Dining services staff members and nursing/health service employees are the least engaged employees at not-for-profit senior living provider organizations, with less than 40% and 41% of members of those departments, respectively, engaged in their work, according to Wrightsville, PA-based national consulting firm Holleran.

Where engagement is highest

Engagement in senior living communities is highest among administrative staff, at 55%, according to Holleran, followed by housekeeping and laundry, at 47%, and environmental services, at 45%.

The company made the determination after analyzing its database, which benchmarks more than 1,000 senior living companies throughout the country.

“What I have learned anecdotally from these two groups of employees is that they are often distracted by work/family conflicts,” said Michele Holleran, Ph.D., founder of Holleran. “In addition, their energy levels are greatly affected by the physical demands of their work.”

Pay is also a factor in engagement, she said. “Especially certified nursing assistants and entry-level workers in food service … they typically struggle with financial stress more than licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and dining supervisors.”

Because of the large number of employees working in these two areas, Holleran said, “just stabilizing the turnover in these two departments alone will make a huge difference in morale, engagement and supervisor ability to develop more meaningful relationships with direct reports.”

So what can senior living operators do to increase engagement?

Beyond increasing wages, Holleran said, organizations can try to include workers in decision-making more often, offer flexible work schedules, recognize workers for good performance and share department-level employee engagement survey results.

Reverse mentoring, wherein newly hired employees teach existing staff members a new process or method of work, also can be effective in those cases where new employees bring experience to the workplace, she said.