October 16, 2019
By Gary H. Brown, CDAL, CRCFA
Executive Director, Morningside of Sumter
Five Star Senior Living
Employee turnover will never go away. Employees will leave your company for a new one; they may choose a new career path; or they may have decided the time to retire is today. It’s our job as the CEOs of our communities to be prepared for that happening, whatever the reason.
What we can control is what I call “self-inflicted turnover.”
Self-inflicted turnover is employee turnover that could be avoided. While maintaining or growing census and financial management are important, retaining great employees should be in the forefront of our day-to-day operation.
When reviewing human resource principles while studying for my CDAL credential, I came across something I had not thought about since my Psychology 101 class at the University of South Carolina (Go Gamecocks!).
In psychologist Abraham Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of needs” pyramid, he addresses the human need to be heard and included. The “need for belonging” is defined as an intrinsic desire to feel accepted and to be a part of something.
If we as managers seek input from our team members, they’ll feel heard and included. We create value. Once a team member feels valued, we naturally form a bond with a shared motivation for success.
Let’s make a deal
By paying attention to these basic needs, we can avoid Door No. 1: The Revolving Door. That means continuous turnover and low morale. As a special bonus, resident dissatisfaction increases. (Don’t pick Door No. 1.)
Door No. 2 is The Open Door. The “open door policy” is a familiar practice. Like a 1970s brick ranch, it has good bones, but there are some design flaws that need addressing with today’s workforce.
The open door concept assumes your team will come to you with concerns. Unfortunately, some team members will never muster the courage to speak openly from the other side of the desk. Remember going to the principal’s office in school?
The open door policy can be effective to a point, but I’d challenge us to try something more.
Door No. 3 is The Swinging Door: Don’t wait for team members to come to you, swing your door open and go to them.
As executive directors, so many decisions we make throughout the day are by nature unilateral. Making beds with a housekeeper or serving breakfast with your wait staff promotes opportunities for honest feedback on their turf.
Tip: The Buddy Call
From listening, you can learn what employees really need. For instance, asking a caregiver to choose between attending her daughter’s dance recital or covering another shift may be all it takes to lose a valued team member.
One solution is the Buddy Call program, which allows team members to partner with a buddy of their choice. The two plan together to fill in when one needs an afternoon off for a doctor’s appointment or the other needs to come in an hour late because of a parent-teacher conference.
Empowering your team with the ability to maintain a work/life balance through programs like these build trust and self-esteem—another important component of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Know when to hold ‘em
However hard you try, the odds are that a good employee may still leave. When this happens, don’t fold your hand just yet. First, remember that there is no greater resource than your current team. Need to fill a position? Start by seeking the assistance of your work family. I bet your team members know someone who would be a perfect fit.
As for the departing employee, play your cards right. Continue open dialogue and remain positive. Thank the employee for their time with you. Make sure they know they will always be a part of your work family. A phone call in 30 days to check-in, or a birthday card, can go a long way toward maintaining relationships with previous employees. Who knows? Perhaps one day, they will return.