Cultivating a Culture of Care

Thoughtware Article Published: Nov 01, 2018
Compassionate Care Series

Staffing turnover costs senior living providers thousands every year. A driver of turnover in the senior living industry revolves around the work required of a front-line caregiver, which is physically and mentally exhausting—and often pays less than lower-stress positions. To further complicate this issue, the current regulatory environment has caused reductions in reimbursement along with more stringent laws and regulations, making it difficult to increase compensation to motivate consistent staffing. What if the solution to all these issues lies in a cultural shift—requiring low monetary commitment—to provide a more stable, cared-for workforce?

Since satisfied employees are less likely to look for another job, successful providers are now focusing on developing a compassionate culture to better meet their employees’ needs. True compassion involves an authentic desire to help others, have a positive effect on others and ultimately elicit a positive emotional response. When we treat ourselves and others with compassion, there’s often unity that raises the group to a higher level. This is when strong bonds begin to form, trust is established and a willingness to collaborate on projects and shared visions becomes a driving force. When people work in a supportive environment or compassionate culture, they often feel safe from competition and have less fear of failure, which can result in greater resilience and lead to greater job satisfaction. Providers can begin to define their culture by identifying and clearly articulating a central purpose and set of core values. However, cultivating a culture of care goes beyond purpose and values and is truly refined through actions and words.

How can senior living management bring more compassion to the workplace and develop a culture of caring so staff members feel they’re part of something larger than their tasks and paycheck? Below are just a few ideas that could easily be implemented and begin the process of changing the actions and words that define your culture.

  • Senior living management should be an example of compassionate leadership. Leading from the heart often inspires others through kindness, flexibility, support and empowerment.

  • Senior living managers must always check the motivation behind their decisions, words and behaviors. Since every word and action generates a reaction, be sure the ripple effect you produce is positive and promotes a culture of compassion.

  • Get to know your staff. Ask personal questions about their family and take time to talk about yourself and your family.

  • Greet your staff members regularly and call them by name. Senior living managers should routinely be present for all three shifts. Coming in early to interact with the night shift one day a week and staying over into the evening shift one day a week will allow time to interact with employees from those shifts. It also may make you more approachable, which could lead to a more cohesive team.

  • Encourage all employees to consistently practice conscious communication. Senior living managers should be a role model for providing feedback in a way that inspires and motivates for improvement rather than making someone feel unimportant and wrong.

  • Routinely acknowledge employees’ strengths and positive attributes in front of others. Complimenting someone in front of others is a great way to boost morale.

  • Cultivate an environment that encourages input from all staff members, not just department managers.

  • Develop and/or cultivate a culture where it’s acceptable to ask for help. Asking for assistance can be difficult for some people. Managers who are present and engaged with staff can often be in positions to offer support or assistance without the staff having to ask.

  • Organize team-building activities. Take the lead or ask for volunteers to set up team-building activities for employees. The possibilities are endless, e.g., have a monthly potluck, summer co-ed softball game, cookout, etc. The activities don’t have to be expensive; the important thing is that the staff are included, are given time to connect with one another and with management and feel they’re part of a team that cares about them.

  • Develop some form of compassion challenge to inspire regular acts of kindness. This can be something that allows residents and family members to participate, or something just for the employees.

  • Develop an employee engagement committee that can perpetuate the compassionate culture. Senior living management shouldn’t lead this group, which should be led by a nonmanagerial employee. The committee’s purpose is to keep its finger on the pulse of the culture in the facility and alert management of concerns and issues. The committee should include all departments and shifts, and it should understand its role in developing and maintaining a compassionate culture.

Download the practical Guide to Implementing a Culture of Care, which includes both a management guide and an employee guide, as culture is fostered through the words and actions of all participants.



Dedicated, educated and compassionate caregivers are the backbone of every provider. Building a culture where compassion is a focus helps translate into better resident care, reduced staff turnover and a cohesive team. When employees feel they’re part of a culture that cares about them and their family, they’re less likely to leave without first speaking to their manager. With open lines of communication and a compassionate culture, building a team becomes important to everyone, not just the operator.

Contact Sherri or your trusted BKD advisor if you have questions.

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