It Is Time to Quit Cookie Cuttering Your Team Members?

  • I am just coming off a stimulating day of strategic planning led by Jody Lentz for Abe’s Garden. We spent a huge amount of time looking at a variety of staffing issues . . . actually I am not sure “issues” is quite the right term because by any reasonable metric Abe’s Garden is doing very well. Perhaps a better description would be how do we figure out how to make a good thing even better?

    A Little Side Bar -- A Brutal Process

    This strategic planning session brought together world-class experts in the senior living world with the express purpose of exploring how we can make Abe’s Garden a better place for residents, family members and staff. By any traditional metric Abe's Garden and Park Manor, the attached independent living community, can only be seen as a smashing success. All three levels of care are full with waiting lists and there is positive cash flow.

    There is no sense on the part of anyone that there are troubled waters ahead.

    Yet we spent the day poking holes in the program, asking “how can we make this better?”  “What is not good enough?” I just want to give a big shout out to Andrew Sandler, a Senior Living Leadership Hub community member, and his team for allowing us . . . for embracing a process where a bunch of experts drop in to do a critical analysis of the community and then make recommendations about how to do it better.

    It is a fun and exciting process for those of us who do not work for Abe’s Garden. At the end of the day we tell them what we think THEY should do and then walk away with zero risk -- and yes, that is what I do at Senior Housing Forum every day.

    The Cookie Cutter Problem

    In the process of opening Abe's Garden the team did two very unique things:

    1. They created a 45-hour workweek schedule that was designed to give each team member 5 hours of overtime per week. (This will be a separate article at Senior Housing Forum.)

    2. They created a very specific career path for care partners that provides some substantive increases in pay for stepping through the career path.

    As part of the preparation process for this session they did a satisfaction survey of team members that among other things asked how much they liked these two programs. The first was fairly popular (but not spectacularly popular). The second did essentially nothing for team members, which was a big surprise to everyone.

    As we worked through this it seemed apparent that what happened was that management made some assumptions about what would inspire the team without actually asking the team what actually would inspire them.

    This is not an atypical thing for senior living leadership teams to do. They have certain goals they need to meet and ideas about how to meet them. They also have budget constraints that have to be adhered to.  The idea of asking team members to weigh in on this issue is scary because they don’t automatically understand both the minimum task requirements and the budgetary constraints.  

    And yet . . . if you promulgate a program that turns your team members off instead of on, it is wasted time and effort. Not quite right, it actually hurts the team.