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Striving to be employers of choice

October 1, 2007
by MARIBETH BERSANI
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Quality resident care that enriches quality of life and independence is the primary service of senior living communities. What most senior living employers have known for years is that the employees are crucial to this mission. Our employers believe that the best way to help employees care for their residents is to care for the employees. To accomplish this, senior living providers believe in maintaining and enhancing positive, direct, and meaningful relationships with employees.

Such an approach can solve many problems. Today, for example, with membership at 7.8% in the private sector, unions face unprecedented pressure to grow membership. To them, the senior living field presents a great opportunity to organize a largely non-union industry. SEIU (Service Employees International Union), among several other unions, is focusing on corporate campaigns and targeting senior living communities in the field.

To support our members in preempting this threat to employee relations and encouraging a quality focus, the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) has created the Employer of Choice (EOC) program to help our members maintain quality resident service, positive employee relations, and responsible stewardship, ensuring excellence and value for all residents. The purpose of ALFA's EOC program is to provide standards of excellence and other cutting-edge thought leadership resources to achieve the goals of quality service and positive, direct, and meaningful relationships with employees. ALFA's EOC program has adopted the following statement of values on behalf of our members:

  • We will adhere to the highest ethical standards in all aspects of our operations, including our relationships with employees.

  • We will comply with the letter and spirit of all federal, state, and local laws.

  • We will maintain and enhance excellence in resident care and services.

  • We will maintain a positive, direct, and meaningful relationship with employees by providing rewarding and meaningful work, individual recognition, career development, fair wages, employer-sponsored health insurance and other fringe benefits, open communication, effective problem-solving, and an environment fostering mutual respect and dignity.

  • We recognize the right of employees to engage in union and other protected concerted activity, to make an educated and informed choice about representation, and to express that choice through the time-honored process of National Labor Relations Board–supervised and valid secret ballot elections.

The ALFA Employer of Choice program outlines best practices for providers to express and demonstrate a commitment to the value premise, as follows:

  • Establish policies regarding resident care and customer service consistent with industry best practices.

  • Conduct introductory and ongoing education and training to support best practices in resident care and customer service.

  • Conduct annual surveys or assessments of resident satisfaction.

  • Establish a mechanism for follow-ing up and addressing issues and concerns of residents and family members as revealed through the survey or assessment process.

  • Publish and provide employees with an employee handbook containing human resources policies consistent with industry best practices.

  • Conduct introductory and annual training for managers and supervisors on supervisory skills, positive employee relations and human resources policies.

  • Implement a communications plan to promote open dialogue among and between all levels within an organization.

  • Conduct annual surveys or assessments of employee relations and implement appropriate follow-up measures in response to issues or concerns revealed by the annual survey or assessment.

  • Conduct an annual review of employee compensation and benefits.

  • Maintain a healthy and safe workplace.

ALFA is committed to developing tools and resources to help our members continue to be Employers of Choice. ALFA membership is not required to participate in this program, so please contact ALFA for more information. With involvement from large and small companies, the long-term care industry can make its voice heard.

Maribeth Bersani is Senior Vice-President of Public Policy for ALFA. For further information, phone (703) 894-1805 or visit

http://www.alfa.org.

To send your comments to the author and editors, e-mail bersani1007@nursinghomesmagazine.com.

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