Assisting an Assisted Living Community
Increasing Employee Morale and Engagement

Management didn’t know what they didn’t know.
They discovered how disconnected they really were.

Low morale may be a surprising problem to find in a Christian organization, but that was the case with an assisted living community network for which we were hired to assess employee morale. Our first step was to conduct interviews with the organization’s leadership to understand their structure, philosophy, policies and procedures, as well as to gain their view of headquarters/field relations. Leadership’s view was that morale problems stemmed from industry-wide problems – low pay and heavy workloads. We then conducted focus groups with local leadership and staff in about 20 assisted living sites. The problem, we discovered, stemmed from a disconnect between the corporate office and the 200+ regional sites. Both leadership and staff at the field locations felt they had no connection to corporate headquarters and that headquarters had no sense of what was actually occurring at the various communities. Everything was driven from the top down, with virtually no local community input. Employees felt their opinions did not matter or weren’t being heard and they weren’t empowered to serve the residents effectively. They also had no clear understanding of the behavioral and service expectations that represented the values of the organization.

Our next step was to develop a proposed core service value line with extensive input from leadership and the field. A survey was then conducted throughout the organization to narrow the 20 proposed values to 10 final service values, which comprise the organization’s expected behavioral standards. As a faith-based organization, the company wanted each service value to have a corresponding Bible verse. Laminated cards listing the service values were designed and printed and given to each employee to reflect on and internalize to guide their actions with greater intentionality and purpose. Today, in each community, every shift begins with a discussion of the meaning and execution of the service value of the day.

With input from leadership and the field, we then helped the company develop a local level feedback system to gather input and reaction to any new initiatives to ensure greater acceptance, ownership and adherence.

We helped each community director develop an action plan. We also developed an accountability index for managers to hold the line as bonuses are now tied to employee engagement scores. We also showed them how to understand the data obtained through surveys to continually improve employee morale and engagement.

This organization now conducts annual employee surveys and scores have consistently increased each year for the past seven years.

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