Brand Mission Motivates Employees in Senior Living

In the Harvard Business Review’s recent article, “What Great Companies Know About Culture,” a core message is conveyed: “Those companies who are committed to a strong workplace culture tend to perform well.” A strong workplace culture is proven to improve the balance sheet for its company by 20-30%.

The balance sheet may be the bottom line for company owners, but research shows the bottom line for employees is something else. According to the Harvard Business Review article, employees in top-ranked companies are most motivated by career development opportunities and “brand mission,” a sense of identity and purpose within the organization.

Senior living communities may not be able to offer all their employees all the perks of top-ranked companies (health insurance, family leave, flex time, childcare, etc.), and they may not be able to pay frontline employees more than minimum wage. Low pay is one reason retention rates are historically low in long-term care. However, workplace culture—which top companies rank as the most influential aspect (80%) of daily operations—can be created and sustained for very little money.

In my experience working in long-term care, I have seen what happens when employees find meaning in their work. I recall a teenage kitchen worker who was just looking for work and happened to get a job in a nursing home. His focus was all about the money. However, after working there for a while, he reported that, “The residents just grow on you, and you realize you can help them just by being present and nice. You realize many don't have family. It makes me miss the family members I have lost, and this way I can give back.” He had a new sense of purpose and connection that motivated him to improve service…and to stay with the company regardless of his minimal wages.

Our responsibility as leaders in this marketplace is to create the workplace culture that helps employees find meaning in what they do. We can show employees that we value them in concrete ways that have nothing to do with their paychecks. Training them in communication skills is an ideal place to start. This is the kind of career development opportunity that motivates employees. Giving them tools to help them relate with residents, administrators, and each other is an investment in community that creates meaning and value for all stakeholders.

Kind Dining®-Bringing Warmth to the Table is a 9-module training series designed to transform and elevate the dining experience in senior living communities.

These training sessions foster closer relationships by honoring residents, valuing servers and respecting the quality of the dining experience.

To read more about the value of training staff for service improvement and ROI for doing so, purchase Hospitality for Boomers: How to attract residents, retain staff, and maximize profitability. A $5.00 discount will be available through June 30. Please quote this article.

For further information, visit our website at, or contact Cindy Heilman MS, DTR at [email protected] or at 503-913-1978.