At the age of 12, she began calling bingo at a local community. She has been hooked ever since! Katie Churchill, Executive Senior Living Recruiter of Full Spectrum Staffing Solutions, shares her passion for the workforce and trends she is seeing in recruiting.
Follow Katie on Instagram: @katiec_seniorliving_recruiter
Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We are in Dallas, Texas meeting with great thought leaders and we have an awesome guest on the program today. We have Katie Churchill. She’s an executive senior living recruiter with Full Spectrum Staffing. Welcome to the show.
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
It’s great to see you again. You came out to our party last night and we had a great time. [Yep.] And we’ve had a great time to catch up. You’ve been following Bridge the Gap for a little while and you’ve connected with us and I love your background. I love the background of when people are really dedicated to older adults, senior living. And it’s really interesting to see and hear your story, which our guests are about, our listeners are about to hear where you have been on the provider operator side, and you’ve taken all that knowledge now to help them with their biggest challenge, which is labor and staffing. So you’re young already, but you got a very early start. [I did.] What was your first experience with senior housing?
Katie Churchill 01:36
So I was actually 12 years old and part of this group called the national charity league in my hometown in Palos Verdes. And I was able to call bingo and I’m like, “Hey, you hiring?” Like I just loved it. I knew forever. Then I was going to work in senior living. So went to school in Chico, California, Chico state, and studied health administration and gerontology. [Okay.] So I was one of seven people in the gerontology degree major, which I mean now they don’t even have it anymore, which really makes me sad, because you know, not a lot of people want to study aging, but I just knew I wanted senior living. I did my internships and was actually a life enrichment director for two communities in Chico while I was going to school and just loved it. Love, I love everything about senior living.
Wow. Well, you know, there may be buried in that story. A little tip for recruiting. I mean, so many of our operators are looking for creative ways to attract labor force and you don’t often hear of them getting 12 year olds to call bingo. But if we can just maybe expose more often intentionally the younger generation, maybe there’s something there.
Katie Churchill 02:48
I mean I think so. I mean a lot of communities and companies are starting to do a lot more like intergenerational activities and programs. And I think just allowing younger kids or even younger adults to really see what senior living is like now, versus what it was like 30 years ago. I mean it’s night and day. Senior living wasn’t a thing 30 years ago, right? It was just nursing homes. Mm-Hmm. So now we’ve got senior living and there’s so many different opportunities to work in senior living, whether that be sales, maintenance, acquisitions, real estate, there’s just so many different avenues that you could work in senior living and still make that difference every day.
Well, so you have such a cool perspective because coming through the ranks of working for operators in the communities, now you get to see more, I guess globally would be the term, how a lot of different operators are not only the challenges they’re facing, but how they’re innovative ways that they’re attacking those challenges and overcoming those challenges. So when you’re looking at things going on in the labor market right now, which is a big challenge, let’s admit it. [Huge topic] Yeah. But what are some of the interesting things that you’re seeing emerge as far as strategy to kind of overcome some of those staffing issues?
Katie Churchill 04:12
Sure. And so full spectrum, we actually don’t do frontline staffing. So caregivers, servers, med tech, that’s just something that we don’t do. I’ve seen a lot of our clients though, really put an emphasis on job fairs, right? Getting in-person with people rather than hoping somebody applies via Indeed or walks in with their resume. So they’re really starting to get more creative with where they’re doing the job fairs. Whether that be at college campuses or malls or really anywhere that they’re trying to just attract other talent to come in. Operators are getting really flexible with scheduling. Right? A lot of people want part-time or four-hour shifts or 12 hour shifts, or I want to work three twelves and then have the rest of, so operators are starting to get more flexible with how they do their staffing models and allow for frontline staff to come in at what they need right.
A lot of people need, part-time only, maybe they have kids or whatever it might be. So yeah, I mean for, for EDS and regionals and C-suite members, which is who we mainly recruit for it’s more about the culture of the company, right? It’s about the company where it is right now and how they value their employees, whether that be frontline all the way to C-suite members. And what are we doing to retain those people in those positions to grow and develop those below them to take over my role. You always hire to replace yourself. You want to hire somebody that’s better than you basically to do your own job. And so how are we developing those people underneath us to grow and develop and really take off in their roles?
Katie Churchill 06:01
I don’t know if that’s answered
Your, no, it totally answered my question. So you mentioned culture, so we hear that a lot, right? It’s a big time buzzword has been as long as I’ve been in the industry, but talk to us, I mean, are you seeing practical ways that culture is being broken down? Like what is really valued by team members that are looking for culture, but what does that mean from a practical standpoint? What do employers need to be putting in place that are the things that attract them to that culture?
Katie Churchill 06:36
Right. I think it’s doing what you actually say you’re doing right. A lot of times, we say, “oh yeah, we’ve got great culture here.” Okay. Like, so does everybody else apparently. But it’s how you actually, every single day show that example of the good culture that you have in your company. From the very beginning with Prestige, I made it known, “hey, I don’t want to just be a sales direct or community relations director at a community. I want to be a regional, I want to be a VP.” Hey, my boss was Carrie Parker. She was the VP of Sales and Marketing. And I said, “when are you retiring because I want your job.” And so she kind of created this culture within our sales department of growth. Who here wants to be a sales specialist or a regional? We’d all raise our hand.
Kaite Churchill 07:26
Okay, great. Like this is the career path. And these are the types of things that I want to pull out those strengths for you to see if this is a good career path for you. And it was an incredible experience. I mean, she really took the time to nourish all of us to determine, “okay, you’re a sales director now, hone in on these skills and then let’s grow and develop you.” And a couple of us actually really did become regionals that were sales directors and kind of grew up in the ranks of the company. And I think for that respect, when I say, Prestige, they have a great culture of really growing their team members. And this is how, and I think that for culture, it is such a buzzword. It is something that everybody says, they have a great culture, but it’s truly how you define that. And how all of your frontline team members would say, “this is our good culture and this is why it is so good.” [Yeah.] Like they really believe it too.
Well. That makes a lot of sense. So as we are looking at the aging population and looking at the huge opportunity, senior living has to grow, to adapt to care for this aging population. We not only have to keep the talent that we already have, but we’ve got to attract a whole group of new talent. What do you think we need to be doing, maybe we are starting to do, but what do we really need to do more of, maybe there’s new things that we need to be doing to attract a whole group that’s not even here yet that needs to be in senior living.
Katie Churchill 09:00
I’ve thought about that a lot. There’s a lot of programs that companies offer. And I can only really talk about the two that I worked for. So Kisco, they offered this career Lattice program. And I always thought that that was something that was so unique where it was any frontline staff could apply for this program. And they would be able to work in different departments to determine maybe where their passion lies, maybe they’re a caregiver, but they find that their passion really is in life enrichment, right. Or wellness, I think is what Kisco called it. So they would then develop that person to spend time in wellness. And then this person, this is a true story. This person then said, “hey, I want to go to college and study actually event planning, life enrichment, activity programming. I wanna do this as my passion.”
Katie Churchill 09:52
So then, “okay, great. We have a scholarship program. Here’s money for you to further your education.” And I think when we think about attracting top talent, for me as a person who loves to learn, pay for me to get more education. I want to continuously learn, like that to me is something that would attract the younger age group that’s coming into the force or even bringing people back into the senior living workforce. It’s programs like continuous education, programs that allow you to explore a different part of the community outside of the one that you work in. I feel like a lot of times people feel like it needs to be so siloed. You only work in activities, don’t you dare figure out the kitchen, work in activities. I think when operators really think about how can I retain the people that work for me and value them. That’s what I think about is allowing them to explore something outside of themselves or even say, “hey, I want to be an RDO. How do I get there?”
Well, so I’m curious also, so you, you obviously are professional at finding talent, right? And I have to boil things down to very simple analogies that I got growing up from like my grandparents. And he’s like, “if you want to catch the right kind of fish, you’ve got to be in the right kind of fishing hole, right.” So this is true. So I say to you, where are the places that we need to be going to recruit the type of talent, is that the university, is that other verticals is like, where are you seeing the opportunities that it’s like harvest where we can go to find the talent that we need?
Katie Churchill 11:35
Sure. We only recruit in senior living. I’m not calling hotels and hospitality to try to flip them into senior living. I want the people that actually love senior living and have such a high passion for it that want to continue to stay in senior living to make that difference for the operator maybe that I have the order for. And I want to find that person that isn’t green, has talent, has a long tenure of experience behind them, but can really push the needle with my operator or my client. And we’ve thought about, yeah, let’s recruit from hospitality, hotel industry, colleges and things like that. But where we are right now in senior living and getting back really out of the COVID clouds, getting back into things, seasoned people are what we’re finding our operators really need to jump their buildings even higher than what they were before. If that makes sense.
Katie Churchill 12:31
It totally makes sense. [Yeah.] So an opportunity. I want to play devil’s advocate for a minute. [Sure.] Give you the opportunity to shine here. Let’s see if you can do the, so when I hear recruiting or staffing, I think, “oh, maybe those agencies, those organizations may be dime a dozen,” what makes you guys different? Like give us the opportunity, what is Katie going to do different for me?
Katie Churchill 12:37
We were actually talking about this earlier. What we do differently is we actually get on the phones with people. We call them, We call people constantly all day long. We’re a firm that is only in senior living. It’s all I know. It’s all I care about. I don’t care about hotels and hospitality. I care about senior living. And I think that that’s what makes us a little bit more unique than like at the other agencies or staffing firm. And also we’re not a staffing firm. I mean, I know it’s in our title, which…we’re probably changing the name of our company to Full Spectrum something else, but
No note to marketing and branding right there.
Katie Churchill 13:34
They’re fully aware. Yeah. Sorry. But yeah, so we’re not, “hey, we’re gonna take every single job order that’s open,” and “hey that building’s got 60 ED roles open. I want them all.” We are very purposeful in the opportunities that we recruit for. I spend probably 30 minutes to an hour on the phone with the hiring manager, learning about them. You know, what kind of person they want to work have worked for them. I learn about their culture, literally their culture of their company, what their expectations are. And we talk about the building. Like if it’s an ed role, we talk about the building. Tell me about the really, really good and tell me the really, really bad. I wanna know everything. I look up the license, I look up the surveys, I look up everything.
Katie Churchill 14:22
I want to be fully prepared when I am talking to EDs in this market, or relocating an ED that I know everything about this building, the operator, and the person that’s going to be hiring them to fulfill this job order. And I don’t know if other firms do that. I don’t know if other firms really take that time to gather all of that information. And I tell the hiring manager, I’m like, “hey, look, this is gonna be probably a really long call. Be prepared to talk about yourself a lot.” <Laugh> I want to know everything. But I think that that really sets us apart from just every other firm out there just wanting to place a ton of candidates. We’re very purposeful.
So what about, if you’re out there as an employer and you’re looking for some key, let’s just say administrator roles, what is the expectation we should have that you’re seeing the time to actually place someone in a position of leadership in a community?
Katie Churchill 15:21
So from the moment we take the job order and begin recruiting on it. We have a typical placement timeframe about 32 days. That really is depending upon the position, how long it’s been open, what type of recruiting you’ve done on it before, before we join the team and stuff, which is all stuff that we do in the intake, right? If the position’s been open for six months and you’ve tried to hire four people, probably not the job order we’re going to take on because that tells us there’s something wrong with the market, or something really wrong with maybe the operator or the building itself or something. So we do a little bit more homework before we really like take on a search like that, but we want to commit to our clients that we are going to place this person. Some of our clients, we do retained, dedicated searches, where they’re paying us up front to find that person and we do. And it’s filled and they’re happy, and it’s great. I’d say about 32 days is our average. Of course with everybody, we hold guarantees, right. So if that person walks out, we’re gonna replace that person for them.
So, wow. Yeah. So Lucas, a complex world that she operates in.
Well, and so as we kind of round out the conversation, let’s move to a related topic, but I hear these phrases, the great resignation. [Oh yes.] And I also hear statistics around women workforce, upwards of maybe 40% have left the workforce, correct me if I’m wrong, but these are obviously real challenges in an already stressed labor market. Mm-Hmm. How are you adapting to that? And am I correct? How are you adapting to that and what is going to change in the future to get some of these people back into the workforce?
Katie Churchill 17:07
I don’t know if they’re going to come back. Which could be okay. I get it. The past two years has definitely rocked a lot of people’s worlds and it’s changed the way that they view their own life. Maybe they were hustle, hustle, hustle, and now they’re like, “I just want to sit back and hang out with my grandkids or slow down.” And I think it’s also going to give operators a chance to really look internally at their travel schedules for their regionals or their VPs, right. Fifty conferences, like that kind of thing. And I think it’s going to, it’s going to allow people to kind of have more of that work-life balance that we didn’t have before two years ago in senior living. When I was a regional, and part of why I left and stopped being a regional was travel.
Katie Churchill 18:02
I was gone Sunday night until Friday morning. And had just gotten married. And my husband would call me his weekend wife. So horrible when I think back to it. But, he’d call me his weekend wife. And I’m like, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” You know, this isn’t, it was kind of the fun was kind of slowly going out. The candle was burning out and I wanted to still love senior living. And I still, obviously very much so do, but that work life balance, I think when you ask, what is going to attract people, it has to be that. We have to be able to give people the opportunity to say, ‘uncle’ when they’ve had enough.
Sure. And that’s, to me, I mean, Sunday night to Friday morning, that’s way out of balance. Which is actually a great opportunity, right, to I mean just change that somewhat because that’s completely overboard there. So it’s not like, “okay, we’ve got to overhaul this and change everything and it’s going to be so challenging.” I mean, make a couple of changes there.
Katie Churchill 19:09:
Small ones, small one small changes.
Yeah. And then you’re going to be able to attract people.
Kaite Churchill 19:13
I think even I, I was talking to one of my friends, who’s a regional now and she’s like, “I’ve got three different time zones.” And I’m like, “what why?” And she’s like, “I don’t know, like I live in California, but I’ve got like, you know, the west coast I’ve got central. Oh yeah. By the way, now they gave me a building in Florida,” and I’m like, “well that doesn’t even make sense, you know?” So I think if we also look at like a map of our communities, right. As operators, where does it make sense to have these VPs of sales or those VPs of operations live first of all, and then have them have communities that make sense and not have to travel six hours by plane to get to their buildings, right?
Well, you’re exactly right now. Yeah. [A lot of homework there.] I think a lot of that’s just changing the way we think about it because in the past, maybe we, as leaders, as operators were not having a team first mentality, and it was just kind of like bottom-line driven. And we weren’t really, when we were thinking about acquisition of new buildings, or development of new buildings, and when we were getting out of our regional areas, you’re not factoring in the team that’s going to support that. What does that mean for them? [Right.] And so, just like we’ve talked about on several podcast, the intentionality now that’s going into even design and renovation around team-centric, operational-centric focus to where the environment for the team is at the forefront. To your point now, even through the upper and mid-level management for these communities, there has to be an intentionality to thinking, what’s the resident experience going to be, but what is the team member experience going to be? And how do we service this community appropriately without killing our team, right. And having 40% exit the workforce. So many things, yes. We’ve got factors going on in the economy and the world that are beyond our control, but so much that we have to take ownership of.
I agree. I think you said it beautifully.
She said, I said it beautifully Lucas, what do you think?
Well, mark that. Producer Sarah, make sure you mark that that’s pull that out as a quote to put on social so that everybody knows.
Thank you. Thank you for that. Josh. I’ll slip you a 20 later.
Josh did a good one. You got a good one there. No, this is a great conversation. And Katie, yeah, it’s great to meet you. I’m glad our audience is getting a chance to meet you. Thank you for your support of Bridge the Gap. [Absolutely.] And following us. I know our listeners are going to want to engage more in this conversation. So go to BTGvoice.com. You can download this episode, check out the transcripts. But more importantly, meet us on social. Because we’ll be posting about this week as this rolls out. And this is a great conversation. It’s a complicated issue that doesn’t have a silver bullet, Right?
Katie Churchill 22:04
I would agree. I would agree.
There’s not gonna be one thing to solve this. We need everybody. [We need everybody.] Which is what Bridge the Gap is all about. We’re the voice of senior living and we want to hear yours. So connect with us on social. And we’d love to, to hear you. So thanks for spending some time with us today. Thank
You so much for having me. This was so much fun and I’m really looking forward to Nashville.
Yes. Dream. Dream Again.
Wow. You’ve given us all the goodies today. You’re plugging our event and everything.
Yeah. You’re welcome. Yeah.
You’re definitely coming back on the show.
For sure. So if you want to meet Katie in person, meet her in Nashville at the Dream Again VIP Ignite Experience. We’ll have a link in the show notes for you, request your invite. Thanks for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.
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