Thursday, September 2, 2010

The high cost of employee discontent

You think everything is going just great. Your site manager reports a happy group of employees, and you haven’t heard any rumblings from families or residents. The last survey was great, and compliance doesn’t seem to be an issue. Sure, you’ve got a few vacancies, but who doesn’t?

And then you see your worker’s comp bill start to rise.

Heads’ up: you’ve got a problem.

Experienced senior living operators know that a rising worker’s comp bill is often the first sign you’ll see that your team isn’t happy. Perhaps there’s a leadership issue. Perhaps it’s just become an environment of dull, boring routine. Whatever the problem, this is a call for action.

We spend a lot of time talking about the benefits of an engaged team. We know from good, solid research that engagement on the part of your team not only saves you money, it can dramatically increase your bottom line. As employees become more and more engaged, clients respond in kind. They experience greater satisfaction and happiness; they tell others about your service. No – that’s not quite right: your customers start to enthuse about your service, using words like “saved my life” and other superlatives.

The end result for your company? Bottom line success.

We know that’s the goal, but what if you’re just at the starting gate? Perhaps you’ve recently acquired new properties, or added services. How do you build that team, especially if you start with indications of problems brewing?

It may be time to freshen up the systems you use overall. Perhaps you’re already an online learning user – mix it up, by blending with events, goals and in-house opportunities to show what your team has learned. (Need ideas? We’ve packed several into this month’s aQuire Client Newsletter.)

In our assisted living company, we created an annual event that helped us focus on our team – every year, like clockwork. We set aside an entire month – October – for employee recognition. During that month, our site managers competed to see who could come up with the most innovative and creative ways to recognize staff. One year, a manager even went out to the parking lot and spent an afternoon washing every car in the lot. We ended the month with big employee recognition events, honoring the employees’ achievements over the past year, passing out “years of service” pins and providing a feast of food (prepared by someone else for a change).

Sometimes family members joined in the fun; sometimes the group elected a team “king and queen” to celebrate. In every instance, it helped us as a company kick off each fall with a focused month-long celebration of the people who make it all work.

Mennonite Village in Albany, Oregon, celebrates their caregivers by holding a formal ball – in the middle of the afternoon. Every one of their 70+ caregivers receives a door prize or gift, and a dynamic speaker is invited to motivate and energize the group – while helping them build even greater skills. Year after year, administrative staff work to out-do the year before. Community businesses get into the act, donating gift cards and door prizes while recognizing the value caregivers bring to the community.

These and other organizations clearly realize the need to shake things up; to keep energy and focus on learning and growth high.

Betcha their worker’s comp bills show it, too.

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