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CW 47: Cara Silletto

Workforce thought leader, Cara Silletto shares the six areas of your business that need attention to recruit and retain good employees. These six areas are a part of the M.A.G.N.E.T. framework: Management Effectiveness, Attracting and Recruiting, Guidance Upon Entry (on-boarding), New Staffing Models, Empowering Champions, and Trust Through Transparency. As Cara walks through this proven framework, you will learn what areas to invest in, to become a MAGNET employer that attracts better applicants and keeps staff longer.

Welcome to Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday. I’m Cara Silletto, President at Magnet Culture, an organization that focuses on reducing unnecessary employee turnover for organizations across the country. I am thrilled to be a contributor this season to talk about workforce and culture for our Bridge The Gap listeners. Now, if you missed the last few episodes in January, I explained why people really leave and spoiler alert; it’s not for the 50 cents more an hour. In February, I talked about the generational dynamics within our workforce and within our workplace. And in March, we talked about making the case for change that cost of turnover and how we can have an executive level conversation about putting more resources, more time, more attention, and more investment toward really solving the retention problem. Then you had a bonus session if you missed it at the end of March, we had a fifth Wednesday where the four contributors this season got together and we did a session about why people should or would want to work in senior living.


It was so much fun. So I hope you didn’t miss that and feel free to share that episode with anybody in your network who may be considering a career transition into senior living or someone who’s just joined in our profession to make sure they see all the opportunities that this amazing field brings to professionals. So hope that you’ve caught all those episodes so far. And today I’m going to focus on the real framework that we teach at Magnet Culture about retaining our staff. What are the six areas of the business that you can focus on and improve to create a place where people want to work? That’s the key. All right, now we happen to call this the magnet strategies and it’s an acronym. So M A G N E T cover the six different areas of the business that I promise, I guarantee to you, we have proven that if you focus on a couple of these areas, not necessarily all of them, you’re probably doing some of them very well, but if you focus on the few that need improvement and really take those up a notch, you can absolutely reduce those overtime costs. Reduce that use of temp agency. Get your staffing stability where you need it to provide the greatest quality care. 


All right, that’s our goal. So I’m going to dive in today to those six different areas. And actually I won’t be diving super deep because today’s episode is really about an overview of these six magnet areas. Then on next month’s episode, that’s where I’m going to give you a more detailed strategy and tactic for different areas of the magnet strategies that are immediately actionable and things that you can start to implement or talk with your team about.


So I promise you’ll still leave this episode with some great takeaways and some great conversation starters with your executive team, your department heads, your leaders at every level, but just know that today’s going to be an overview of the magnet strategies. And then I’ll come back in May and really dive into more specifics. So what are these areas of the magnet strategies? Well, I’ll list them off first and then we’re going to go talk about each one. So the first is management effectiveness. We all know the biggest bang for your buck of investing in your culture is by training and developing your managers and leaders at every single level. So we’re going to talk about that. Then we’re going to talk about attraction and recruiting. What can we do on the recruiting side and how can we become a little bit more attractive or a lot more attractive to the candidate pool that we’re trying to draw from. GE is guidance upon entry and that’s our onboarding section.


So we’re going to talk about onboarding and orientation and new hire experience there. Then we’ll shift over to the N, in magnet, which is for new staffing models, that is more about scheduling and staffing. How do we approach that career advancement discussion and things like that? The E is for empowered champions. Who owns retention, and who is driving that conversation? So what’s that job description look like for those that are empowered to solve the retention issues we’re seeing today? And finally, the T in magnet is trust through transparency. So we will talk about the impact and the correlation of using transparency to build trust and how that ultimately keeps people longer. Okay. So let’s get started here with the management effectiveness piece, and I just want to again, really pound home how important it is to make sure that your managers and supervisors, and that includes the department directors.


It also includes your senior leaders. Even your board. Sometimes we have a board that’s holding us back from making the changes we need because their leadership mindset is not aligned with today’s new workforce. So as I mentioned with the generational talk a couple months ago, we have to first understand who this workforce is. And then we can go to diagnosing why exactly are they leaving? Instead of just using our assumptions, we can validate those hunches. And then we need to have great managers who understand all of that stuff, right? Who know the workforce, who understand why people stay, why people go. And we have found that management and supervisors have the most influence on whether a person stays or goes. So that’s why you get the biggest bang for your buck when you invest in developing those people, those leaders, at every level because they can then sniff out the real issues.


So, you know, they can resolve things. They can resolve the conflict that might be brewing. They can talk with people about their advancement. They can talk with people about their frustrations and try to resolve any of those roadblocks or eliminate any obstacles in a staff member’s way from having a place where they want to work. Plus a lot of people, come on, we’ve all heard that saying of, ‘you don’t leave a company, people leave bosses’ and or some combination of that type of quote. And it really is also true that today’s new workforce isn’t typically loyal to the organization. They’re going to be more loyal to the person that they’re working for and, or the team that they’re on, which is often built and led very beautifully by a strong leader over that team. So I encourage you to really take a very close look, a very candid and maybe difficult look at, do you have the right people in the right seats for leadership at every level?


And are you continuing to give them the tools, the training, the development, the coaching, the assessments, whatever it is that they all need to become more self-aware and more aware of others. Learn how to regulate and flex and adjust their style for different communication styles, different personality, styles, all of those different things. Are we continuing to give them the tools that they need to be successful in their leadership positions? Okay. So take a close look at what you’ve got now, and then really kind of audit that training and development plan for your leaders. Is it robust enough? Is it what that investment should look like, not compared to last year’s budget and ‘oh yeah, well, we bumped up the training budget a little bit this year.’ Well, if we’re way behind on where our managers need to be, then we may need to completely reevaluate that management training budget, for example, to really figure out how to spend those dollars wisely, to get a better culture in the end.


All right. So there’s management effectiveness. Attraction and recruiting. I gotta be honest friends. You know, my focus is on retention and people contact me a lot asking about recruiting strategies or recruitment services and whatnot, but I truly believe, and I’ve seen it right before my eyes. I truly believe that the best recruiting strategy is stronger retention because if we get things right on the inside, if we look at ourselves first as leaders and as an organization, and we fix some of the things that we need to polish, you know, that we really work on those things, it will make us more attractive to the outside community. Okay. So I don’t mean for that to look like I’m dodging the question, but so often when people ask me, how do we get better candidates? And we just need more high-quality people coming in because nobody wants to work.


Right. We can easily look at them and blame the candidate pool or the applicants and say, ‘Oh, it’s them, not me. I’ve been successful for a long, long time. It’s just, you know, these millennials and gen Z folks that are coming in, they’re driving me crazy. They don’t want to work.’ Well, have you or your leaders, whoever we’re talking about here, have you all really embraced and learned more about the new workforce? Have you evolved with the workforce in that time? So that’s where we really want to look internally at our retention efforts and what are we doing to create a better place to work. And when you do that, ultimately you become more attractive and you will be able to much more easily recruit in the type of people that you want. It also becomes a much greater breeding ground for employee referrals because when the employees are happy, they draw in their friends and family and neighbors and all of that.


Okay. All right. So next we have the G. This is guidance upon entry. And guidance upon entry is our discussion and our workshops and whatnot around the onboarding and orientation period for new hires. And the way that I like to really think about it is, what is that new hire experience? What is the new hire experience that we can improve? We’re really focused on the resident experience and their family members and loved ones and making sure that customer experience, the external customers, we really focus so much on that and make sure it’s a smooth process and there’s great communication. And they have a point of contact for questions and all of that stuff that we really worry about with our new residents that are coming in for that new resident experience but have you really evaluated and continued to improve your new hire experience? Making sure that your onboarding plan is solid.


You are hiring all the time, so it should never be deemed like a mom and pop hodgepodge. I can understand how a company with 10 employees might not have a great onboarding process in place because they don’t hire very often. But for us in senior living, we constantly have folks coming in the door. So we really need to make sure that that is a great experience, not just from the day they come in the door, but from the interview process. And when we make them an offer, we need to stay in communication with them throughout that as well. So couple things to keep in mind here is onboarding is not just HR’s responsibility or whomever the corporate or home office type person that’s leading the onboarding. It doesn’t stop there. Onboarding and orientation is not just a check the box, check, check, check, check, check, check… bing, they’re done! 


If we think about those words in more broad terms of really onboarding a person that means helping them build relationships with their team, really helping them learn the systems, the processes, learn the residents, right? The nuances of those caregiving differences that one resident versus another might have. The different preferences that they have, for example. So we have to think of the onboarding process as all of the leadership’s responsibility, not just the person leading that day one onboarding, also making sure that the team is very welcoming and that you have a little bit of a process for them to get to know other folks. We are so busy now that in many, many communities that I visit, and then I talk to their leaders, we’re just busy. And so they’ve cut that team-building component. But it is critical. Even in one-minute, two-minute bite-sized chunks, it’s critical that we still build that into our staff meetings, our team huddles, whatever you call it, we have to still build in that team building.


So that those new hires truly have a really great new hire experience. All right. Okay. So the N, in magnet is new staffing models. Now this might shake up your thinking a little bit, but I will tell you, we do not have to schedule people the way we’ve always scheduled people. I have seen some of my clients go from just offering eights and twelves to offering four hour, six hour, eight hour, 10 hour, 12 hour shifts. And yes, it’s more complicated, but that’s what scheduling software is for. So we don’t have to do that stuff manually. And even if you get scheduling software, it’s not going to eliminate your staff coordinator position. Don’t worry. Or I’m sorry, but it still needs management. It still needs oversight. And it is not going to be a copy and paste kind of job. But at least now we can work around students schedules that change every semester, single parents or folks that have a second job or any of those kinds of things, even folks that would have retired from full-time, but they’re willing to still work part-time.


So if we offer more shift options, scheduling options, and we look at our start and end time on some of those shifts. If you look around your community, you may find that the daycares, the childcare centers in your area, their hours, don’t align with your start and end time for your shifts. Or if your workforce is coming in on mass transit or buses or anything like that in your city, then you may also want to look at the bus route schedule or the mass transit, subway line and things like that, and see what those schedules are for the stops that are nearest to your location. So lots of things to think about there, with your scheduling and that staffing model. And also I’ll dive into this much more on next month’s episode, but think about advancement in broader terms. So when we think about our staffing model, I really encourage you to think about what else could we do in regards to advancement? Not just unofficial title change and promotion and more money, but mentoring, you know, get a mentor or be a mentor, cross training, special projects, education, more education, whether that’s offered internally or externally through webinars, through conferences, through association events, things like that.


So like I said, we’ll dive much deeper into the advancement conversation next time. Cause I’ve got a lot of specific strategies around that, but for the N in magnet, new staffing models, I really would like you to challenge your executive team and your board on, is the scheduling and the staffing model that we have still working? And some parts of it, I’m sure they are while other parts may need some evolving. May need some adjustments, in order for us to be that place that people want to come work at and the place where they want to stay. All right. So next up is the E, which is for empowered champions. And that is all about who owns retention. So if you heard my episode a while back about making the case for this, I talked about the blame game. I talked about that senior leaders look to the HR leadership or hiring managers and say, ‘hire better people and fix this turnover problem.’


And then that group looks at the supervisors and frontline managers and says, ‘but they’re the ones who were chasing away all my great people,’ and you know how that cycle goes. So of course, supervisors and managers aren’t in many cases given the time and the tools to be great managers in their role. So it kind of goes full circle back to the company. Well, we very much encourage you to think about having a full-time or part-time if you’re a smaller community or just can’t make the leap to a full-time position, but really setting in place, an empowered champion, a retention champion who drives these conversations. Who drives these retention initiatives. Who is constantly evaluating the employee surveys and employee feedback and the exit survey information, and really identifying why exactly are people leaving and then building those relationships to bridge the gap and to find out what do they want, what do they need?


How can we continue to create a better place to work? All right. So, I do have in episodes before, you might’ve heard me talk about the magnet vault. So is where we have free downloadable resources for all of our followers and clients. And that we have a great job description for a retention specialist or a retention strategist. Some people create this job up at the executive level and take it very, very seriously and others certainly take it seriously but are going to put more of a coordinator or specialist title on that to run with it. So, anyway, I’ve got this job description that lays out a lot of different things that you could have this person focus on, if you want to take this role really seriously and move forward with it. Also, even if you’re not going to create a part-time or full-time role, you may want to create a committee or retention task force for example. 


For a lot of our clients, after they do our retention bootcamp for the managers, we encourage them and help them start that retention task force to help drive that conversation and put the initiatives in place. So you definitely want to have at least a committee working on it or full-time, or part-time staff that are focused on retention. And if you think that’s a little bit crazy, I got to say, we have, in many cases had a full-time recruiter. It’s not any different, right? We’re very familiar with a recruiting job. And so we know what that job description looks like and what that person’s responsible for. But if retention is an even larger and more costly issue for us now, of course, we still need the recruiter function. I’m not anti recruiter at all, but instead of hiring another recruiter, or if you are going to expand your HR team, I would highly recommend considering a retention specialist or a retention strategist on that team so that they can really take these things that have been on the back burner for the HR and recruiter folks for a while, because they’re so inundated with all the applications and positions to fill.


All right. The last one T in magnet is trust through transparency. So we all are pretty familiar with the concept of Start With Why, if you have not watched Simon Sinek, S I N E K, if you have not watched his Ted Talks, if you haven’t read his books, start with why and some other great leadership books, I highly encourage you to do that. But when we talk about why it’s not necessarily the Simon Sinek, why which his is great and definitely go read that, but his is more, why do you get out of bed every day? And why do you do what you do? Do, you know, finding that why. Where in the trust through transparency, what we teach and work on is improving the trust and transparency within the organization. And what is the why behind that policy? Now, if you’ve ever seen me speak at a conference in person, you know that I have some purple hair.


And so sometimes we get into the conversations about tattoos and piercings and crazy purple hair like Cara has and it’s funny because when I ask people why then they will, of course come back with, well, because our residents, you know, they are more conservative and more traditional, and they don’t want all of that stuff. But the organizations that I know of who have actually surveyed their residents over time and asked very specifically about tattoos, piercings, crazy color hair, things like that, the residents, every single year care less and less and less, because a lot of their daughters and granddaughters or sons and grandsons, they come in with a tattoo sleeve down their arm and things like that. So I just want to really push back on you and your leadership team, if anyone is claiming that the why we have these policies and the please understand the tattoo and crazy hair and stuff.


That’s just one example. But also what about your, your attendance policy and your grace period for punctuality and any of them, right? Your attire, policy, things like that. Do you know the why? And have you evolved over time with the evolving expectations and the evolving workforce? So this trust through transparency, we can not just answer a question of, well, why can’t I have a tattoo on my hand with a well that’s the policy, right? Or my favorite, corporate said so. We do not want any manager ever saying that we want every manager and supervisor to understand why that policy exists, whether it is a compliance issue or reimbursement related, if it’s about documentation or whatnot, or if it’s a culture thing, or an expectation about professionalism or from the resident standpoint, things like that. We’ve gotta be able to have those conversations because if your staff just thinks that it’s because I said so, or because that’s the way we’ve always done it, you’ll lose them.


They will not only check out mentally, but they will literally walk out and never come back. So we need to build trust through transparency, being more open, more honest with our team, letting them know how and why decisions are being made, that type of thing. So what we have found is that transparency builds trust that trust is going to gain more loyalty to the leader and to the organization, hopefully, and then that loyalty will extend their tenure. They’re much less likely to leave for a dollar more an hour or for just some other shiny opportunity because they feel really comfortable and they trust and love where they are and who they’re working with. So we talked about management effectiveness, attraction and recruiting, guidance upon entry with onboarding. We talked about new staffing models of scheduling and advancement. We talked about empowering champions to own the retention conversation and initiatives.


And we talked about building trust through transparency. So what I would like you to do, your homework, if you choose to accept the challenge is to identify which two or maybe three, but probably two areas of magnet need your time and attention, which of those two areas in this next six to 12 months, do you think that you can have very meaningful conversations with your leadership team to get those to the next level and make some improvement, make sure that you are aligned with today’s new workforce. So we also have a little bonus here. Now, next month I will be diving into some strategies, but if you go to, that is one of our web pages that has a list of some, I think there are about 20 to 40 minutes each of specific webinars on each of the six magnet areas.


So if you don’t want to wait until next month, you want more strategies, you can go grab those. Or they’re great little free training videos. I know everybody’s, budget’s tight. And so you’re welcome to share those training videos with your managers, with your board and executive team or supervisors, leaders at every level can benefit from watching those magnet webinars at So on my next Contributor Wednesday episode, of course, I’m going to dive into those specific tactics. And if you are a little bit impatient and you want to learn strategies ASAP, you can grab those webinars that we just talked about, or you can pick up a copy of my book, Staying Power: Why Your Employees Leave and How to Keep Them Longer on Amazon. My name is Cara Silletto, and thank you so much for listening to this week’s Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday. Don’t forget to connect with me on Have a great day!


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CW 47: Cara Silletto