In a time when turnover in senior living hovers around 80%, is it believable that a housekeeping department has managed to keep turnover at under 5%?  I didn’t believe it when I first heard it, so I sat down with the director of housekeeping to find out.

She opened the conversation by admitting she has lost a total of three housekeepers in the last three years: the first one passed her Pharmacist exam as she came to America from another country, one finished PT school and the third accepted a position as director of dining services at a nearby hospital.  It would be very tough to make this stuff up.

Here are her tips to building a dedicated team:

  • She is generous with giving them time off. The #1 value on her team is family, and she is committed to giving them all the time they need to have a family life.  Hint: They do it by filling in for each other, which means the staff on duty work extra hard to make up for their teammate’s time off.  It is eagerly reciprocated.
  • The team has respect for authority and their leader is approachable, helpful and stands by her team. She would stand in front of a train for them, and they know it.
  • She trains them by teaching and modeling the behaviors she wants to see exhibited. She shows them how to talk to a resident and teaches them tips and tricks to get the job done more efficiently.  These folks love to go home early!
  • She demonstrates servant leadership. It is not uncommon for her to prepare their housekeeping carts for the next day, so they can clock out and go home.
  • They decide among themselves what buildings they will work in, who will be on their team and how many apartments they will get cleaned in a day. Daniel Pink calls this autonomy, or self-directed behavior, which is the single greatest driver of employee engagement.

Here’s the best part – these fine folks don’t work for the money they make, and we know they are likely the lowest paid employees in the organization.  They work for accomplishment, community and being part of something bigger than themselves.

Isn’t that why we all go to work every day?


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