Ryan Hershey hasn’t missed one day of work as a dishwasher at Newhaven Court at Lindwood, a Greensburg, PA, IntegraCare senior living community.

It’s an impressive feat considering that he has been on the job there for eight years and that nationwide the annual turnover rate for dining services workers in assisted living is almost 36%, according to Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service’s latest “Assisted Living Salary & Benefits Report.”

His perfect attendance — and a little luck — led to Hershey’s winning a new Ford Focus in the company’s Continued Attendance Rewards, or CAR, program. The 27-year-old’s name was selected from among 453 eligible employees who earned a total of 23,410 drawing tickets based on their perfect attendance across nine IntegraCare senior living communities in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Hershey may have the keys to a new car, but IntegraCare appears to have found a key to engaging employees to reduce turnover and increase satisfaction.

In its CAR program, each employee receives one drawing ticket for each payroll period in which he or she has perfect attendance. For each consecutive payroll period with perfect attendance, each employee receives additional tickets equaling the number of consecutive periods of perfect attendance.

“I am humbled, glad and just really surprised,” Hershey said after the Jan. 31 prize announcement, which was made on IntegraCare’s Facebook page.

And he wasn’t the only winner this year. The company awarded one automobile, but all nine participating IntegraCare communities gave away three grand prizes to eligible employees in the CAR program:

  • First prize: A 55-inch television, one-year subscription to Netflix and one week of paid vacation.
  • Second prize: A laptop computer and printer, Microsoft Office software and one week of paid vacation.
  • Third prize: An iPad, Amazon Prime membership and one week of paid vacation.

Not all workers have Hershey’s squeaky-clean record, so IntegraCare began the CAR program in 2016, recognizing 2015 attendance. “We were trying to attack turnover by addressing attendance and its effect on co-worker satisfaction,” Loriann Putzier, IntegraCare co-founder and president, told McKnight’s Senior Living.

The company has gotten a lot of mileage from the effort, she said. “Overall organizational attendance has improved, and turnover was reduced by 5% systemwide and reduced anywhere from 25% to 100% in select communities where we have struggled in the past,” Putzier said. “We also are getting feedback from influencers — referral sources — in our markets about the focus of our team members.”

The results are important at a time when the aging of the U.S. population means that many senior living workers are retiring, or thinking about doing so, just as a so-called “silver tsunami” of baby boomers are considering new places to live for the next phase of life. Approximately 10,400 dishwashers work in the senior living industry now, according to Argentum, but almost twice that many will be needed by 2025. And it’s a familiar theme across multiple job categories, according to the association.

The first year of IntegraCare’s CAR program kicked off with a giveaway of 24 prizes, including eight cars, one at each of the participating communities that year. All but one of the 2016 prize winners remain employed in their respective communities, Putzier said.

Other evidence of the program’s success? The live contest video had 3,900 views, ancillary videos were opened more than 2,000 times, and residents and families have shared positive feedback, she said.

IntegraCare plans to continue the program. “This will be an annual program that we tweak to keep it relevant to the profile of our current workforce,” Putzier said. “We try to focus on improving their lives instead of focusing on what we believe to be a good prize.”

The program is not just an effective way to encourage good attendance; it’s also a way to reward staff members who already display dedication and hard work, according to IntegraCare. The company’s investors have agreed to support it to increase quality and service to residents, Putzier said. “The money comes off the bottom line of the community,” she added.

“We respect our employees and consider each one a key member of our team,” said Richard Irwin, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “In turn, they improve the quality of life for residents and their families. We ask our residents and their family members to encourage our team and help make our communities better places to work, which in turn makes it a better place to live. What better way for us to set an example than to provide an incentive contest in which our team members have a chance to win a new car?”

Whether encouraging or rewarding, the program has generated excitement about coming to work among staff members.

“The CAR program gives all team members something to look forward to,” said Lori Grant, the executive director of Newhaven Court at Lindwood, where Hershey works. “It is an amazing program that recognizes those who demonstrate solid attendance each pay period and throughout the year. Being able to depend on your co-workers is vital to any operation.”

As for this year’s car winner?

“We couldn’t be more proud of Ryan,” Grant said. “Over the past eight years Ryan has been at Lindwood, he has never called off or has never been late for work. He demonstrates an excellent work ethic and is a great role model for others when it comes to his attendance and dependability.”

Hershey has been receiving “high-fives” from his co-workers and even residents and their family members who watched the live stream on Facebook, Grant said.