Creating a Beautiful Culture: The Story of Arbor Acres

Creating a Beautiful Culture: The Story of Arbor Acres

The Art of Culture

Like great art, culture starts with imperfect sketches and bad ideas that are discarded, erased, painted over, or changed over time.

When shared values are your paint and every team member contributes by living them, you craft a true masterpiece for all to admire.

Arbor Acres in North Carolina, a Drive ‘World’s Best Culture’ certified organization, has truly mastered this art. We invited them to share a glimpse of their story and introduce us to their Artists who make it all possible.

Beauty is one of the core values of Arbor Acres. Initially, this is most visible through our commitment to the use of original artwork, sculpture, interior design, and exceptional landscaping throughout our community. However, the most potent demonstration of this commitment has always been through the ways those who serve have been able to bring their unique selves to their work.

Artists at Work

At Arbor Acres, we don’t have employees, staff, or associates, we have Artists: over 400 individuals who work every day to create beauty through the work of their hands, their minds, and their hearts for those we are called to serve. Because our Artists are critical to fulfilling our mission, we knew we needed to ensure we were creating the best canvas for our Artists to craft the most beautiful experiences for those we serve. The question was how to do that in a meaningful way.

Because we believe that one of the best measures of culture comes from the stories that our Artists and those we serve share with others, we sought an authentic process for Artists to inform us about our strengths and areas for improvement. Since 2020, Arbor Acres has been collaborating with the Drive team to achieve this.

Measuring and Sculpting the Culture

We initiated our first Culture Values Assessment the week the pandemic struck in 2020, and then again in 2022 and 2023. During that time, our Culture Score rose significantly, climbing from a mere 39 in 2020 to an impressive 77 out of 100 in 2023. The Cultural Entropy Score, which represents behaviors impeding our progress, decreased from 25% to 18%.

These metrics are closely linked to our turnover rates. Current indications suggest our turnover for this year will be lower than the previous two. Notably, turnover among new hires (within their first 30 days) has been cut in half. This improvement stems from insights gained during our previous Culture Values Assessments with Drive, coupled with modifications we implemented in our orientation and onboarding processes based on suggestions from our Artists during Drive’s 2022 Focus Groups.

Reaching this point wasn’t rocket science. It wasn’t an all-consuming effort that sidelined other important priorities either. Instead, it was a commitment to three key priorities identified through our Culture Values Assessment and Focus Group discussions: improving accountability, refining our orientation/onboarding processes, and enhancing communications. We took straightforward yet effective steps to address these priorities:

·       Monthly Managers Meetings: These 90-minute sessions serve as managerial boot camps. We emphasize practical skills to be an effective manager, with a focus on role-playing and collaborative learning.

·       Monthly Communication Tool: Introduced to ensure departmental communication is effective and conveys meaningful updates about community activities.

·       ‘Artist Central’ Online Portal: Designed as a comprehensive resource for every Artist, offering crucial information all in one place.

·       Manager Tools Portal: Provides leaders with quick access to an extensive range of tools, forms, and procedures to aid their responsibilities.

·       Revamped Orientation and Onboarding Process: Transformed from a monotonous PowerPoint presentation to a dynamic and interactive experience that engages new hires holistically.

Doing better for our Artists

What our journey has taught us is that perfection isn’t the goal—it’s about moving forward with authenticity, learning from our mistakes, and continuously refining our skills. The Culture Values Assessment has been instrumental in this process. In all honesty, our culture may not be quite as exemplary as the data suggests, yet our team members—our Artists—recognize our earnest efforts to embody our values in the workplace, and there’s a lot of beauty in that. While there’s room to improve, I’m confident we’re on the right path.

~Andrew W. Applegate, President and Chief Executive Officer, Arbor Acres

He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head, and his heart is an Artist.

– Saint Francis of Assisi

Interested in creating a beautiful workplace culture? Book a free consultation to learn how we can help you! Click here.


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