The Friendship Village of Dublin builds partnerships between associates, residents


There’s a story that says the GI generation, which are those 90 and over, will follow the rules if you tell them what they are. The silent generation, people around 80, would like to give some input on those rules. And the baby boomers ask: What rules?

So, what does that mean at the Friendship Village of Dublin? Executive director Jerry Kuyoth says they’ve just started offering a Pilates class.

“It’s fun, but it’s a challenge, meeting the expectations of boomers,” he says.

The continuing care retirement community, which employs 300 associates, is currently undergoing a $61 million renovation. It seeks to reposition The Village to meet the higher expectations of its residents, increasing industry competition, and health care trends like more home care and wellness services.

At the same time, The Village continues to win awards for its workplace culture. Long-term care facilities aren’t usually known as “great places to work,” but that hasn’t stopped this nonprofit from sustained success.

In the pursuit of service

The No. 1 priority at The Village is recognizing that the facility is the resident’s home and honoring their preferences for how they want to live life, what services they want to receive and where.

That’s part of the culture, Kuyoth says. In general, the staff sees honoring those preferences as empowering, because it’s a partnership between the associates and residents.

“Almost every associate who works here says the reason that they came and the reason they stay is because they enjoy working with the residents,” he says.

In order to create that culture and partnership that is so necessary for both the residents and employees, Kuyoth says you need to be relentless in the pursuit of customer service training.

Life Care Services, the parent management company for The Village, has an extensive training program. Every year, the executive director, administrator and the 10 department directors go off-site for training.

At the same time, The Village has a hospitality-training program for all new associates called extraordinary impressions. It asks the associates to do 10 things on a regular basis with the residents.

A valued part

In order to find the right people who can deliver that kind of service, Kuyoth finds one of the easier things is to keep turnover low in the first place.

The Village has a competitive benefit package for a senior living community — it still pays for 75 percent of health insurance.

It also does an annual associate satisfaction survey in order to listen to employee concerns and challenges.
Even little things help — like an employee appreciation wall. The 20-year associates are recognized with a special action shot of him or her doing something that they’re passionate about outside of work.

“It shows them as not just associates, but as people that have fascinating lives,” Kuyoth says. “This is what my caregiver does when they are not here, serving me.”

If associates work in an organization where they feel valued individually by the ownership and a part of the successful outcomes with their customers, you can achieve success.

When new associates do need to be hired, the comprehensive on-boarding and training helps everyone at The Village understand the expectations.

“It wouldn’t be desirable, but if someone goes through that training, and either they now identify that this isn’t a good match for them or we identify that same thing, by doing that training, that’s going to be a better situation than finding that out six months in,” he says.

Process problems

Again, it all goes back to the organization’s culture — having good training and processes to support the people, and ultimately the customer.

“In most cases, challenges that you have in running a community aren’t people problems, they are process problems,” Kuyoth says.

In order to fix process problems, Kuyoth listens to both his associates and the residents.

Throughout his career, he’s sponsored birthday lunches. The associate receives a gift card and in return, he learns how to improve operations. Although, the program has not been as successful as Kuyoth would have liked as far as participation, he’s gotten great ideas from those who attend.

The residents also help The Village manage and modify services.

For example, two years ago, the nonprofit added a full-time physician. Many residents, however, still preferred to go to their local doctor, so they asked if they could use that physician for urgent care. As a result, Kuyoth says they modified the service.

And if you’ve built an environment that nurtures a strong partnership between the employees and customers, you’ll see that relationship go both ways.

Every year, the residents get together and provide each associate with a holiday cash gift. Kuyoth says the program is unsolicited — it’s resident funded and organized.

“At Christmas, they get their normal paycheck and they get an additional bonus from the residents,” he says. “And for associates that it’s their first time to get that check, they say, ‘What’s this?’ ‘That’s from the people you cared for this year’ — and it’s just something special.”