PHILADELPHIA — Masonic Communities Kentucky is cutting employee turnover by listening to employees about the benefits they want and the policies they perceive as problematic, Trasee Whitaker, the organization’s senior vice president of human resources, told those attending a Monday educational session at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting & Expo.

In one particularly troubled community, efforts are leading to a reduction in turnover from approximately 75% at the end of last year to what is expected to be 35% to 40% by the end of this year, she said.

Whitaker said Masonic Communities Kentucky, which includes three campuses with a total of 800 workers, has found staff surveys, counsel from Cara Silletto of Crescendo Strategies and best practices gleaned from peers (including members of a LeadingAge list serv for HR professionals) helpful in following its HR motto, “let’s just get real,” and turning around its turnover issues.

In response to employee feedback, for instance, Masonic no longer forbids employee tattoos from showing.

“That was almost a standing ovation from our employees,” Whitaker said.

Additional feedback led to Masonic changing its paid time off policy so that employees can start using it right away, she said, adding that the organization is looking at additional ways of becoming more creative with PTO.

Masonic also has started working with a vendor called PayActiv so employees can access their pay before a paycheck is issued. “They have to work a day or two, and then they can have access to their money through an ATM or virtually and transfer the money to a checking account,” Whitaker said. “It gets them out of the check cashing system. They’re saving a lot of money. We have better retention that way.”

Other initiatives have included a new Remarkable Leadership Series wherein line managers are trained in providing feedback to employees, and a Women in Leadership program through which 30 women from throughout the organization are receiving coaching.

“We’ve had 100% retention of the women who so far have participated in that program,” Whitaker said. “We are going to launch this in an even bigger way in 2019, and we’re going to look for other up-and-coming leaders and continue that Remarkable Leadership program in that way.”

Employee feedback also has led Masonic to try to improve its communication with line managers, who didn’t always feel knowledgeable about company initiatives. An HR Innovation Chat Team includes key players throughout the organization.

The organization also is providing free education. A local university has put a CNA program online.

“When the CNAs graduate from the program, they have three college credit hours, and those credit hours will go right toward their LPN degree,” Whitaker said. “So we have established a foundation for education. We are providing free education for CNAs, LPNs, RNs and BSNs. It is a major financial commitment, but that’s one of those little carrots that is going to be meaningful to a certain number of people who will stay longer.”

Now, she said, Masonic is planning to review its attendance policy.

Employees want more flexibility, “not just with scheduling but with their benefits, so for 2020, we are looking at an a la carte menu option where you can buy up, buy down, maybe buy more PTO, etc.,” she said.

Also Monday at the meeting:

  • LeadingAge announced that Philadelphia Mayor James F. Kenney proclaimed Oct. 28 to 31 as LeadingAge Week. LeadingAge said the meeting will generate more than $13 million for the city.

Tuesday, attendees can visit with Larry Minnix, retired president and CEO of LeadingAge, as he signs copies of his new book, “Hallowed Ground: Stories of Successful Aging,” in the meeting registration area of the Philadelphia Convention Center. (Read an excerpt here.) Proceeds from copies sold at the meeting will benefit LeadingAge’s Leadership Academy, which the organization named for Minnix in 2015.

The meeting continues through Wednesday.

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