Lessons on Attracting New Talent in Aging Services


By Susan Dolton, Vice President, Sales Services

A colleague of mine recently suggested I watch Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk titled, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” Mr. Sinek explains his theory that businesses and leaders succeed because they understand their “why” (the purpose, cause or belief that inspires them to do what they do). I took their advice, and while watching, was reminded of a session I attended at the LeadingAge National Conference in Nashville, which had a similar message: “Lessons on Attracting New Talent into Aging Services.” The session featured three speakers from nationally known nonprofit agencies – The Wounded Warrior Project, Habitat for Humanity and the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Each speaker eloquently articulated their agency’s culture. Juli Heineman of the Wounded Warrior Project explained how every employee is trained on the many programs provided to service men and women who have been wounded. The organization’s core values are not simply written in a 3-ring binder that no one reads. In fact, they created a cartoon character named Filis whose name comes from the first letter in each of their five core values: fun, integrity, loyalty, innovation, and service. Filis is pictured throughout their office and on internal newsletters. In meetings, someone will often pose the question, “What would Filis do?”

Why they do what they do is clearly communicated to every new employee at these organizations, no matter their position. When recruiting for new talent, they seek people who want meaningful careers and have found that millennials are more likely to analyze and appreciate company culture than other generations.

To attract qualified candidates who “fit” into their culture, all three organizations reported reworking their websites to make them more appealing to millennials. Additionally, they have stopped apologizing for the fact that their salaries are a fraction of what big business may pay, and instead talk to candidates about work/life balance and rewarding careers.

Why was aging services not represented on this panel? This was a LeadingAge conference, after all. This was a subtle implication that others are attracting new talent better than we are. I took notice, which leads me to believe others did as well.

When we search for new provider sales and marketing employees, how much time is spent educating them about your culture? Do those doing the hiring fully understand how your organization enriches the lives of seniors beyond providing them a place to live? Once hired, do they continually discuss and implement your core values? In other words, do they embody your organization’s why?

As the Vice President of Sales Services at Love & Company, my focus is on training sales teams. So often, sales presentations to prospects involve the listing of features – the pool, the dining room, etc. Seniors don’t want to [and will not] move to a community because it has a pool. They want to improve their lives.

Senior housing purchases are an emotional process. Conveying your organization’s why in a way that resonates with your prospects because you share the same ideals is far more valuable than any amenities you could offer them. I challenge you to candidly ask yourself, “As a whole, do we inherently understand and communicate the why behind our mission?”

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