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What Traits and Behaviors Truly Matter for Assisted Living Staff?

June 29, 2016

assisted-living.jpgWe’ve implemented selection and hiring tools for long-term care organizations. In a previous life, I ran the rehab departments for a group of long-term care facilities. I’m familiar with the business and its challenges, and the often under-appreciated work performed by caregivers. In recent weeks, though, the reality of the impact of staff quality hit home.

On short notice, I had to research and visit local assisted living facilities to place my father. It became immediately apparent that the traits and behaviors of the administrators, nurses, and staff would drive my decision. Sure, the facilities themselves and other variables were important, but I quickly found myself judging the staff’s behaviors and the way they treated me, each other, and their residents as the most important factor.

We chose a facility based on these impressions. I quickly saw that the staff, as a group, demonstrate important personality traits, as well as obviously learned behaviors. They are attentive and alert to the needs of the residents. They aren’t easily frustrated – and working with dementia patients, in particular, can be frustrating. They were patient. They treated the residents, and each other, with respect and kindness. They clearly get joy and personal satisfaction from helping others. I also saw that supervisors treat staff with respect and kindness – which makes employees feel valued, makes them care about their jobs, and tends to reduce staff turnover. Turnover is a big problem for long-term care organizations – with some facilities seeing short-term turnover as high as 75%.

While I was noticing important personality traits, at the same time, I saw evidence of specific learned behaviors. When you enter the building, staff have learned the best way to welcome residents and family members, they are diligent about introducing themselves, and they’ve learned key communication strategies to use with residents are confused. In other words, this facility has found a way to target, in their selection process, the personality traits and behaviors that help to create the culture and environment that is at the core of their mission. Then they train staff and put programs in place to make them feel valued. Rest-assured, I saw other facilities where this is NOT the case.

One of the greatest things they did? We visited the facility a few times before moving in and on each occasion, nearly every staff member who saw us, made a point to introduce themselves to my Father, by name, and assured him that they looked forward to working with him. A small gesture but they knew it would help to put him at ease.

I can tell you that, as a family member, it’s reassuring to know that the facility takes the commitment to its staff seriously. Because, on a daily basis, those front line staff members decide whether individuals in their later years enjoy each day.

Every healthcare organization needs to think this way. Every healthcare organization has a mission that talks about patient or resident-centered care, about keeping people healthy, about empathy, and respecting patient/resident dignity, etc. But, all of the medical technology, skill, and advancements in the world mean nothing if they aren’t deployed and implemented in a caring manner, by caring individuals who want to serve patients and residents. With that in mind, I realized this past week, that selecting and developing talent isn’t just a nice strategy for organizational success, but it makes all the difference in the world, every day, for patients, residents, and family members.

To learn more about culture, behaviors, and outcomes, click the button below to download our whitepaper:

How Culture Drives or Hinders Hospital Outcomes

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.