“Working at United requires a different mindset than what you would find at any other older adult community,” said United’s Human Resources director Kelly Johansson. “We are looking for people who are open to our philosophy, see aging as a time of opportunity and growth and view all of our residents as assets.”
Kelly receives several hundred applications each week from people interested in a range of jobs from housekeeping and food preparation to Health Care Aides and Licensed Practical Nurses.
“We spend a lot of time in interviews listening to how an applicant replies to questions, and the language they use,” said Kelly. “Body language is another indicator for us. When we tell an applicant that we don’t put people with dementia on segregated floors, there can be an immediate reaction, either positive or negative. That’s an important consideration for us because we want to ensure we find employees who embrace our culture. Our culture and vision underlies everything we do. In fact, we believe culture is just as important as technical skills.
“Because we operate off of a social model of care we see building relationships and getting to know residents as paramount. Our staff are encouraged to get to know the residents, their histories and families so they can provide the best quality support and services. For us, sitting down and having a chat with a resident is just as important a task as distributing medication or cleaning a suite. Our residents are the experts; they tell us how they want to live. Task and service delivery is organized according to their lifestyles and rhythms not for the convenience of staff.”
Kelly suggests applicants spend time looking on the United website to appreciate the philosophy that United has created. “Our culture and our approach to aging is so critical to what we do,” she said.
United’s two communities – at Garrison Green and Fish Creek – together employ about 160 staff who take part in regular in-house training programs that reinforce United’s unique culture. The care to ensure the right people are hired is evident in the reaction of residents.
“Every staff member contributes to the well-being of residents. Housekeepers, servers and creative facilitators regularly interact with residents, who appreciate the effort the staff put in to make their days interesting and rewarding,” said Kelly.
United has partnerships with a number of organizations, including Mount Royal University and St. Mary’s University. Students from the Nursing and English programs regularly work with residents at the two communities, initially to gain experience, but learn so much more while there.
“Bringing students in is a highlight for residents,” said Kelly. “Some come in with pre-conceived ideas about older adults and leave with a completely changed perspective. Often we find the students develop close friendships with the residents and visit them even after the school term is over. This is particularly evident with Mount Royal’s English students who create writing projects with residents.”
United’s approach is unique, as is its approach to hiring the right staff. “Working at United is a very rewarding experience. It’s worth our investment in the time and training even if staff move on in their careers. The experience they gain while here gives them a new perspective should they work with older adults again,” said Kelly.
Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help!