James M. Berklan

Kim Warnecke sweeps into a conversation like a breath of charged fresh air. She is at once a warm whoosh and a crisp arctic jab, a good-natured mix that helpfully keeps you in touch with reality.

Such candor is always useful when discussing employee retention strategies in long-term care. Warm and fuzzies might make you feel good, but candid advice keeps the business afloat.

Warnecke is the “Chief People Officer” for Apricity Resources, which means she oversees human resources concerns for about 55 facilities and 15,000 employees. Her expert participation in a McKnight’s webinar Tuesday, along with co-presenter Peter Corless, left everyone better educated and prepared to field — and maintain — a healthy workforce.

If you think “company culture” is just a mealy-mouthed label that doesn’t mean much, Warnecke says to think: If a prospective nurse aide or other job candidate has applied to your place of work, that person has likely applied elsewhere as well, maybe in four or five places. How do/did you get tabbed for an actual application? Your culture was observed or discussed and deemed worthy.

A good workplace culture should include managers connecting with employees on their turf — that is, in the hallways and nurses stations. That’s where frank, sincere discussions can and should take place.

“People [employees] see right through when there’s not honest, transparent, authentic discussion,” Warnecke noted. 

Retention or turnover?

Warnecke also had rock-solid opinions on the human resources puzzles: Which is more important — recruitment or retention? And do you shoot for employee engagement or satisfaction?

“It’s absolutely a no-brainer,” she declared. “I’d be choosing retention and engagement because they’re positive. They have a bigger impact on your future than your past.”

That’s not to say turnover isn’t important. But retention holds the key as to why high-quality employees are staying.

Of course all managers want their charges to be satisfied. But when employees are engaged, they feel like they’re part of “something bigger than themselves,” Warnecke explained. In other words, they feel like they have an ownership piece in moving the business forward.

In a nutshell, retention and engagement are big pieces in moving your business forward. 

Remember that people want to see your workplace culture in action. Show it online, Warnecke recommended. A picture is, after all, worth a thousand words.

Most important, she said, is “celebrating the wins.” “There are great things happening in our centers every day  but we tend to be too busy not to stop and celebrate them,” she explained. This is a big mistake.

Even if it means stopping at a nurses station to take a photo that can be posted online, do it. Just letting people know that what they did mattered goes a long way.

“Nobody’s going to tell our story like we can ourselves,” she reminded. “We can do that through pictures and words on the internet.”

Other tips include starting job advertisements with two sentences of culture-revealing statements that will grab attention — not mentions of sign-on bonuses or other perfunctory job description lingo.

Filling out an online application should be extremely easy and quick. As in one- to two-minutes quick. With 78% of long-term care workers belonging to the millennial generation, speed and simplicity are vital.

Messages also must be routed via the target employee’s preferential means of communication. Hint: That probably doesn’t mean phone calls or voice mail messaging.

That’s not to say smartphones shouldn’t be a target. On the contrary. Among other intriguing stats that came to light during Tuesday’s webcast: The average millennial exchanges 67 texts per day and the average person checks their smartphone 150 times per day.

Good information to retain when contemplating employee retention.

The McKnight’s webinar referred to above can be found and listened to in archive by going through this link.

Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.