By | October 3, 2015

This is an exciting week at Relias Learning! We’ve just launched our white paper “Demystifying Employee Engagement for the Senior Care Executive”.   It’s a doozy – and chock-a-block FULL of great ideas, useful information and help as we all struggle to take our organizations to the next level.

I am a believer in engagement. In the “old days,” we simply called it “culture” because “engagement” wasn’t on our radar yet. You know…doing the right thing. We knew instinctively that communities that had “that certain something” did better, but we didn’t really have data to show us exactly what that meant.   So we tried to teach a lot of things to get at “culture” – things like new hire orientation messaging, customer service – I still get asked for “person-centered care” training. And it was almost always targeted at new hires. As if somehow we could mold them. It wasn’t us, it was them, those new people! With little effort expended on the people who were already in the organization, particularly managers at all levels.

So the inevitable results of this well meant thinking was culture that was taught in orientation but not lived on the floor. And new hires pick up on that immediately. THAT, unfortunately, ends up being your “culture”, not what you spent time and money teaching.

When really, what we were wanting was an engaged workforce built on a strong culture. A workforce that treats people – residents, families and each other – with respect and can think on its feet.

I remember one of my most rewarding engagement efforts was as an education leader of a large senior living provider. We hosted a leadership summit for new community leaders routinely, and one of the main objectives of senior leadership for this conference was to impart to the attendees “our culture”.

But I began to wonder if “culture” was too broad. I knew these new leaders barely had time to breathe, were struggling with ALL they had to learn as new Executive Directors – from ordering toilet paper to counseling families – it’s a big job, let me tell you. And they needed concrete strategies to build stronger communities.

So my charge and challenge was to make their learning effective enough so that they could take the concepts back immediately to translate into action. They needed to impact retention, customer service, peer and supervisor interactions, quality initiatives, census building – nearly every aspect of their community.

We developed a workshop on what engagement looked like and how to leverage it. Using the research by Lee, Mitchell and Holtom, (that this new Relias Learning white paper is based upon), we dove into what exactly “engagement” meant, how do new hires “think”, and developed concrete strategies that they could use to build an engaged community linked to our overarching culture. We taught them how pivotal they are to walking the walk and influencing their teams. We discussed in-seat leaders that weren’t walking the walk back home at their communities. It was highly engaging and effective. I still hear from some of my EDs that were in these sessions many moons ago. Talk about rewarding!

That’s why I’m so excited that Relias Learning is bringing the white paper to a wider audience. It’s also why we named it “Demystifying Engagement.” I think that’s important. We need to rethink what we are teaching, how we are teaching, and quite frankly, who we are teaching.

But the good news is, it isn’t hard. It isn’t even time-consuming necessarily if you have the right tools and approach. It is, however, vitally important and it does take long range focus. And we know how our people pick up on it if it is a fresh coat of paint or a program of the month.   We don’t want disappointed people – on the floor or in the boardroom. So we must be careful with engagement and culture interventions and make sure we are doing it for the long haul.

So download that white paper and get to reading! I hope the ideas and insights here will help you.

In addition, I’d love to hear from you with ideas and things you are doing that make a difference in your communities. I would encourage you to compare and contrast culture and engagement. How do you link them together? What are you doing to keep your people? What works? What doesn’t?

We want to share these ideas as we receive them, and once we get going, we’ll select one or two for a highlight post here in the blog every week. I’d love to share and make you the star! All the others we’ll post on a page so we can share best practices all around. You can share anonymously or with your community flag flyin’! It’s up to you! So send those ideas and stories from the trenches to

As always, thank you for your time in reading this blog. And thank you so much for caring for our seniors. I hope you find these thoughts useful, and go out there and make it a great day!

Jan Wilson, MEd, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Director of Learning Design and Outcomes

Director of Learning Designs and Outcomes at Relias, Jan brings over 25 years of technology, human resources and learning expertise to the Relias team. Her experience in senior care spans more than a decade, including serving as a senior executive of learning strategy with one of the country's largest providers. As an organizational development consultant, she has provided strategic planning, process alignment, curriculum development and planning, and learning solutions to a variety of clients in pharma, healthcare and state governments.


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