Aegis Living Fuels Staffing Efforts With ‘Aegis U’ Launch

Aegis Living is hoping to beat the labor crunch and bolster an upcoming growth spurt with an effort aimed at developing a new crop of company leaders.

The Bellevue, Washington-based senior living provider on Tuesday launched “Aegis U,” a nine-month education program that will include a mix of community-level and classroom education with a focus on management and executive leadership, according to Aegis Living President Kris Engskov, who joined the provider in January after working as executive vice president of business integration for coffee giant Starbucks.

“Great talent is always hard to find,” Engskov told Senior Housing News. “And once you’ve found somebody great, you’ve got to be very intentional in your development of that talent to hold onto them.”

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The initiative comes at a time when most senior living providers are facing staffing woes as their greatest collective challenge. A 2016 report from national senior living organization Argentum estimated that the industry must hire 1.2 million additional employees by 2025 in order to meet the growing demand from residents and their families.

The curriculum, which was developed in-house by Aegis leaders, includes education in topics like finance, sales and marketing and development. The program’s first run will aim to help develop care directors into directors of operations, and then eventually even general managers down the road.

Aegis U’s students will also spend time with many of the company’s leaders, both in communities and at the company’s Bellevue headquarters.

“We have great people in the company who can help mentor people who are learning their way up,” Engskov said. “We really felt like we had great resources in the company that were underleveraged and this is a way to leverage them as we develop our team.”

Aegis Living currently has 32 communities open across Washington, California and Nevada, with eight more in development. That pace of growth, coupled with the senior living industry’s ongoing labor crunch, made it imperative to look within the organization for new company leaders.

“The most successful way to develop future leaders is from the inside, we know that’s true,” Engskov said “And as we get ready to grow, … we’re always going to need more great leaders.”

While the initial Aegis U class will have just three students — care directors Wendy Adams, Ebrima Gomez and Al Otieno — future installments will likely include many more than that as the company’s leaders nominate more workers for the program.

And the company hopes to develop education programs for career trajectories other than the care-director-to-director-of-operations path, though those have yet to be finalized.

“We have the capacity to do much more, but we want this first group to really dial it in,” Engskov said. “You want to make sure that the first group is really successful so you can learn and build on what worked and what didn’t.”

While the launch of Aegis U represents a big financial investment, Engskov couldn’t yet say how much, as the program is still in its infancy. But however much the provider spends in the end, it will be worth it, he added.

“It’s expensive, and any development program where you’re pulling someone out of a day job and making an investment in travel … is a big investment.” Engskov said. “But if we are able to develop someone who is passionate about what they do, who is a great culture fit for Aegis, and we can develop them into a higher-level leader, then that would be worth every dollar we can put into it.”

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