Employee Satisfaction Has Direct Impact on Bottom Line in Skilled Nursing

A recent survey found a strong correlation between employee satisfaction and resident engagement — which in turn boosts referrals. That means that engaging employees can be a path to better returns on investment.

“The happier the employees, the happier the residents, the better the money,” Todd Schmiedeler of Trilogy Health Services said at a Wednesday panel at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) Fall Conference in Chicago.

Numbers from the Great Place to Work survey of senior care workplaces seem to bear that out. The top half of 79 communities cited in the data had an 83% trust index score, according to Great Place to Work, while the bottom half had a score of 70%. Occupancy in the top half of communities was at 91%; occupancy in the bottom half was at 89%.

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Employee trust also has a correlation with resident and family satisfaction, which as both Fee Stubblefield of The Springs Living and Schmiedeler noted, affects financial performance and investment returns.

“If you don’t have residents … you don’t have returns,” Stubblefield said.

But Doug Lessard of Belmont Village Senior Living stressed that good leadership is crucial to getting the return on investment that comes from happy employees.

“The part that’s hard is the leadership, management, and creating a high-trust culture,” Lessard said at the panel. “A high-trust environment is one where employees feel that leadership is credible.”

The question is how to make employees happier, which can take various forms. The Great Places to Work Survey highlighted several different avenues for doing that; Belmont Village, which ranked No. 15 on the list, has a variety of methods for making sure employees feel engaged, including soliciting direct feedback and holding a Bright Ideas contest to bolster innovation.

The Houston-based Belmont Village develops and operates assisted living communities, with 28 U.S. locations.

For Trilogy Health Services — which offers skilled nursing and senior housing services at 111 locations in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio — backing employee education is a major theme. Trilogy provides millions of dollars in scholarships to employees, and it has paid off in the form of retention; the company has an 82% retention rate among employees 12 months after they receive scholarship aid. And that’s among primarily front-line employees like certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and dietary aides, Schmiedeler said. 

“What we found is Millennials and Gen X don’t want handcuffs on tuition reimbursement,” he noted.

One of the strongest tools that boosted employee retention was the student loan repayment program, Schmiedeler added. 

In Indiana, senior living and health care providers have a partner in the state itself. Indiana’s NextLevel Jobs program provides reimbursement of $5,000 for training new workers, with a cap of $50,000 per employer in high-demand workforce areas, such as health care, according to Blair Milo, secretary of career connections and talent at the state of Indiana.

Such a program acknowledges the reality that providing meaningful professional training, particularly in long-term care, is not cheap.

“When you’re talking about developing people, about allowing them to grow professionally, that takes education, that takes certification,” Schmiedeler said, citing the more than $200 cost of getting dementia certification. “That takes real money. How many people making $12 an hour have [the funds] to put to that?”

Written by Maggie Flynn

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