The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the staffing challenges faced by senior living providers, but it has also created opportunities for new and creative ideas to attract and retain talent according to Cindy Baier, president and chief executive officer of Brookdale Senior Living. Baier recently shared several creative ways Brookdale is meeting its workforce needs during the pandemic at a panel entitled “People: A critical component of a successful community,” during the virtual 2020 National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care Fall Conference.
Baier stressed the importance of creating a culture of trust and respect for Brookdale’s associates as a key element of any strategy to attract and retain talent. She explained how Brookdale’s culture is built on servant leadership with its cornerstones of passion, courage, partnership and trust.
“We have really leveraged the partnership aspect of this and the trust aspect. We’re going to do the right thing for our associates and our residents, and we’re going to do it together,” Baier said. “When you operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no one person can do it all.”
Staffing was a challenge for senior living providers even before the pandemic and with added stress, longer hours and safety concerns, attracting and keeping good people could have become even more difficult. Baier says Brookdale has really focused on wellness issues for its workforce, even bringing in a military official to talk about managing fatigue. The company also implemented a program teaching employees how to be “corporate athletes” by putting a priority on self-care and wellness, such as getting enough rest, exercise and eating right. Just like pro athletes, resting and recharging allows Brookdale associates to focus on performing at their highest level when serving the needs of residents and patients.
“By demonstrating the ability to disconnect and to take time away, that gives people the permission to do what they need to do for themselves and their families,” Baier said. “What we found is that when people have come back, they have come back refreshed, grateful and with more creativity.”