COVID-19 Q&A Senior Living Expert Series: Workforce Communications



About the COVID-19 Q&A Senior Living Expert Series: 

While working with over 300 communities across the country, we’ve diligently been monitoring the changes that are happening rapidly — daily — during this quickly shifting marketplace. We’re all feeling the effects of the “new normal” on community operations, sales and marketing, but quick action is needed. Trust us when we say this is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve been working around the clock to help our communities pivot to the right methods in order to sustain business, and this video series is a direct output of that thought leadership. Each week, we’ll be speaking with a new senior living marketing or sales expert as we explore ways in which you can steer your community’s occupancy efforts and facilitate change as we weather this storm. Together.



Moderator: Brandon Painter, Director of Integrated Content

Expert: Amy Ellzey, SVP of People


Q. How has the role of a people manager and people leader changed?

A. We all know our role as a people leader is really important, but in the real world, it’s just easier to focus on the work rather than the leading. We give our associates direction only when we absolutely have to, approving processes, reviewing documents, etc. Yesterday, we were able to get away with that. Today, the world is different. So much has changed, and there’s not a lot we can count on right now.

The news is changing by the minute, organizations are changing, and many of us are feeling anxious and scared. The conversation has turned to questions such as: “Is my family safe? Will I still have a job? What’s going to happen to my friends and neighbors?” As team leaders, we don’t need to pretend to know the answers.  Honestly, the answer to all these questions is that we simply don’t know.

The most important thing we can do right now is to stay connected to our people, and provide them with some stability and a taste of normalcy.

Q. What should people leaders do, right now, to give our people what they need most?

A. Luckily, doing this doesn’t require special training or tools. Give your people attention! Team members need to hear from you directly. As a team leader, you set the tone and are the voice of reality. Be steady. Be you. Understand and support the stance of your organization.

I’m always recommending regular check-in conversations, because research shows they’re the most powerful thing you can do to keep your team members engaged.

A check-in is something everyone can start doing today, with very little preparation. Check-ins are quick and meaningful chats. Most of us are already good at conducting occasional check-ins. But not everyone is good at frequent and consistent check-ins. In “normal times,” a weekly check-in is the most powerful. But in our current environment, I recommend that daily communication should become your norm.

Q. Why do you think these check-ins are so effective?

A. I’m going to borrow this one from Amy Leshke-Kahle with the Marcus Buckingham Company. I once heard her speak on this very topic, and I remember her saying, “Imagine if you only heard ‘I love you’ from your most important person once a year, or once amonth.”

My family needs to know that I see them and care about them, and I need the same from them. It’s simply giving someone your attention. Likewise, you need to let your team members know you see them and care about them. You can text, talk in person, or even FaceTime. Our people leaders at GlynnDevins are critical in making sure our associates feel connected to the organization and the rest of the team.

Q. Can you walk us through one of these check-ins?

A. It’s very simple. Lead with “How are you doing?” Then follow it up with “What are your priorities?” “How can I help?” Throughout the conversation, focus on outcomes. Address everything your team member is sharing. (This acknowledgment goes a long way.)

Don’t emphasize the negatives. Start with strengths. Know what energizes your people and make sure this is a topic of discussion. In turn, it will be a more motivating conversation. Don’t assume that the point is to fix what’s wrong … The point is to connect with your people and align their strengths with their work priorities.

Q. It’s human to be worried and scared, and separating ourselves from those concerns is impossible. As leaders, what can we do to help our people during these times?

A. People need to keep doing their work. It grounds them. In uncertain times, associates may not be sure what still needs to be done or what should be prioritized. They need clarity from you around the most important work to be done right now, and what can wait.

Team members will be able to focus more clearly if they truly believe their manager is their number one advocate for whatever it is they need to be successful.

Q. Any final words?

A. As leaders, this is our time to:

  • Provide frequent and meaningful attention.
  • Be the connector; bring people together.
  • Be a constant in their lives. Remember to check in every day.
  • This is our time to step up … there’s never been more at stake.

Now more than ever, we need to be real. We need to be human. And we need to pay extra attention to our people, at work and at home.