Changing corporate culture

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Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

As the holidays approach, it was touching at LeadingAge to hear a story about a CEO who goes out of his way to make employees and associates feel appreciated.

Steven Still, the executive director of Marquette, an Indianapolis retirement community managed by Life Care Services, an LCS company, noted he receives a Christmas card with a handwritten note from his CEO Ed Kenny.

“It makes me feel great,” Still enthused. “I think you would react in the same way.”

Even the most curmudgeonly among us can appreciate a note, even in email, that acknowledges hard work, a holiday or a milestone. If writing doesn't play to your strengths,  it's still important to do “simple things that show leadership cares about me as a person.”

"People will commit to a corporation if they feel management cares about them,” he observed.

Recruiting and retaining passionate employees are big issues for senior living operators, noted Still and Yvonne Rickert, vice president and senior director of human resources at LCS. (To read the full story from McKnight's Senior Living covering this session, click here.)

Often, our focus on this aspect of business takes the shape of interviewing the right way and helping employees find success early on, which is important. But in an era where corporations seem to be cutting out anything that strengthens morale, it's refreshing to hear leaders in the field advocate for a budget around “soft” employee boosters. Marquette has a huge flower budget, Still noted, so that for a big anniversary or holiday, or for a death in the family, it can send appropriate flowers.

“It's always signed, ‘From your Marquette family,'” Still noted. “I've had staff come and say, ‘It was so nice you remembered me during a tough time.' If that employee isn't engaged before, they're engaged after.”

Rickert noted that when people often leave their organization, they say they are leaving their boss, she noted.

Throughout generations, “I believe that common ground for any generation is purpose,” she said. “It's having meaningful work.”

It takes a long time to change a company culture, they noted. Most statistics say it can take up to a decade, but unfortunately it can take less than a year for a culture to be blown up.

“It can even be a month,” Rickert said. “It all stems from the trustee of management and leadership.”

In senior living, engaged employees and an engaged workforce are more productive, which directly correlate to resident satisfaction and the bottom line. Among the most bare organizations, leadership can find a way to support employees and let them know they are appreciated.

“No matter how small the success is, find a reason to celebrate it,” Still said.

Follow Elizabeth Newman @TigerELN.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.