. When crafting its culture, the company drew inspiration from famous companies and individuals such as Pike Place Fish, Disney, Ritz-Carlton, Simon Sinek and Nordstrom.

“We believe in walking in each other’s shoes and leading both with our head and heart,” Rogers said. “Our culture is focused on continuous improvement. We think of our associates as our customers, whom we want to be our raving fans.”

Moving forward, Senior Star will market its accolades not only to potential employees, but also to prospective residents.

“Residents, prospective residents and those who love them want to know that the individuals providing care and service at our communities enjoy being there,” Rogers said. “We want these folks to know that our associates find their homes a great place to work.”

Being included so highly in the list thrilled David Eskenazy, president of Merrill Gardens.

“As a privately owned family company, we try to provide an inclusive workplace and a positive environment at each of our communities,” Eskenazy told SHN. “We value every member of our team, and we look to provide career paths that offer opportunities to grow within Merrill Gardens.”

At Sunrise Senior Living, the inclusion only came as a partial surprise. That’s partly because the company has many “boomerang” employees — that is, workers who left the company only to return some time later. The company’s culture had a hold on the people who experienced it firsthand, according to Chris Winkle, CEO of Sunrise Senior Living.

“We have tons of testimonials from people who left thinking the grass is greener and came back,” Winkle told SHN. “When we think about Sunrise’s culture — and I haven’t been here for 37 years — it’s the culture that has endured.”

To help instill that culture, Sunrise employs extensive onboarding practices and executive director training programs. The company also recognizes its top performers with a service award. Those programs don’t just help build a culture — they also help tamp down turnover among the provider’s 25,000 U.S. workers.

“Our leadership development focus is very much tied to lower turnover,” Winkle said. “We find that when people connect to the mission, they stay.”

Like Sunrise, the Great Place distinction did not come as a shock for Seabrook Village, according to Paula Digerness, the CCRC’s executive director.

“Over the past two years, turnover has averaged about 31%, and the retention has averaged about 79%,” Digerness told SHN. “We attribute our retention successes to our passion for developing people, and the numerous promotions and transfers of our staff members within Seabrook, and to other locations in the Erickson Living enterprise.”

While the community offers its employees an array of benefits that includes health plans, dental, life and disability insurance, paid time off and tuition reimbursement, one of its biggest successes related to retention is its unique resident mentoring practices.

“We have formal mentoring and training programs at Seabrook and in Erickson Living, but we think we have something special that many other companies don’t have, and that is the residents who live at Seabrook who informally mentor and teach us to be better ourselves by sharing their own life and work experiences,” Digerness said. “This is truly part of our mission to ‘share our gifts to create communities that celebrate life.'”

Des Moines, Iowa-based LCS saw six of its communities make the top 50 list, including Pomperaug Woods, which ranked in the ninth spot overall.

“Collaborative relationships create great work environments,” said Rick Exline, executive vice president and senior managing director of life plan communities at LCS. “Life Care Services is fortunate to work with owners, sponsors, and boards of directors who make a daily commitment to serve seniors and support employees working within their communities.”

About 93% of Vi’s employees participated in the Great Place to Work survey, and every Vi community — including its corporate office — was certified under the program, according to Randy Richardson, president of Vi Senior Living.

“We know that well-trained and engaged employees are drivers of our high levels of resident satisfaction, quality care, and industry-leading employee retention,” he told SHN. “Our employees are committed to our residents, and we are committed to providing our team members meaningful work, an engaging workplace, and opportunities to learn and grow, for all employees.”

Read the full top 50 list on Fortune.

Written by Tim Regan

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