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How to Build Culture at Your Senior Living Facility

an elderly man and woman showing compassion

Culture. It might sound like a trendy buzzword, but the reality is that the culture of your senior care facility is the foundation on which everything else is built. Poor culture leads to unhappy employees, less than desirable care for your residents, and high turnover rate. Good culture, healthy culture that encourages communication, no matter how hard, leads to happy employees, people who want to stick around and give your organization their all. 

How do you go about building healthy culture and nurturing it so that it’s not a trend, but ingrained in how your business is run?

Start With Onboarding

We’ve all been the “new person” at some point or another. It’s intimidating even for the most confident person. After all, they’re one person trying to fit in with a whole group. Even if you try to make your team feel like family, it’s easy for the new person to feel as if they don’t quite fit in.

Your culture starts with your onboarding process. Consider what you’re doing to make new employees feel like they belong … to feel like they’ve found a permanent home, not another temporary one.

Here are some ideas:

  • Give them a unique VIP experience and make sure the rest of the team knows to follow suit
  • Show them where the breakroom, bathroom, and other necessary areas are
  • Assign a seasoned mentor to be there to answer questions
  • Celebrate their start with cake or cookies on their first day
  • DON’T just throw them in head first and expect them to not ask questions

Focus on Communication

Communication isn’t always easy, especially when you have to have hard conversations. Maybe a team member is regularly late to work. Perhaps another doesn’t perform consistently. 

Take the time to talk with these team members and understand the why behind what’s going on. A lot of times you’ll be able to come to a solution that is simple to implement and reaps rewards for the entire team.

Make sure your team knows you have their back. Don’t just let corporate or even yourself pass a message down. Tell your team why certain decisions have been made and be open to hearing feedback.

Don’t overlook a job well done. It’s human nature to want to be appreciated. Show your team you care by sending shoutouts and team messages in acknowledgement of team members who are living your company’s values and delivering exceptional care to residents and their families.

InstantNurse Can Help With Team-Wide Communication
Learn How

Invest In Your Team

As a leader, you have a lot on your plate. You’re managing team schedules, talking with families, and putting out fires on a daily basis. Investing in your team is something that can easily fall to the wayside.

But by investing in people’s careers and knowledge you’re showing them that you care about them and how they do their job. It shows that you know they could go somewhere else, but you value them enough to do everything you can to keep them a part of your team.

Ditch The Negativity

No one likes a Negative Nancy. Repeat after me: “My name is Positive Polly.” Good, now remind yourself of that any time you have the urge to say something negative.

Negativity kills culture. It kills creativity. It kills joy. It kills drive. Don’t let it kill your team. 

There’s a high probability that the negative thing you’re itching to comment on has already been noticed by others. Your team might even be talking about it. Your job as a leader is to shift the conversation if necessary, and always be steering it toward the positive.

At the end of the day, you’ll find that the entire team, residents, families, and communities will take note of your positivity. Need proof? Check out some of the online reviews floating around for some of the facilities around you. Beside comments on the level of care and cleanliness of a facility, you’ll likely read about how well a team works together and the overall feel that a facility projects.

Embrace Recognition

Excellence in both the big and small things needs to be recognized. Maybe a CNA does a great job making sure supplies are stocked for the next shift. Perhaps a family has complimented a certain person because they consistently ensure their family member is impeccably cleaned up after meal time. These things matter and they need to be acknowledged to the individual and the team.

Whether you’re sending a team-wide message or bringing in bagels as a treat of appreciation, your team will take note of each positive move.

Empower Your Team

I once talked to a person who worked at Panera in high school and college. They loved it. They couldn’t talk enough about the job even though it was in the food service industry, which has a notoriously high turnover rate.

When asked what they loved their answer was simple: we’re empowered to make customers happy. Whether offering a cookie to an unhappy customer or throwing in an extra baguette, team members were told that keeping their customers happy was their responsibility and, as such, were empowered to do so.

How do you empower your team? Are you visible and available instead of stuck behind a desk? Are you engaging with the team?

Discovering ways to empower your team will lead to a happier team.


  • Building a mentorship program
  • Hosting round table discussions to solve problems your facility might be facing
  • Encouraging open sharing of ideas without the threat of criticism

Building culture at your senior care facility won’t happen overnight. It takes work. It takes forethought. But more than any of that it takes intentionality and consistency. And it’s worth it, so worth it.


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