Kisco Launches Forbes Travel Guide, ‘Lattice’ Programs to Boost Workforce

Kisco Senior Living has launched two new training programs aimed at delivering hotel-style service to residents and retaining its longtime workers — and one of the initiatives has the backing of the Forbes Travel Guide.

The Carlsbad, California-based senior living provider recently announced dual “Forbes’ Luxury Hospitality Training” and “Career Lattice” programs for its workforce. Kisco currently has 20 senior living communities spread across seven states.

Though Kisco didn’t share exact dollar amounts spent, the programs mark a “significant investment” in training, according to Brian Grandbouche, senior vice president of operations for Kisco Senior Living.

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“Sometimes, businesses can make misguided investments in marketing, in technology, and in building the biggest, shiniest community on the block,” Grandbouche told Senior Housing News. “But it doesn’t mean anything unless you fill it with the right talent.”

Taken together, the new training initiatives represent a sizable push to, in part, improve the quality of care the senior living operator offers its residents. That’s notable because, across the U.S., many senior living providers are engaging in a veritable arms race to differentiate themselves from competitors ahead of the looming “silver tsunami” of baby boomers. The training programs are also aimed at giving caregivers more tools to do their duties well — and that could help keep them on the job for longer, which in turn can improve quality of care and even save money in the long run.

Honing hospitality

In December, Kisco unveiled a new partnership with the Forbes Travel Guide, a travel guide service that assigns star ratings to hotels, spas and restaurants across the globe. Forbes Travel Guide shares a brand identity with Forbes Media under a license agreement with the Five Star Ratings Corporation, which is owned by WebMD founder Jeff Arnold. “We define luxury” is the Forbes Travel Guide tagline.

Under that partnership, associates at Kisco communities underwent a hospitality training program that taught them about delivering “five-star” service to residents. Associates are trained to spot and address residents’ personal preferences and hit a certain level of consistency across the board every time. Training activities span subjects that include proper behavior standards, personal appearance, presentation and cleaning.

The idea behind the training is simple: many Kisco residents have traveled the world and are used to the finer things in life. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume they’ll want the same things when they move into senior housing, Grandbouche said.

“Our residents stayed in a lot of these five-star properties, and they probably vacationed in them,” Grandbouche said. “So, we need to learn how to deliver that five-star service.”

Kisco isn’t the only senior living provider adopting this line of thinking. Last year, Harbor Retirement Associates (HRA) announced a new effort train its executive directors in the art of hospitality, including how to make small talk, shake hands, toast people, arrange cutlery, hold glassware and dress professionally. Like Kisco, HRA sought to cater to more affluent residents used to a certain standard of living.

As of December, two Kisco communities had partnered with Forbes Travel Guide: La Posada, a life plan community in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (pictured above); and The Cardinal at North Hills, a community located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The overall goal of the program is to train all of Kisco’s employees over the next few months. And, moving forward, new Kisco associates will participate in a two-and-a-half-hour orientation on the training and service standards. To make sure the new standards stick, Kisco is having its already trained workers meet often to discuss five-star service and roleplay to simulate interactions with the older adults they serve.

Kisco will measure the primarily program’s success through resident satisfaction. The provider also will use the training program to recruit new workers.

“We want that person who is like ‘Wow, that is really cool, I can go over there and learn high-end hospitality standards,'” Grandbouche explained. “So, it’s absolutely about recruitment, as well.”

Lattice, not a ladder

Kisco’s other training initiative is aimed at giving workers a way to laterally advance within the company and earn more money without advancing up the corporate ladder, so to speak.

In the provider’s new “Career Lattice” program, associates who meet certain requirements can apply to take part in a six-month program under which they gain new knowledge, skills and abilities. The program has three levels, each with different exercises to complete.

“There are people who don’t want to be … managers or supervisors, which is one way to make more money. That’s where this thought process started,” Grandbouche. “[Under this program], the associate is highly engaged, having a ton of fun and learning new things. At the end of the day they’re a better associate.”

The first level focuses on honing basic skills and tasks, and introduces participants to other positions and departments than their own. Level two trains workers in the responsibilities and processes of other positions and departments at Kisco, and level three is meant to build up leadership skills and help share knowledge.

Tasks might include shadowing another worker with a different job, leading a committee or organizing programs and trips with residents.

Every time an associate completes a level, their pay is bumped up 2% to 4% — meaning associates who complete all three stand to earn 6% to 12% more than they did before. Additionally, workers who go through all three levels of advancement will receive $500 for their efforts. Up to 10 associates can take part in the training at a time, and must be recommended by a supervisor to participate. The voluntary training counts is completed during scheduled work hours and is considered compensated time on the clock.

Park Terrace, a Kisco community in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, was the first to implement the program. Kisco is scaling up the program to five more of its communities this month.

Kisco will measure the training program’s success through several benchmarks, including retention, turnover and satisfaction of both associates and residents.

“We know if people are loving their job, they do better work,” Grandbouche said. “We want to win the talent war. We want to become the employer of choice.”

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