James M. Berklan

When I first heard that long-term care providers could start getting their own recognition in a customized Fortune magazine “Top Workplaces” list, I was impressed.

As one of its organizers noted, it’s about time providers got their day in the national sun. Besides, providers have been frequently accused by their own of not tooting their horn enough. Here’s a solution, I thought.

But then the cynical journalist in me started to seep out. How do you get on the list? Is there an entry fee? (Yes) Is there a company that’s going to gain from coordinating this recognition program? (Probably yes)

However, then a more optimistic mood took back over. I discussed the new program with two of its energetic organizers, one of whom has toiled in and around the edges of senior living about 20 years.

Jacquelyn Kung earned undergraduate degree and an MBA from Harvard. Her doctorate is in Health Policy and Management from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She’s attended Erickson University courses, advises long-term care investors and speaks on expert panels.

She’s also the CEO of Activated Insights, which is helping coordinate entrants for Fortune and its partner, the Great Place to Work Institute.

Kung recalled that drinks one day with a friend who runs the well-regarded Great Place To Work institute led to Fortune agreeing two days later to start an “Aging Services” list.

The excitement from Kung and colleague Amanda Breeden was palpable when I talked to them about senior care’s “coming out” party.

Providers around the country should share their enthusiasm. That’s because all of them will benefit from the good vibes the list will generate. (Fifty or more aging services groups could make the list, Kung and Breeden said, giving a very rough estimate.)

It means that, opposite of being smeared by the bad deeds of providers they don’t know, which is the usual, this time providers will benefit from good pub generated by colleagues they don’t know.

Employees are the determinant

The key to the “Top Workplaces” lists is employee feedback and perceptions. Therefore, good employers and managers can emerge from the shadows. By extension, the industry’s image gets a shot in the arm. Win-win.

On top of that, Fortune makes all of the larger list “winners” eligible for recognition on other, bigger lists. Who wouldn’t want to rub elbows with Google, Marriott, Cheesecake Factory and other highly regarded employers?

“Over the last 25 years, Great Places To Work has focused on companies building high-trust cultures,” Kung explained.

Providers who don’t mind paying the administrative costs will have a random selection of their employees fill out the 54-question Trust IndexTM. It gauges how workers feel about pride, respect, credibility, fairness and camaraderie in their workplace. The other part of the judging is a “culture brief,” which addresses how the company thinks it’s doing with its benefits and other human resources-related functions. 

“If you think ‘employee engagement,’ it’s employees who want to do more, speak up and contribute more to the company,” explained Breeden, the head of business development for Activated Insights. “To do that, you need to like where you’re working, and you need to trust that if you speak up, you’ll be listened to and nothing bad is going to happen to you.”

Over the last 25 years, the Great Place to Work Institute has shown that there is a correlation between engaged employees, customer satisfaction and overall business results, Breeden pointed out.

“This is different than just surveying the engagement of a company,” she noted. “This is engagement with a chance for national recognition. For our industry, it will be taking off the stigma a little bit, so it becomes, ‘Wow, this is an industry where you can build a career.'”

The way Kung sees it, providers couldn’t have found a better partner than the GPTW Institute.

“It’s the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to company culture and survey methodology,” she said. 

There’s nothing wrong with long-term care and other aging services providers reaching out for the golden touch. Some might say it’s long overdue.

Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.