My experience as a woman business owner is very different from my peers who are male. For example, I’ve been to about every city in the United States and while I’ve been there, I’ve seen nothing outside of airports, hotels, and conference centers. There was no golfing or after hours networking; I was in and out as I had two small children at home I had to get back to and as they’ve grown into teens, they have needed me even more.
Any working woman that travels for a living can attest to this truth. Those women that don’t travel but work a 9-5 are constantly trying to figure out how to meet the demands of two full time jobs: work and parenting. Until the pandemic exposed these fractures, women kept their heads down and made it work; that’s not the case today.
For the first time in history, the constraints women face in trying to balance the demands of work and family are in the public eye. Millions of mothers have left the workforce during the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a psychological toll on individuals and reinforced antiquated gender roles and workplace inequality. In March and April 2020 alone, 3.5 million mothers left active work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Almost 45% of mothers of school-age children were not actively working in April 2020. In August 2020, women were about three times more likely to cite childcare demands as the reason for not working than men, a trend that already existed prior to the pandemic.
Your decision to read this blog and act will determine your ability to hire and retain the staff needed to serve those seniors you’ve been waiting for, the Baby Boomers! Stop and ponder the makeup of your own seniors housing organization; odds are most employees are women. Women account for three-quarters of full-time, year-round health care workers today. By far, the largest health care occupation is registered nurses, with over 2.4 million workers, followed by nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides (1.2 million). Women make up more than 85% of workers in these occupations. Being that you are in healthcare, this blog is both timely and serious.
Case in point. Last year I moved my mom (a coveted baby boomer) into a wonderful life plan community and while she is happy, problems are brewing. The community has moved from a full-service dining experience to a serve yourself buffet. While she can do it; it is tricky carrying a tray of food while trying to navigate a walker. Housekeeping, typically scheduled to come once a week, is now coming twice a month and when she recently went to the healthcare center for rehab after a hospital stay, beds were capped at twenty residents rather than their typical forty. An entire wing was shut down due to staff shortages.
There are many implications to this story and all of them tie back to your ability to hire and retain employees; most of whom are women. I can say with confidence that my mom loves the life plan community she lives in and as her daughter, I’m a raving fan. This community has saved her life twice and she’s not lived there a full year yet. What senior living operators provide whether in assisted living, memory care, life plan, or active adult communities is invaluable.
Yet that impact is being minimized and unless we as an industry pivot fast to reinvent the workplace to be inclusive of primary caregivers whether women or men; will miss the very moment we’ve been waiting for- the boomer tsunami. Right now, a vast number of senior living communities are operating far below capacity due to staff shortages with 52% operating at a financial loss. This crisis is not going to pass and you can’t wait this one out. Seniors housing leaders must change business as usual and quickly get in sync with what both current and prospective employees want.
In 2022, leaders will need to learn how to thrive in a period of disruption that plays out unevenly across their organizations.
While most operators have increased wages, most are still struggling to hire and retain employees and it’s having severe consequences on their businesses. People want more than increased pay; they want quality of life- you can give it to them.
While the world works to pivot and better understand what employees want, I challenge you as an assisted living, life plan, or active adult owner or operator to dig in and find out for yourself. I’m going to show you how to use the legendary Bild Sales System, which has evolved into the Bild Culture System, to hire and retain employees that will stay for the long haul and bring stability back to your seniors housing operation.
As an owner or operator, the single most important thing you must do right now is take the time to understand what’s important to your employees. We are in the greatest workplace disruption in generations and the level of volatility will not slow down in 2022. While you are used to hearing me talk about the importance of finding needs, building value, and closing prospective residents to the next step in the sales process for a new resident- it’s time to take this to heart and do the same for employees.
In this blog I’m pulling the curtain back on a taboo topic: working mothers. These are people like me, who don’t want to choose between their job and their children; but instead have the flexibility and trust of their employers to do their job well within a company culture that normalizes rather than shames work-life blend.
The workplace environment that employees are bound to today was built in the industrial age when employees worked in manufacturing as my own mother did. It was all about mass production; how much employees could produce in a single shift. In that era, most families had a parent who stayed home to raise the children so school drop off and pickup, doctor appointments, school conferences, plays, and unexpected fevers weren’t an issue. Dad worked; mom parented.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, both parents in 64.2 percent of American families with children under 18 were employed as of 2019. This means in these households there is no one home to handle parenting responsibilities between the hours of nine to five. Yet kids still need to get to the bus or school, they get sick, and they have school functions they want their parents to attend.
Study after study demonstrates that women are responsible for many parenting responsibilities. If a child is sick and needs to leave school, it’s mothers most often who will pick up that child. For many working women, the day-to-day task of getting kids off to school is daunting as it conflicts with their work hours.
Women have worked hard to earn their place in the workforce, they have shown their ability and contribution to society and to seniors housing. It’s time to revamp the workplace and make the lives of all working parents better.
Being an advisor to seniors housing owners and operators for two decades it may not surprise you to hear me say that the only way to fix your workforce woes is to dig in and get answers from your customer- the employee base. You must understand what it is your employees want before you can fix it. Once you know, you can set about the business of shaping solutions, that demonstrate your ability to listen and respond; something that will yield loyalty for years to come.
The Bild Sales System is legendary in the assisted and independent living space and while our company is known for growing sales and revenue; my true passion and role has been selling my employees on the value of working at Bild & Co. I’ve spent the last two decades creating a culture that has allowed me to recruit incredible talent, develop strong leaders, establish growth plans, and most importantly- pivot with their life cycles and meet them where they at each stage of their lives.
This has been the single most effective strategy I’ve implemented that has allowed me to create the brain trust I have here at Bild & Co. It all started with open-ended questions, consistently having my pulse of my employees both individually and as a whole and creating an environment that met their ever-changing needs.
Want to keep your best leaders from leaving, get that prospective recruit to say yes to your offer, or improve performance outcomes from employees? Implement these five steps and watch your organization begin to transform and employee woes become a thing of the past.
1. IDENTIFY THE WANTS AND NEEDS OF YOUR EMPLOYEES VERBALLY & DO IT FAST!
It’s time to step back and make the time to dig into what it is your employees want. That means picking up the phone and interviewing staff to understand what is most important to them at this pivotal moment in time:
This is just for starters! Make time today to outline at least ten open-ended questions that you can ask employees. Literally pick up the phone and do this today with at least three, the answers will be an incredible wakeup call and inspire you to implement rapid change.
From there, formalize your discovery process and train company leaders from the Executive Director at the site level to Regional Directors of Operations to dig in and understand what their employees want so they can be part of crafting the solution; creating a better workplace that attracts and retains talent. This effort is vital to establishing an emotional connection that creates trust in you as an employer. People want to know they matter; they want to be heard, and most want to make impact in their jobs.
2. BUILD VALUE BY PIVOTING AND OFFERING EMPLOYEES A BETTER WORK-LIFE BLEND
When interviewing employees or prospective hires, it’s important to listen to what they say and more important to respond. The reason you want to ask open-ended questions is to discover what’s most important to employees so you can do a better job of crafting a culture that makes them want to work for you.
You can’t build value if you don’t first know what it is people want. Look for those trends that rise to the top and do everything in your power to shift your culture to meet employees where they are right now.
From there, continue to keep a pulse on employees by conducting random samples that allow you to hear firsthand how the changes are working and pivoting as needed.
3. DRASTICALLY IMPROVE BOTH HIRING RESULTS AND EMPLOYEE RETENTION; ALWAYS BE CLOSING!
Taking the time to find what employees or prospective hires want and need is just the beginning. Leaders need to improve their ability to communicate the value of working within the organization.
The more you pivot to meet employee goals for their career, the greater talent pool you will have access to. While you may pay the same or even a bit less than competitive employers, connecting emotionally with employees by taking the time to understand what matters to them is a game changer.
It’s proven that emotion, not logic drives decision making. This means that while a competitive employer may offer higher pay and it would logically make sense for the employee to take that job; the emotional connection an employer has made with their employees is powerful and will outweigh logic most every time.
4. THE DELICATE TASK OF WALKING YOUR TALK AS AN EMPLOYER
It’s fruitless to overpromise and underdeliver and better to be candid and let employees know you are working diligently to transform your culture. I consistently tell my employees at Bild & Co that they are my single greatest asset because they are. We interview employees regularly, strive to find hidden talents, and keep a pulse on how people feel. Despite earning the 2021 Great Places to Work designation we dug in deeper to see what we could still do better to retain our staff and make them feel valued. Weeks within completing that work we implemented new workforce policies that stunned our staff and created even more excitement. While it’s a lot of work, it’s 100% worth it because without staff none of us can fulfill our company’s mission.
If you embark on an effort to find what matters most to your employees, you must then act on it or else lose the confidence and trust of employees.
5. MODERNIZE WORKPLACE RULES AND WATCH HOW PEOPLE RESPOND:
While we are hearing a lot about a hybrid work environment or a four-day work week, with seniors housing employees providing hands on care, housekeeping, dining, and housekeeping services those benefits may not be an option for your organization.
Yet the more you ask and listen the more creative you will become in offering employee benefits that fit the needs of your workforce. It’s time to create a culture that’s unique to you and that keeps employees from going down the street for a small raise.
Being that your workforce consists of more women than men, I challenge you to address this head on and work to better understand why women are leaving the workforce and what you can do to keep them. I can tell you with confidence that male employees will be all in as well as more and more dads are taking a primary role in parenting which is exciting to see.
It’s past time employers address the incredible toll of childcare on working women. Consider on-site childcare; a game changer for working moms and differentiating factor that would make you an employer of choice for working moms and fast. If you can’t offer on-site childcare, perhaps it’s a stipend to help relieve the burden of the childcare expense, which averages $2,500 per month per child for working families. It could be as simple as take-home meals to relive mealtime duties at the end of a long day, bus passes, or leveraging your own community transportation services to help employees get to and from work.
Other options include flexible scheduling for working parents who are primary caregivers such as job sharing, a condensed four-day work week, or split shifts. If you ask, employees will tell you what they want and need to work for you. Here at Bild & Co we just offered a day off once a month for employees to schedule doctor appointments, give time to their favorite charity, or to use as a mental health day. A small token of our appreciation but a huge show of faith.
The sky is the limit, so long as all workplace changes are made available to all employees and cleared of course by HR. You can be part of history, to transform the workplace and level the playing field for both women and men. More importantly get back to the business of caring for seniors by operating at full staff capacity!