Member Update: Interview with Collins and Underhill June 16, 2021

Regulation | June 16, 2021 | by Jill Schumann

Mark Collins, Vice President of Human Resources, Presbyterian Homes and Kelli Underhill, Director, Workforce Development and Retention, Presbyterian Homes (in North Carolina) joined the LeadingAge Coronavirus Update Call on June 16, 2021. They responded to questions from Ruth Katz and from callers.

Mark Collins, Vice President of Human Resources, Presbyterian Homes and Kelli Underhill, Director, Workforce Development and Retention, Presbyterian Homes (in North Carolina) joined the LeadingAge Coronavirus Update Call on June 16, 2021. They responded to questions from Ruth Katz and from callers.

Q: Can you tell us about Presbyterian Homes and the staff and residents you serve?

A: Our organization is 70 years old and was begun to provide housing to widowed Presbyterian women. We now own and operate five communities in North Carolina. We provide retirement community services to 1,600 residents, and we have 900 full time staff and 500 part time staff members.

Q: Mark, you realized years ago that your workforce was your biggest challenge, and so your organization created a Director of Workforce Recruitment and Retention. How did you shape that new role?

A: In 2018 we started looking at workforce more strategically. Until that time we had low turnover of 18-19%, but we started to see that change. Armed with workforce survey LeadingAge did in 2017 and materials from the LeadingAge Workforce Solutions Center, we decided we needed a full-time person leading recruitment and retention. Then, we needed to figure out how to fund the position and related workforce investments. We came up with PHI University and our foundation agreed to provide seed funding.

Initially I looked at it in traditional ways and was thinking about hiring a recruiter. As I thought more about it, I knew we needed to look at this in a more wholistic way. We hired Kelli from within because we knew her to be a good teacher and someone who understood our organization. The position has evolved and during the pandemic we tried to keep Kelli focused on this forward- looking initiative despite urgent day-to-day matters.

Q: Kelli, with your role you have worked on both the recruitment and retention programs. How have you changed your thinking on recruitment through the pandemic?

A: Before the pandemic, our thought process was help and now it is HELP! Throughout the pandemic we were still hiring but not at our usual rate. That was somewhat related to census, but now we are competing with all of the restaurants and retail operations that are opening back up. The pandemic made us aware that caring for employees in ways that are important to them was essential.

Earlier we had established some things that we found were especially helpful during the pandemic:

  • We had BHS, a robust EAP. Now we are encouraging people to reach out and use this service even more.
  • We use Redeapp.com – a lifesaver for us during the pandemic. It is a communication tool similar to text messaging and social media. Employees have access to resources, forms, messages, games, training videos, etc. Our employee community is 95% connected through Redeapp and it allowed us to inform, encourage and work together (and even have fun together). The website is redeapp.com.
  • We use PayActive which gives employees the opportunity to access wages they have earned to date.
  • We also use WeCare which is a survey tool for employees to give input.
  • We work with Magnet Culture to identify new ways to recruit and retain. Cara Silletto said something we have taken to heart – “use retention as your number one recruiting tool”.

Q: Yes, retention is key right now. Can you tell us how you have used your educational offerings to create career advancement and retain your staff?

A: We have focused on learning and staff development. Very often there are particular people who “get it” with the education and you hope they will share it and that it will “trickle down”. But, PHI University is a systematic approach to address what our employees and communities need. We have “buckets” targeted to various audiences: executive leadership; department heads; managers and supervisors; and the rest of our employees. We needed to provide training to improve the skills of supervisors and to focus on what they need. We have included everyone in our education efforts.

We have been flexible about what was needed. For example, we did training on resilience and insisted that people take the time for that for themselves. While people were busy and didn’t feel they have the time to learn, they have since expressed gratitude.

Q: Your residents have also helped with retention through recognition and assistance. Can you tell us about how your resident councils have helped your efforts?

A: We have involved residents and plan to do more. Our residents stepped forward when they began receiving stimulus checks and asked “what can we do to help?” So from that we developed a more robust employee assistance fund which has addressed the greater needs arising from the pandemic.

Q: Please tell us more about the financial implication of PHI University?

A: PHI is our umbrella for our education efforts. We find content in many ways. We also had a Leadership Academy and we partnered with some of our business partners and others to develop offerings and we created some ourselves.

Q: Have you seen an impact on your turnover rates?

A: Not yet, we believe that this will have longer term impact. We have also been using social media to market for employees in addition to marketing for residents. Our social media is what is getting us most traction right now.