“It’s important to us that employees are engaged and feel empowered to give residents the best experience,” said Kelly Johansson, director of human resources at United. The interaction between leadership, staff and residents is paramount in contributing to a positive living and working relationship at United’s two communities. While United encourages honest communication to improve life at United, United surveyed staff recently in an anonymous, third-party survey to confirm the ongoing feedback they were receiving. “The response from employees was overwhelmingly positive, but also highlighted a couple of areas that can be improved, which will help guide us in making living and working at United even more rewarding.”
Seventy percent of United staff completed the engagement survey, providing United with a comprehensive assessment of employee perceptions regarding the workplace and culture.
United’s philosophy centres around a people-focused culture. The two communities are built on a social model rather than on a medical model of operations. This means that programs, lifelong learning and an active lifestyle are in the forefront of operational decisions. While the medical side is important and necessary, it operates in the background to ensure residents are looked after without staff in white coats and stethoscopes being an obvious part of the landscape.
“What we found was very encouraging and confirmed that staff find United a great place to work,” said Kelly. “Some 95% of staff said that doing their work well was satisfying, they understand what is expected of them and they understand United’s goals and philosophy. Being an inclusive community – one that includes residents with dementia in all of our programs – is a unique business model. Not many older adult communities have moved in that direction. We encourage staff to spend time getting to know residents. This includes housekeepers, food servers, reception, programming, etc. It takes more time, but these are areas that are very important to us and to residents in order to maintain the positive lifestyle that residents expect, and the positive work/life balance that we encourage for staff.”
“I like the people I work with, I’m making a difference in the lives of residents, I like what I do” were the three top reasons for the high level of job satisfaction found in the survey.
“When I came here in October, 2017, I walked through the front door and heard laughter,” said Cristine Torlao, a licensed practical nurse. “It’s a very welcoming environment and I’m excited to come to work each day. There is no feeling of boss and staff. We are treated as friends not just employees. Important for me is that my perception of aging has changed. The residents here are lively and friendly. It’s a good environment to work in.”
“The staff are great here,” said resident Ron Fraser, who with his wife Irene, celebrated their 65th anniversary last September. “After Irene passed away in February, the staff would greet me with a hug. We were blessed to have moved in here when we did. Everyone is so helpful and nice. The servers are excellent and very friendly. One could not ask for more!”
Resident Jim Dolph moved into Garrison Green in 2014. Shortly afterwards, his wife passed away. “I was amazed at how much the staff cared about what was happening in my life. They genuinely care and are always there when I need it. The staff in every department is so caring – nursing, the arts and music programs, food services, housekeeping. Because we live in a community, there is always someone around. That wouldn’t be the case if I lived on my own. There’s a comfort there.” Jim, who also sits on the resident council, said that United’s philosophy encourages resident involvement. “We give them suggestions for programs and food services. For instance, the chef, Ryan Chisholm, sends surveys around asking residents for suggestions about the meals they would like served.”
“I think understanding about United’s philosophy goes back to who we are hiring. United is very different than where they may have worked before. It’s not just about delivering medication on time,” said Kelly. “It’s about living and working in a community, getting to know everyone as you would a family member, and being there for support when it’s needed. It’s encouraging that the survey confirmed that employees not only understand United’s philosophy but are engaged in it in everything they do.”
Photos and video by Sherana Productions.
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To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.