By Michelle Daniel
President & CEO, The Eden Alternative
“The new hire quit. She seemed like such a great candidate. She interviewed so well, and we all liked her. What happened?” Does this sound familiar in your work environment? There are regularly open positions waiting on the “new hire” and onboarding/orientation is rushed or abbreviated – worse yet, forgotten.
Phrases such as “we’ll train her while she’s in the role” or “she’s been a nurse aide for years, she’ll catch on” seem to be the norm, but are they acceptable?
Are these views improving your culture? When creating or maintaining a culture of person-directed care, the Elders and residents deserve consistent team members and care partners to meet their needs. Continual turnover poses a threat to the quality of care and culture of the Elders, the team, and the community.
I have watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk about the power of why multiple times. In his book, Start with Why, Simon states, “Customers [in our case Elders] will never love a company until the employees love it first.” Do team members love their workplace?
The stress and strain of the past few years has created a culture of distress, pessimism, and despair. The fear of turnover has left us to believe we should not “waste money” on investing in team members. This mindset has not proven fruitful; it has led to further despair and the loss of good team members who have not been given a chance. Investment in education is an investment in the culture, the team, the Elders, and the greater community.
Imagine a stranger knocking on the door of your home and announcing they would be filling the role of your spouse tonight. That is absurd, right? Turnover in eldercare is much like that, as staff care partners provide very intimate care such as bathing, dressing, assisting in the bathroom, and more. This level of intimacy with someone unknown to them can be awkward and unsettling for Elders and staff care partners alike.
The turnover of team members creates confusion and discomfort, especially for Elders with dementia. For people living with forgetfulness, this provides an environment of uncertainty and fear. It can be difficult for those with dementia to communicate exact needs to team members, particularly strangers, which can lead to unmet needs.
How do people with dementia express unmet needs? They may yell out for help, swat at a stranger, cry, etc. Many times, the “behavior” is seen as the problem rather than a response to a problem. The disruption of team is a root cause of many of the negative “behaviors” experienced in eldercare.
We are in a pattern of throwing new hires into “the deep end” of the work pool without providing proper “swimming” lessons and wonder why they are drowning, or worse yet, have drowned in work and quit.
To properly fill positions, we must invest time in new team members and give them a chance. I find many long-term team members grow calloused and do not want to welcome new team members into the fold. Comments such as, “I’ll see another one next month” and “I wonder how long this one will last,” are commonplace for those who are “seasoned” employees.
Trust in the success of new employees is low among those who have worked for lengthy periods of time because they have seen so many new employees come and go. There is often a mindset among long-term team members that training new employees is a waste of time.
We are often experts in welcoming new Elders into our communities. We know their names and their family members’ names. We have their room decorated with their family pictures, familiar furniture pieces, and bedspreads. We know their unique dietary and engagement preferences. We know their preferences on medication passes, showering, waking, mealtimes, etc.
We work hard to have Elders become well-known, and we are good at it! Why can’t we be just as good at welcoming new team members? Human Resources has a key role in your culture. Andrew Mason, businessperson, and entrepreneur, says, “Hire great people and give them freedom to be awesome.” This is great and there is another step: we need to invest in them before we set them free to be awesome.
We must shift our paradigm to invest in new team members as if our culture depends on it. Jessica Herrin, CEO and founder of Stella and Dot, says, “Shaping your culture is more than half done when you hire your team.” If this is true, then the other part of shaping your culture must be the investment in the team once they are on board the ship. Where do we go for this investment? How do we get long-term team members to choose optimism and hope versus pessimism and despair?
The answer is opportunity and education. Providing the team, both seasoned and new, with education from The Eden Alternative, empowers individuals to become Culture Keepers. These are the team members who are trained to believe in the culture they have established and been a part of, and they are invested in the success of this culture. When people rally behind a mindset of a healthy culture, the structure of a consistent, compassionate workplace is established and is ripe for growth.
By using the Eden Approach, team members have opportunities to create a positive culture for the community in which they work, to see the Elder/resident as a whole person – not as a task but as a person who is happy and thriving. They create an environment that is relationship-rich, where people understand Elder-directed living, understand the social plagues Elders are experiencing, and have the tools to combat these plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. They learn leadership skills regardless of their role and gain an understanding of true empowerment.
What investments are you willing to make to ensure employee sustainability and organizational culture?
The Eden Alternative has a variety of online and in-person classes offered to welcome team members into the culture. Within the Eden Alternative, we believe the antidote to fear is education. For more information on educational offerings provided by The Eden Alternative, go to:
Do you know about the new membership model of The Eden Alternative? Connect with people and organizations that are living the Eden Approach. Consider becoming an individual and/or organizational member of the Eden Alternative today.