Satisfaction and Engagement: The Magic Elixir for Stellar Assisted Living Employees

Power of Love imageFrom the most technical medical journals to health magazines, from survey after survey,  medical research findings after medical findings, one thing is clear: positive human contact promotes healing and health. Positive human contact keeps people alive.  Positive human contact is why we are all here, making life richer and deeper through our connections to the other.

A satisfied employee is likely to be engaged but one does not necessarily follow the other. An employee may be happy with their salary and hours and like their boss.  But the job of the Executive Directors and leaders is to bring that satisfaction up a notch and create an environment where employees care about the people they serve and are willing to better their performance.   And service – service for human beings – many alone, frightened and in physical distress – is a commitment of the highest order.

Creating engaged employees takes strong leadership and an open heart. It is also the most profound and powerful way to create residents who feel a sense of belonging about where they live and recommend it to others. Creating engaged employees is, to use a Silicon Valley term, growth-hacking of the most effective kind.  Word of mouth from your residents and their families will bring more new business to your doorstep than you imagined. Your waiting list will grow and every resident becomes an authentic advertisement of your team’s talent and commitment. And, you haven’t spent a dime on advertising.

As a colleague said recently, “As you know, continuous service improvement and relationship building around mealtimes needs to be constantly fed.”

Indeed. That’s where our Kind Dining® training steps in and begins “feeding” the kitchen and dining room staff.   With each “engagement” morsel you feed them – smile, connect with your client through touch or direct conversation, remember details about individuals, be present as you work, be aware of the shifting needs around you, and most importantly –resolve issues through his or her strengths of  “engagement” – you empower your staff to rise to challenges. Some may use a joke to diffuse a difficult situation. Others might empathize. Let the employee use his or her strengths in the way they engage: Everyone is different.

In communities constantly attempting to better their own records on satisfaction and engagement often find better health outcomes. Less UTIs. Less falls and diminished pressure sores.

From the administrator’s point of view, engaged employees mean less turnover and that means a more profitable organization. Service is not interrupted, endless basic training is not necessary, and important relationships between staff and clients are not disrupted.

Where does this engagement come from? The top, of course. The highest ranking administrators in any organization set the tone and energy of the entire operation.

Call it “the trickle down effect” and, while it doesn’t work in economics, it is a beautiful paradigm for a successful community.

“Our job as leaders is to awaken that kind of energy, not to tell [employees] how to serve and be engaged. I believe that deep down, as humans, there is a desire to make a difference,” says Ullom-Vucelich. “Our job as leaders is to really find out what makes people tick and afford them the opportunity to bring that to life.”

Ms. Ullom-Vucelich has it right: Allow individual strengths to rise and guide them gently through how these strengths matter to the lives of the elderly. Encourage different work styles to meet the many personalities of the clients. Talk about creating positive energy in the face of a difficult day.

As always, the best place to check in and bond is around the table. When an engaged, empowered employee turns their attention and best intentions on their clients, magic can – and does – happen every day.

About Cindy Heilman

Cindy is the founder and owner of Kind Dining®, which she began in 2006. She’s traveled across the country and Canada working with and training senior living communities that want to create an exceptional dining experience for their residents and staff. In addition, she certifies select professionals in her Kind Dining® philosophy and provides tools, now in an eLearning format, that make learning stick and help people put insights into action. As a result of her work, clients often share their staff has a new sense of purpose, get along better and keep their focus and energy on what matters most. In fact, she wrote a book, Hospitality for Boomers on how to attract residents and keep good team members. In her free time, she enjoys walking Oregon trails and cheering on her favorite soccer teams, the Portland Thorns and Timbers.

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