One orders a Tito’s and soda, one orders a Diet Coke, one orders a Cabernet, one orders a Miller Light, one orders a Corona, no lime. The conversation flows. There is always a lot to catch up on.
“What do you guys think about culture? It’s become a real buzzword in other industries,” Tito’s asks the group.
“Yeah, it’s a big deal, culture,” Diet Coke chimes in first. “It influences how our people deal with our customers, the quality of the work they deliver, their engagement, teamwork, our reputation in the community.”
Nods of agreement all around the table.
“Culture is behind everything we do. All of our outcomes. Even the bottom line,” Cabernet adds. The mention of the bottom line causes each leader to go quiet and take a fortifying gulp of their drink.
“So, how are you working on your culture then, since we all agree that it’s so important?” Tito’s inquires.
The question is met with silence and shrugs.
Diet Coke finally speaks up, “We survey engagement yearly.”
Cabernet adds, “Us too.”
Corona orders nachos.
“I think engagement is important, don’t get me wrong, but isn’t it really another entity that’s influenced by culture?” Tito’s asks.
The others are mostly silent, with Corona adding a slight nod of his head.
“We are so strategic with so many aspects of our business…we have detailed sales goals, comprehensive marketing plans, key staffing initiatives, clinical guidelines…” Tito’s looks around the group of accomplished and impressive leaders.
More silence. Corona is working on a blob of salsa that landed on his shirt.
“I’m really struggling with this. Not being strategic with our culture seems like a huge missed opportunity in our work,” Tito’s laments as she crosses her arms over her chest.
Cabernet joins in on what has largely been a one-sided conversation. “Ninety percent of what I am doing right now is trying to get people into open shifts; that’s my priority. I feel like I am always behind the eight ball with urgency after urgency. We barely get them trained and then, poof, we’re replacing them. One of my directors is always saying that this is just the way it is nationwide. Everyone is struggling. It’s just the line of work we’re in. It makes me feel a little better, I guess.”
“That’s total BS,” Tito’s retorts.
“I don’t know, I tend to think we are just fighting a losing battle. The quality and quantity of the people we are able to attract has gone way down in the last five years. They just want a paycheck now. They don’t care where it comes from either—from us, Walmart, the Exxon down the street.” Diet Coke adds with a shrug. “And I am left dealing with the fallout when they just up and leave. Then there’s the care we are providing. I am really worried about it. How can we sustain quality care like this?”
Miller Light agrees and talks about a sign-on bonus initiative they have started, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much.
“So, this is all very depressing. What about the hard data? What about your turnover?” Tito’s presses.
They each offer turnover numbers ranging from average to bad to worse, though Corona cannot be exactly sure of their data. They discuss retention and recruitment challenges, along with high agency and overtime costs across the board.
Diet Coke speaks about losing an MDS Coordinator who was pretty much irreplaceable. “She was driven out by mean girls. Like high school stuff. But with grown women.” With a tinge of regret he adds, “She was amazing.”
They all commiserate with audible sighs.
Again, it’s Tito’s driving the conversation, “I can’t believe this is where we are at! If someone from outside our field were listening in on this conversation, they would be appalled to learn we are talking about organizations caring for seniors! It’s inexcusable.”
She takes a sip of her drink and leans back in her chair. “I’m taking the road less traveled here, fellas. This culture stuff is not just fluff. It’s the reason we can’t get our acts together with staffing. I’m convinced of it. I’m getting my executive team on board and we are going to figure out how to be strategic with our culture. I’m not exactly sure how, but mark my words, at this conference next year, I will be on the stage presenting our results!” And with a wicked smile she adds, “And you all will be in the audience, taking notes.”
The group chuckles and they clink glasses with a cheer. The others feel a little unsettled, though. The thing about Tito’s is, if she’s onto something, the rest of the group knows they should probably follow suit.
Tito’s goes on to enlist Drive for help, and the very next year, at this same conference, she presents, “How a Commitment to Culture Stabilizes Staffing and Positively Impacts Census” while her leader friends watch on. And yes, this is a huge teaser for some very exciting research that Drive is working on with culture and census.
Drive does not condone consumption of alcoholic beverages. But if you must, always make sure your culture is stronger than your drink.