MOST OF YOUR ASSISTED LIVING EMPLOYEES ALREADY HAVE ONE FOOT OUT THE DOOR
Something strange is in the air and if you tune in ever so slightly you will see it. Once you do, it will become more amplified every day and start to consume your thoughts. Employees, the very people you depend on every day, are ever so slowly checking out. What’s worse is their leaders haven’t even noticed. Odds are, they too have one foot out the door.
We are in the most transforming time in history, where employees at every level- including tenured people, are at risk of leaving. Worried? You should be.
My daughter Paris heads to George Mason University in the fall as an incoming freshman. Her single goal is to graduate and build a company from scratch so she can work for herself. She wants freedom, the ability to travel, and the peace of mind in knowing her future is defined by her own pursuits.
Companies it seems have lost the confidence of the very people they need to survive, their workforce.
I support Paris 100%. It used to be that I, the entrepreneur, was the risk taker but in today’s climate it’s the employee, and they know it. Under paid, dispensable, and overworked; employees don’t feel connected to their employers; resulting in apathy. Come on, everyone knows it.
Want to solve your employee hiring problem? Solve your culture problem first! Stop the whole business as usual mindset and radically reinvent your culture. If you can’t, perhaps and I mean this kindly, it’s time to retire. For some the prospect of change is just too much.
Chapter eight of The Relationship Economy, is titled, “be the brand employees can’t live without.” We’ll dive into what those strategies are in a moment but first, let’s consider what the employee brand is today. Employees are:
- Unrealistic expectations from too far removed ownership and/or management.
- Underpaid yet expected to perform as if they were the most highly compensated employees in the organization.
- Demoralized by constant implementation of programs created on a whim that are started but not followed through on.
I could say a lot more, but you get the point. Compare this to an employee brand that empowers employees to:
- Work at their own pace
- Solve problems themselves
- Have a growth mindset
Comparing just three work related factors you can see where I’m going. Employers want results, employees want purpose. The solution is to cultivate a powerful work-life blend. Leaders should be obsessed with serving their employees, who ultimately serve their customers. We have such a long way to go.
As a sales and marketing firm that turns around underperforming companies, we are in the weeds all the time. Training hundreds of assisted living, multifamily, and apartment living salespeople each month we have noticed a recent and distinct trend: Those individuals in the assisted living arena, have completely checked out. Not all of them, but a large majority. When digging into what our team is experiencing, it’s those employees we find were:
- Going through the motions, not committed to change to see the results
It didn’t used to be this way, and these are real warning signs. We’ve been facilitating sales training for two decades and this has never been a concern; until now. With investor pressure to perform and operator aversion to train, sales and marketing staff are like deer in the headlights- all the time most likely thinking, “I just can’t win.”
Studies show that people leave their jobs most often based on how connected they feel at work. The Family and Work Institute found that compensation and benefits have only two percent impact on job satisfaction, while quality and workplace support have a combined 70% impact. Employees are most engaged when they feel their work is important, they are appreciated, they learn and grow, and they feel part of the greater team.
While you may be thinking, “we do that,” it’s time to ask your employees what they think.
THE COST OF REPLACING AN EMPLOYEE IS MORE THAN YOU THINK
In chapter eight we learn that the cost of replacing an employee is somewhere between 1.75 to 2.5 times his or her annual salary and leads existing employees to question their own loyalty. More concerning is that highly engaged senior executives are likely to underestimate the discontent on the front lines.
Engagement levels are lowest among sales and service employees, who have the most interaction with customers. Meaning, the people who deal with your customers the most have poor or no engagement. That should concern you enough to act, to put forth effort and do something about it.
People crave being part of something big, that has purpose, and that brings them a sense of personal satisfaction for a job well done. Think of it as being part of a great collective! When my husband Dave was in his early twenties and building up flight hours to get on with a major airline, he had the opportunity to get on a call with Herb Kelleher, whom Forbes Magazine called “the best CEO in America,” prior to his passing. Herb said to Dave, “son when you get your flight hours in you call me and I’ll get you an interview with Southwest!” Little did he know at the time that he was literally talking to an icon but what Dave did know is he wanted to be part of Herb’s amazing company! There was and still is an aura to Southwest that completely differentiates them from competitors.
Herb Kelleher led Southwest Airlines to 46 years of consecutive profitability in an industry where horrible customer service, deplorable employee morale, and turning a profit is next to impossible is the norm. Sound familiar?
Today, Dave is a captain with Southwest and benefits from Herb Kelleher’s legacy that has created a workforce of employee evangelists that customers rarely seen anywhere else. Southwest is one of the most referenced and iconic customer service brands in history. “Herb created a culture that inspires passionate people to come to work fully awake, fully engaged, firing on all cylinders because they know they are doing epic work,” said Kevin and Jackie Freiberg in the Forbes story.
WHAT KIND OF CULTURE HAVE YOU CREATED NOT JUST ON PAPER, BUT FOR REAL?
How do the people that show up to work for you each day feel about their role in your company? When is the last time you’ve asked employees their take on your culture and how it impacts them? I can tell you with confidence that a big problem right now in the seniors housing industry, is a lack of connection and trust; it’s in very short supply right now. Your priority must transition to what DiJulius calls the Human Development business if you have any hope of pivoting.
NOTHING RUINS A COMPANY’S CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE FASTER THAN RAPID GROWTH
Assisted living investors and operators are in growth mode right now, preparing for the boomer generation that will be moving in massive numbers to senior living communities starting in 2024. The concern is the lack of investment in the infrastructure needed to support growth. There is little to no consistency across portfolios with each property essentially doing their own thing. The fractures of this chaotic growth are showing in the numbers for sure and in employee churn.
Employees are fast-tracked through training, given little support, and expected to perform based on experience, not skillset. It’s almost as if operators are expecting new employees to leave within a few months so little to no support is given to reduce the investment and resulting loss upon departure. Those new employees feel it and fail to connect; ultimately leading to their resignation. It’s a vicious cycle and must change. Compromising on employee onboarding and ongoing training and education, especially in the sales and marketing department is taking a toll.
BE A DREAM MAKER
I love this section of chapter eight and this title in particular, “be a dream maker,” because that’s my job here at Bild & Co. I realized a long time ago that without my employees my company is nothing but a name. As an executive, you must put yourself in your employee’s shoes. What’s it like to be a single mom of three children, working two jobs with no car, getting paid minimum wage, and having a kid with health issues and little family support? This is the reality for so many of your line staff!
What type of job do employees dream about? Perhaps it’s:
- On-site daycare
- Housing on-site
- Prepared meals they can take home
It’s not always money that people want but instead perks that make their daily lives better. For a sales and marketing director it’s most likely the ability to work from home so they can focus without interruption on sales, an incentive plan that rewards them properly for move ins, a budget to woo and wow prospective buyers and referral sources, a cell phone, and recognition for the effort they are pouring in to get people to buy what they don’t want.
The only way to know what people want is to ask them; never assume because you will get it wrong 90% of the time. I can tell you firsthand that my greatest privilege is to create a work-life blended lifestyle for the Bild team that allows them to balance the demands of life. They in turn go way above and beyond for our clients and have created a raving fan culture that I once only dreamed of. My job is to serve them, their job is to serve our clients.
If you are worried about staff turnover or worse, employee dissatisfaction, you can no longer afford to just think on this, you must dig in and do the work to understand where your culture is today so you can move it toward where you dream it to be tomorrow. Think like Herb, he didn’t just create an airline, he created a legacy that has changed millions of lives and a brand no other airline can come close to when it comes to reputation and loyalty. You can do it too; you just must take the first step.