How to build ladders.

How to build ladders.

There’s a path that leads straight up to the pinnacle of your organizational dreams: Get good at the people stuff. Stay good at the people stuff.

In my last blog, I wrote about leaders who dare to dream and why you should be one of them. 

Deep down ALL leaders dream about leaving a legacy. Making a difference. Changing lives. Creating something truly wonderful! It’s why you show up and give your all. But it can seem so far out of reach with staff shortages robbing hours from your days and sleep from your nights.

How can I achieve big things when it feels like I’m barely surviving?! 

Remember the game Chutes and Ladders? No strategy, all chance, but fun and easy to play. You need those ladders to get to the top first and win. Hit a chute and, oh man, back you go! 

Leadership is the ultimate game of Chutes and Ladders. The big difference being, you can use strategy to avoid the chutes and get your team climbing ladder after ladder toward success.

What’s the strategy in this high stakes game? Great workplace culture, of course!

Before playing, though, you really need to understand one thing: How does it feel to work here? “Here” being your organization.

You think of this all the time in regard to your residents and patients. How does it feel to live here, get treatment here? 

Understanding the employee perspective, by measuring your culture, allows you to improve their experience so you can retain your best employees and find more like them.

We have a bird’s-eye view into organizations and communities of all shapes and sizes and where they fall on the “game board.” From the upward thriving to the backward slip sliding and all the varieties in between. 

Take Community X for example:

  • Turnover is 76% (above average for senior living) 
  • Culture Score of 15 – Very Poor 
  • Cultural Entropy* of 48%
  • Staff in this community report the current culture to be one of blame, confusion, bullying, information hoarding, silo mentality, job insecurity, control, bureaucracy, hierarchy, and cost reduction. 

(*Cultural entropy is the collective negative values that work to hold an organization back. This number represents the time wasted by employees because of those negative values.)

This organization has major people problems. They encounter mostly chutes, and they waste roughly half of their productivity time dealing with the fallout from the negative parts of their culture. They are fighting to stay afloat, and fighting amongst themselves too. The leader of this community is not inspiring a forward vision or dreaming big dreams—nope, no time for that! They’re helping serve lunch because Food Service is understaffed, and after that it’s time to give out meds since someone called out in Nursing.

And then there’s Community Y: 

  • Turnover is 39% (below average for senior living) 
  • Culture Score of 89 – Very Strong
  • Cultural Entropy of 9%
  • Staff in this community report the current culture to be one of employee recognition, caring, diversity, respect, employee engagement, teamwork, encouragement, compassion, safety, and quality of life.

Strong and angled to get stronger, this organization encounters way more ladders because they have built them! It’s clear they are focused on creating and maintaining a culture centered around their people, and because of that, they experience better retention and productivity. If we were to look at their occupancy, we would see a similarly strong upward trend there too. There are no accidents when leaders use culture to their advantage. Speaking of leaders, the leader of this community is focusing on innovation and revamping their mentor program.

The path to sustained success for these vastly different “players” is the same. Simple and good people stuff.

For Community X, we suggest they start with building respect, communication, and teamwork. For Community Y, we encourage a focus on coaching, inclusion, and empathy. Simple stuff. Even the leader in Community X, who’s doing every job under the roof just to get by, has the time and bandwidth to do this kind of work.

And culture work makes everyone feel good, especially the leader. Feels a lot like making a difference, changing lives, and creating something truly wonderful… That’s what you want after all, right?

So, what’s your employee experience like? Are you guessing? Or do you know for sure?

We can help you get really good at the people stuff so you can reach new and exciting heights. Make the first move by reaching out to us at [email protected].

Demystify culture. Use your data to strategize. Climb more ladders.


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