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6 ways to foster staff satisfaction

December 20, 2013
by Michael Mileski, DC, MPH, MSHEd, LNFA
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In long-term care (LTC), staff efficiency and facility efficiency are directly linked. Communities—especially their administrators—can take six steps to build effective teams that not only benefit the facilities but also benefit the individual employees who make up the teams within the facilities. Staff satisfaction is at the foundation of it all.


Perhaps the easiest thing an administrator can do is simply get to know his or her employees. The more the administrator is familiar with staff members, the better the employer will be able to serve them.

Certainly, the opposite is true as well: The better an employee understands the priorities of his or her employer, the more likely he or she will be able to meet the employer’s needs, and the better the employer will meet the employee’s needs.

It is not inappropriate to be aware that certain staff members’ children play sports or the violin or to know other personal snippets about employees and their families. It can mean much to an employee when the administrator stops to ask about the outcome of a son’s game or a daughter’s dance recital. Such exchanges enable employees to see the administrator as a real person with feelings, a person who cares about employees’ individual welfare.


An administrator’s appreciation of employees also is central to creating winning teams. When employees feel appreciated, they feel like part of a community and can become more productive and satisfied and work better with others.

Thanks can be shown in small ways. Recognize a job well done, for instance, or hand out candy bars when people meet deadlines. Offer to buy lunch in the cafeteria for an employee who makes a resident’s day, or plan a pay-day cookout instead of an in-service program. Even small displays of gratitude show employees that they are valued for what they contribute to the facility.

Permitting families to show appreciation is important as well. Many organizations host once-a-year banquets that are organized by families of residents. During these functions, families are allowed to recognize those staff members who “go the extra distance.” Employees may receive awards or be given special nametags to wear for the upcoming year, or other steps are taken to make them feel special.

If your facility has such an event, no doubt families know that it is an opportunity for them to recognize their favorite staff members. Often, people leave such occasions feeling part of something much larger than themselves. Families gain a better understanding of staff members, staff members get to know families better, and relationships are built.


Employees also want a sense of belonging from their employers. They want to be a part of something larger than themselves, and it is the employer’s responsibility to create this kind of atmosphere. The more close-knit the work environment, the better the employees will be at working individually and together to make a difference for the employer.

Employees not only spend a large amount of time with employers; they also spend much time with residents. Personal relationships not only will increase staff retention but resident retention as well.

It is easy to recognize a “family atmosphere” in a facility—as opposed to a sterile clinical environment—when one walks into such a place. Fostering a sense of community benefits census and resident and family satisfaction—and it benefits teamwork and employee longevity, too.


Employees want to be challenged, although they might not always realize it. Challenges give them the opportunity to hone their professional skills.

Complacency in the workplace is a significant issue. Employees can become bored when they perform the same tasks with the same people day after day.

When an employer challenges an employee, the employer is increasing expectations, and the employee is forced to find ways to meet the new expectations. When an employee meets these new expectations and becomes comfortable with doing so, the time for more challenge has come.

Identify problems in your facility, and use a new challenge process to correct all of them. Start with small issues, and work up to the larger ones. Make the challenges to employees realistic and attainable, not problems so large that even Superman could not contend with them.


Employees look to their supervisors for mentorship, and the relationship between a staff member and a manager can grow significantly when the supervisor assumes a mentorship role.

Many managers might view the task of mentoring as insurmountable, given all of the regulatory issues and day-to-day work already on their to-do lists. The mentoring process, however, simply involves showing an employee the way to success. For instance, you may have a discussion with an employee who likes to do things his or her own way to help the employee understand why your preferred way is better (or simply required).

Employees need to understand the reasons behind certain processes. “Do it because I said so” is not a good reason. It does not work with children, so why would it to work with employees?

The more organizations do to make the workplace user-friendly, the more valued employees will feel and become.


Teams that celebrate together stay together. Celebrating together contributes to overall success as well as to the tenure of employees as well. It also creates momentum in the workplace and allows workers to embrace management’s ideas and feel a part of a winning team.