Keeping the love alive after the honeymoon

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

Think back to the first day on your current job. Your desk or workspace was probably well organized, your outfit carefully put together. You probably spent the day doing paperwork or having orientation, gearing up for all of the big ideas and you were going to bring to the table in your new position.

What's happened since then?

There are probably many of you out there who can report, confidently, that you're still at that level of energy and optimism that you were on Day 1. That's great. But for other employees there may have been a shift that occurred over time — while they still enjoy their jobs and take pride in their work, that initial optimism and energy may have worn down a bit.

It's the same as a student who carefully arranges his or her school supplies the night before school starts, ready to stay on top of their assignments, only to have their backpacks and lockers turn into a mess of loose papers and dried out pens. That shift from ready and excited to work, to an employee who may just move through the motions is so universal, there's even been a meme (or several) made out of it.

That “honeymoon” period is prime time for providers to increase employee engagement, according to Holleran, a research company that focuses on senior living employees. Recent research from the organization has found first-year employees in the sector to be nearly 10% more engaged that workers who have been at their jobs for more than a year.

And those engagement levels don't seem to bounce back — Holleran found that workers who have been in their position for two years have similar engagement levels as their coworkers who have been at the job 10 years or longer.

Holleran broke down employees' engagement levels into three colored zones: Orange, Blue and Green. In an ideal world, your facility would be full of workers in the Orange Zone, those who are highly engaged, excited about and invested in the future of the organization.

After that year period, it's more likely that employees may slip into the Blue Zone — those who show up and do their jobs well, but aren't engaged with the organization. Some may even fall into the Green Zone, described by Holleran as mostly disengaged workers who are “change resistant and possibly even toxic individuals who threaten the culture and the progress of the organization.”

So the lesson seems to be to focus employee engagement efforts on workers in the Orange Zone, when motivation is already running high, and attempt to keep that momentum going as the months and years roll on. But how?

Googling “how to keep employees engaged” or a similar phrase turns up no shortage of articles filled with tips for increasing worker motivation. But this article from Forbes caught my eye with its 37 tips on motivation.

The advice includes things that are pretty easy to apply for long-term care providers, such as rewarding accomplishments (like this senior living operator who offers workers free post-retirement care at the facility based on tenure), or being a leader worth following. This recent analysis found the way managers treat employees is key to creating a successful resident safety program.

So tap into that employee honeymoon phase while you have the chance. If your employees, or even you, have moved on into a more complacent phase, it may be time to break out some new motivational approaches to get engagement back on track. Your organization will be stronger for it.

Follow Emily Mongan @emmongan.


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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.