As I was listening to Jim Knight speak at Argentum Senior Living Executive Conference last week in Denver and while I was reading his book on my return flight to Chicago, I was reminded of an experience when we were taking reservations for an assisted living community we were getting ready to open.
Jim describes himself as a training and culture catalyst, who worked as a middle school teacher for six years before catching the “hospitality buzz.” He cut his teeth in hospitality as a staff-level employee for Olive Garden and Hard Rock Café. Among his responsibilities during his 21-year stint with Hard Rock International was to serve as the head of the company’s School of Hard Rocks.
His book is entitled Culture that ROCKS: How To Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture. He describes it as a “business book to amp up a brand in any industry.”
Two of my biggest take-a-ways from his presentation and his book are as follows:
1. Companies Have to Think Differently About Who They Employ as Team Members
Don’t Tolerate Slackers. In senior living and assisted living, slackers create an anemic experience for residents. They degrade morale and the company’s culture.
Keep in Mind that Rock Stars Come with Baggage
For Today’s Workforce Individuality is a Priority. They are visual learners and technology savvy and dependent. They also are socially conscious and want to do meaningful work. They think they can change the world.
Team members need to have the three C’s – the Competence to do the job, strong Character, and fit the company’s Culture. What Knight finds difficult to understand is why so many companies seem to “hang their hat on Competence” and disregard the importance of Culture. Finding team members who can passionately “ooze the company’s Culture” is critical to success. So long as a person is able to learn, they can develop the ability to do the job with proper training.
2. Service Trumps Everything
It trumps product. It trumps location, location, location. It trumps price.
Remember, nobody talks about a product or service that is middle of the road.
These take-a-ways are what reminded me of the conversation I had several years ago with a woman who was reserving an assisted living apartment for her mother. Out of curiosity, I asked why she decided to reserve an apartment at the community that we were about to open. Why Heritage Woods of Plainfield?
She explained that her mother had been living at Heritage Woods of Yorkville, another community that we manage, until she developed a health problem that necessitated a stay in the hospital and move to a nursing home. With the family not being sure if and when Mom might recover enough to move back into assisted living, they decided to give up the apartment.
She recovered, but an apartment was not available at Heritage Woods. The community had a waiting list so Mom moved into another assisted living community – one that we do not manage.
The decision to move back into a Heritage Woods community was not due to any problems or complaints with where her Mom was currently living and had virtually nothing to do with product, location or price, the daughter said.
She cited two reasons.
Your communities have more activities – more things for residents to do.
The other – the one that is most important – is that you can tell that your staff members really care about, not just for, the residents. They have a passion for what they do.
Here is a quick sampling of just a few of the ways that I have seen this exemplified at the communities we manage:
Staff members entertaining residents by doing the limbo at a special party celebrating the 1950s and dancing with residents at a Senior Prom.
A staff member taking a resident who had always wanted to take a ride on a motorcycle for a spin on a Harley.
Staff members sitting with and comforting residents as they took their last breath.
Creating the right culture certainly can make a big difference.