When Culture Matters Most
Joe Cuticelli
Joe Cuticelli
CEO, Seniors
Sodexo North America

Those of us associated with senior living often receive several industry newsletters every morning. They almost always include the latest on the hottest topic — staffing, specifically the challenges faced in hiring, training and retaining committed employees to care for residents.

The situation is serious; LeadingAge statistics show that the average employee turnover at Life Plan Communities is 42 percent. National senior living research firm Holleran conducted a study that revealed the average new employee’s “honeymoon period” lasts about a year, Senior Housing News reported.  After that, things get challenging and retention falters.

How do communities address retention issues? One of Holleran’s findings is that it’s important for new employees’ supervisors to demonstrate their own engagement. “Employees usually don’t leave their organizations—they leave their bosses,” CEO Michele Holleran told Senior Housing News. “When a boss is disengaged, direct reports have a difficult time being fully engaged longer term.” In other words, walk the talk.

Caring for residents isn’t just a business, it’s a moral responsibility. Families and individuals choose senior communities that they believe will provide high quality services and safety under all circumstances. For example, a dedicated team is critical when bad weather becomes an issue. The massive March snowstorm shut down cities — even whole states — but residents still needed to be cared for. This is when the time taken to build a strong service culture of engaged employees makes all the difference for residents’ comfort and families’ peace of mind.

During the northeast blizzard in March, Sodexo Seniors teams responded with an all-hands-on-deck effort. Our employees walked to work in the snow, arrived early, stayed late, and in some cases slept at work, all so that residents would be safe, warm and well-fed even during the storm.

These team members walk the talk; they are purpose-driven employees who are resident-focused and dedicated to improving Quality of Life. These are the kind of employees who build our strong service culture, and we are dedicated to making them feel valued because strengthening the resident experience in the communities we serve benefits our clients’ businesses and market share.

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