Posted in on July 5, 2017

LeadingAge PA Outtakes – Gaining Organizational Strength from Stories

Editor’s Note: Last week, several of Creating Results’ leaders went to Hershey, PA, for the annual LeadingAge Pennsylvania conference. In addition to sharing our own insights with attendees, team members had the privilege of learning from other presenters.

Over the next few posts, we’ll share some OUTtakes and INsights for marketing to seniors and Baby Boomers.


SESSION: “Resident Storytelling and Employee Engagement”

SPEAKERS: Niamh Fabiszewski, Director of Application Services; Jeremy Neely, VP Northeast Region

To many employees at senior living communities, the residents of those communities are merely aggregated statistics.

Employees tasked with running many of the day-to-day functions (think finance, information technology, laundry services) miss out on interaction with the older adults living on campus.

This is especially true when provider organizations have multiple communities spread across regions or even the country – the “corporate office” team may have little contact with those they serve.

Acts Retirement Life Communities has 22 campuses in eight states, with 6,000 employees and 9,000 residents. Their mission statement explains:

“Acts is committed to providing security and peace of mind to seniors by being a pre-eminent provider of retirement-life services, responsive to individual, social, personal, health and spiritual needs in a Christian atmosphere graced with loving-kindness, dignity, sensitivity, honesty and respect without prejudice or preference.”

Niamh Fabiszeski is an Acts Information Technology specialist. She launched an initiative to connect Acts corporate employees to the organization’s mission through storytelling.

At the 2017 LeadingAge PA conference, Fabiszewski and Jeremy Neely, VP of Acts’ Northeast Region, reported on the project and its results.


“The Privilege of Getting to Know Our Residents”

While Fabiszewski was a participant in the LeadingAge PA Fellows in Leadership Program, she chose to address the disconnect between corporate employees and residents. Her LeadingAge project quickly took off.

Fabiszewski sees it as a disconnect between right- and left-brain, as well:

“With technology replacing many traditional jobs we need to be developing a workforce that is empathetic, intuitive and in touch with the organizations mission. These right-brained attributes are becoming as important as the job functions we perform.”

R-SEE (Resident Storytelling and Employee Engagement) involves sending corporate team members out to Acts communities to interview residents. Accountants, IT team members and others schedule times to talk with residents. They arrive at the communities armed with starter questions. Then, they talk, take photos and write up brief narratives about the resident’s life and passions.

(Click on any thumbnail above to view a gallery of sample resident stories.)

Photos are posted on the walls of corporate and regional offices. “We decorate our walls as a daily reminder of who we serve,” said the presenters.

As the pilot program expands, the team is using the Microsoft SWAY presentation app to capture these stories digitally. Acts is starting blogs to help residents write their stories. They’ll share all the stories with all residents and employees via portals and other channels.


Benefits to Employees AND Residents

Through the pilot program, Acts found that as stories came out, these “numbers” became people.

It shifted the way business was done. Friendships grew, talents were uncovered and corporate employees were now making decisions with a deeper understanding of the true heart and passions of the community.

(clockwise from top left) Acts team members Niamh Fabiszewski, Jeremy Neeley and Heather Roller with resident Alicia Peale. Source: Acts Retirement Life Communities

(clockwise from top left) Acts team members Niamh Fabiszewski, Jeremy Neely and Heather Roller with resident Alicia Peale.
Source: Acts Retirement Life Communities

Residents tell the team they also have benefited.

“They want to know us, the employees, on a personal level,” said Fabiszeski. “They want to know that we care about them as people and not just as a business.”


Actionable ideas for Marketing and Management

Challenge yourself and your team: you are around residents, but do you really know them? Not just their name or room number, or what they did for a career, but their favorite stories, their passions.

You then have a true connection with the resident and are not merely going to a job every day.

Neely noted “Now when an employee might ask themselves, ‘is it really important if I get this assignment done?’ All they have to do is look up at the walls and say, oh yeah, Bill or Mary is counting on me.”

I can’t help but note that there is marketing gold in these stories, as well.

Creating Results’ experience marketing senior living communities is that prospects want to know “Will I fit in? Are there people like me? Will I still be respected as an individual?”

Authentic, personal stories such as the ones gathered through R-SEE can help future residents answer those questions.


The moral of this tale? Don’t leave stories untold.

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