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215: Jodi Guffee

As the industry emerges from covid, Jodi Guffee, COO of Radiant Senior Living, discusses what is the right care, the right workforce, and the right model for success of senior living moving forward.

Water the Bamboo by Greg Bell.

Recorded at Senior Living 100 Conference.

Request an invitation to the VIP Ignite Experience: Dream Again.


Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast, senior podcast with Josh and Lucas. We are in beautiful California here at the Senior Living 100 conference, and we have an amazing guest with us today. We want to welcome Jodi Guffee. She’s the COO of Radiant Senior living. Welcome to the show. 


Thank You. Thanks for having me.


It’s so good to see you. We got to interact with you back in Nashville last year at the VIP Ignite Experience event and you and your husband came and had a great time and you got to explore Nashville, and it’s great to rekindle and reconnect here in California. You were a panelist today. Talking about a very important topic around workforce and retention. This is something that you are really deep in the weeds on, and I found some of your talking points really, really interesting on how you’re approaching this topic. And this issue within senior housing, can you help frame up for our listeners your philosophy around it, and then we can get into some of the books and talk about the FORD principle.

Jodi 01:41

Right. Okay. Okay. So we recognized a while back that we had to now start treating that potential talent as our number one lead. So we talk about speed to lead when we’re referring to sales with our industry right now, and what’s lacking, we really recognized our speed to lead on that potential applicant had to be immediate and fast. Also, how are we getting to them? How are we exciting them about senior housing? Because it’s not all that exciting. So we got very organic. We got into the high schools, the job fairs, we actually started talking to the adult child that has a resident in our community. Do they want to re-engage in the workforce? So overturning every stone we possibly could to figure out are the people still out there. And having recognized that 40% of our women in the workforce in senior housing left during the pandemic, we had to figure out where are we going to get them? When are they coming back? How are they coming back? What do we need to do? How do we pivot here? Because we have to get these people back. You can’t build your census if you don’t have people to take care of them. So yea, we got very organic. 

Josh 03:10

Well so, I’m curious about a lot of things that you just talked about, because that’s a lot of strategy that went into all of that. I love this speed to lead concept, but one thing I think you said, correct me if I’m restating this wrong, but you said 40% of our women in our industry left during the pandemic. What have you guys found that’s primarily caused from? It was primarily caused from the cost of childcare. Children in online learning settings that needed to be monitored. A lot of moms ended up staying home that in addition to that, the unemployment and the stimulus amounts were equal to, or higher than, our average wages. I couldn’t even blame them, I would’ve done the same thing in their position, but it was already hard to find staff in our industry and then to lose that 40%, those were mostly our caregivers too. It was a big hit. There’s not one operator that won’t tell you it was a major pain.


So you have strategies and I heard you say you are really recruiting much younger high schools. You’re getting into high schools, you’re talking to the families that you serve. And asking if they want to get involved or, if people they know want to get involved, but of that 40% that we lost. What hope do you think we have of getting the majority of that group back, and what would it take?

Jodi 04:54

Well, if I had to guess, I think we might get 20% of them back and the other 20% we’re going to have to find elsewhere. I really enjoy nurturing people to find their greater good, that’s really fun in the high schools because they’re young and they’re excited about things, but they don’t know how to get there. We’ve had a great time just going in and saying, what do you think you’d like to do? And is this like a beginning job kind of position? Is there a career path here? Maybe you just got into, you took a foods class and you kind of interested in culinary. Well, I can train you the basics and you know, and potentially grow you into a professional chef that doesn’t have to work in senior housing, could work in hospitality anywhere. How are we engaging with the younger generations on a career path and opportunities beyond taking care of elderly? So there’s opportunities for you to do activities to volunteer, to give back. And the kids are really, really excited about it. We’re making it fun. Trying to, because, I don’t know, most kids don’t think senior housing is very fun.


Well, and that’s what I was gonna say. I would imagine when you go into the school system in particular, these younger kids, is there even a knowledge of what senior living is? I’m sure there’s some perception, but how does that actually match up with the reality of the senior living as we know it? 

Jodi 06:32

Most of them will talk about an experience with a grandparent. And most of them all have a fond memory of that. We try to tap into that a little bit. Wouldn’t that be great? How wonderful your grandmother was to you? Wouldn’t it be great if you could give that back to somebody else? The stories, so they’re learning in school, they’re learning history. They’re sort of forced to get through these courses that they don’t love. But what if I could take you, introduce you to somebody who could tell you about that time in history? And so you now have a real life experience in what you’re doing in school and what you can do in our communities. The volunteer program has turned out to be really great, but also those kids are actually talking to their parents and some of those parents have just maybe stayed at home for a while and now the kids are growing up. They’re coming back, they’re coming in new, I’ve hired about four parents of kids in high school because they’re now bored at home, they don’t have to take care of the kids anymore. We’re grassroots anything, grassroots anything.

Josh 07:46

Well so that’s a cool strategy. I know a lot of our listeners hopefully are already doing that, but we’ll take some lead from you on that. When you mention speed to lead, probably most of our listeners and even me, the first thing we think of is, “oh my gosh, are we talking marketing and sales on this podcast?” But we’re talking about recruitment and employee retention and getting those team members onboarded. What has radically changed with you guys in your process over the past couple years when you’re talking speed to lead in referring to employment, how different does it look for you guys over the past couple of years and maybe give us some practical ways that you’re elevating that to like your most priority lead, as you were saying? 


It’s very interesting, just having that discussion about, we took this field from HR and we moved it over into marketing. That’s very true. You’ve got to take this away from an HR perspective and into a, how are we marketing to and who are we marketing, recruitment and retention talent acquisition department in our company. And that consists of myself, my senior VP of operations, my VP of operations, our HR director, our director of brand development and marketing and three full-time employees that only do recruitment and retention. We’re doing that. That’s become very different. The budgeting process created a whole new departm

Josh 09:29

Wow. That’s a lot of effort from the top down to completely change the culture and the strategy of how you recruit and onboard. So very much so you’re, I’m assuming probably if you’re doing it from a marketing approach, you’re actually creating content to try to show and attract and then you get those leads and then it’s really the speed to lead. That’s something that we all, I guess, work towards even on the resident side, bringing in the residents. So what are some things, because we often talk about gosh, with all of these HR processes that you have to go through to get people onboarded legally, to be compliant and all that. Are there any strategies that you have come up with that help to shorten that time, and is there technologies you’re using or things like that that you could share? Because I know as people are talking about that, like, oh man, if I could increase the speed to lead of getting from the lead to the time that they can actually get on the floor and be well equipped to work, that would be great for all of us. So maybe so lessons you’ve learned as you’ve started implementing that. 

So first off is how you shift your digital dollars in who you’re targeting. We had our payroll systems that were a bit antiquated. How do you make the application process simple? You could go through the whole process of filling out an application and uploading a resume or you can do a quick app, all I need is your name and your phone number and somebody’s gonna reach out to you right away. So if you are, you know, short on time or whatnot, I’m gonna reach out to you and we’re gonna have a conversation. I want to get to know you even before you make the application. So it’s connecting with people immediately and at their level relating with them, figuring out if you’re aligned, is this a kind of a person that can work in senior living? But those recruitment and retention specialist team members, they pick up the phone and they call that person immediately.

Jodi 11:51

Or we’re in the text era, they’ll send ’em a text, got your message. Really look forward to a time we can chat and what would be good for you? So that’s how fast it has to happen. If an application sits or, or a potential applicant sits in our database for longer than an hour were triggered. We’re notified that it somehow got lost in the shuffle either. It went directly to the community and the community HR person isn’t there, or what have you. We pick up that lead at our home office and it’s speed lead. You have to. 


Wow. What a commitment. You just wrapped up a awesome panel here at Senior Living 100, Lucas was actually in there listening to that, taking a ton of notes that I see right over there on his phone. So Lucas, any other things that really stuck out to you in this conversation? 


Yea, Jody, let’s go into the couple of the books that you mentioned. One of them being the relationship economy, and there was a principal in there of an acronym called FORD. Can you walk us through that?

Jodi 12:58

Yeah. The relationship economy, again, it’s about building relationships with everybody. What do I know about you? I can talk about myself all day, but why do you care? I need to know about you. So FORD stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams. And so if you get to know someone’s FORD, you’ll be able to relate to them as who they are. It might be simply a conversation around, do you have children? Are you married? Those kinds of things or occupation. What do you want to do? Do you have a vision of five years from now? What do you do for fun, recreation? What do you like to do outside of work? Dreams, do you have like a dream situation? We try to create and we actually have what we call a dream maker binder.  We try and work with our potential employees or, and our current employees with, are we always touching their FORD? Are we always making sure that we’re learning something more about them so that we’re engaged and they know we care. 


Jodi 14:11

When we onboard with Ford within the first week, all our department heads are required to find out two things about the employee’s FORD. Then we uniquely create a gift based on that person’s Ford. And we send that gift to their home. And the reason why we send it to the home is because we want their family to also be vested in what they’re doing, because they’re probably spending more hours at work than they are at home. So if the family is also involved in noticing this company really cares about mom or dad, or what have you, then they’re less apt to be frustrated when mom’s not home right at dinner time or what have you. It’s been newly adopted and very, very successful. I’ve talked to a lot of operators right now that are still really frustrated and they’re not seeing the shift that we are. And so I’m excited because it’s working, and we meet with our recruitment and retention team every week, every week we sit down and we revamp. Okay, that isn’t working. Well, this might be better. So we’re shifting and changing constantly to figure out how this works best.


Wow. A dynamic approach that you’re taking from the top down and seeing success and our listeners I mean, you just kind of got a quick and easy how to to change the culture. And so, I want to take a quiz here, because I just am hearing this for the first time. You’ve got to know your team member’s FORD, family, occupation, recreation, and dreams. Did I get that right? Yes. So our listeners just heard it right there. You better be taking notes and hitting the replay on that. What a great concept.


It is, you know Jodi, some great partners of ours specialized in video. And you mentioned how impactful using video can be in connecting with not just potential residents to move in, but actually as a recruiting tool and retention tool. I’m not sure what the statistic is, but it’s overwhelming right now, especially coming after the two years that we’ve been experiencing that video is indexing massively higher than written text or even audio. People are very much gravitating towards video. And so operators and providers being able to leverage video for multiple attributes in their community can be very successful. Walk us through that.

Jodi 16:50

Absolutely. The video platform that we adopted, oh, probably about four years ago I think at this point, was definitely a resident tool and a marketing tool. But now as soon as we are done with an interview, or even before an interview, we’re sending a video to them saying, “I’m just so excited to meet you.” Or, “when you arrive to the community on Tuesday at two o’clock, you’re going to meet with Sarah. She’s building this and I’m showing you a video and Sarah’s waving at you.” You’ve just created this human connection immediately. And we have seen that using video that way has increased the number of people that actually show up because a lot of people apply and don’t come. But when we brought video into this recruitment effort, they started coming, And we made then a thank you for coming video. We sort of in our process said, okay we just talked to them, we sent a text, we follow that with a video. Then another phone call, write before their interview, texting, calling again, interview, leave, video again, call, text again. And that is how sophisticated we’ve gotten with this to make sure that we can onboard the right people and that they are aligned with us in values.


Well, I’ll tell you that’s some extremely great intentional efforts that your team’s putting into that. I know that’s dollars, that’s a lot of time you’re putting into that, but it’s paying off. You know, Lucas, I’m sitting here thinking about this. I think we’re all listening. And we’re like, ‘aha.’ Yeah, that does…why aren’t we already doing that? Because senior living, for some reason, oftentimes is kind of late adopters to technology that’s already out there. And in a lot of our lives outside of senior living, the things that we are drawn to, the brands that were drawn to other industry verticals, as we’re out shopping for consumer goods and services are doing these kind of things. And we just, for some reason, don’t think, well, you know, why is it that our team members or our resident families sure don’t want this same kind of service and this same kind of technology be used for them? Thanks to a lot of the great partners out there like our friends at OneDay that have created tools that make it easier for us to have something at our disposal to be able to do this as operators. Great stuff, I know our listeners are getting a lot out of this.


Yeah. And I think it’s awesome. Obviously there’s some upfront heavy lifting to on the intentionality about building that process, but it’s all systems that we’re used to using, to Josh’s point. Walk us through that process. Was it hard to set up and then easy to execute or the other way around or in between?

Jodi 20:01

That’s kind of, one of my favorite topics is how fast can you pivot, analysis paralysis. If you’re spending too much time trying to figure out if that’s going to work you may lose an amazing opportunity. We make decisions on software or what tool it might be, based on how many areas of the business can it touch. So video can touch HR, it can touch leads, it can touch at activities. You know, just the gamut. We have another interactive technology that very much about marketing, also about HR, also about closing leads. When we make these decisions, it’s not that one thing does this one thing, how can that one thing touch several aspects? And the cost of turnover in our industry is exponentially higher than it is in other industries. We’ve gotta spend that money that maybe isn’t a line item on your GL. Because nobody says this is the cost of turnover and I’m budgeting for that. So when are we gonna make the decisions that we need to invest in this tool or, or that full-time employee to focus just on this? It’s working. I hope it continues to work because we’ve got a baby boomer group coming that I don’t know how we’re gonna provide their care.

Josh 21:33

Well, I’ll tell you though, the one things that sure is that there’s going to be constant change. And you know, we’ve been in the face over the past couple years. I think it’s forced us to do things differently and probably pushed us into doing some things we should have already been doing, creative thinkers like you that are able to pivot and then share that information with our listeners. It’s such a valuable thing that you’ve been able to spend some time with us today out of your busy schedule at the Senior Living 100 event, so thank you for doing that. 

Jodi 22:02



Great to see you again, Jodi. And I know that we’ll be seeing you back in Nashville for our VIP ignite experience, the theme Dream Again, we might even pick your brain a little bit more on that FORD principle. Maybe there’s some concepts there that we could utilize, but we will make sure that we connect with Jody and Radiant Senior Living in our show notes as well as Senior Living 100, we’ve got a great day planned. I’m sure you’ve got some more meetings we’ll let you get back to, but thanks for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.

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215: Jodi Guffee