Profile Picture
The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

Episode 40: Cara Silletto

BTG Episode 40: Cara Silletto

Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast. We have an exciting episode today. We’re very, very excited to have back a guest, Cara Silletto.

Cara: -Hello!

Lucas: -Welcome to the show, again.

Cara: Thanks for having me back!

Lucas: Yes, and so, we are in a very unique backdrop today, Josh. We have traveled with our team to the Thrive Center in Louisville, Kentucky. This is a place- we got a brief tour and we’re going to spend some more time here today- but I’m blown away by what’s in this building. This is in Cara’s hometown-

Cara: -It is!

Lucas: And, so, this is going to be a very, very interesting show where we kind of melt together some aspects of the setting that we’re at and some technology but specifically today, Josh, we’re going to dive in with Cara on a topic of onboarding. So, Cara, is a retention expert, a best-selling author; she speaks at conferences, she trains people and so we’re really glad to have her back. And for those that are listening or watching on YouTube, if you stay to the end, we’re going to talk a little bit more about a giveaway, an exciting giveaway that Cara has been so gracious.

Cara, let’s dive in to this onboarding topic and maybe just give us a framework there and what you’re seeing in the marketplace and how this plays out tangibly when people are trying to bring in new employees?

Lucas: Sure, sure. So, we know we’ve got a lot of turnover happening today. That’s pretty obvious. And one of the things that we get ourselves into is we gotta get them on the floor, we’ve got to get them on the floor. We’re already short-staffed. We gotta get them on the floor. And that can actually work against you because if we don’t take time to talk about who we are as an organization, the intentional culture that we want to have here, what those expectations are. You know, in the last podcast, we talked a lot about communicating your expectations and a lot of that can happen in the onboarding at orientation phase.

So, if we don’t onboard properly and we don’t have the culture and kind of the history and who we are, they’re never really going to fall in love with us as their employer. They’re never going to feel like a part of the family and then we throw them onto the floor maybe with somebody as a liaison to ask questions to, but we don’t do any teambuilding anymore? Are you kidding me?

Josh: Yeah, so, you touched on, as an operator, what can become a vicious cycle and it’s like two negatives don’t make a positive always and it’s that need. Sometimes you’re in a pinch or a crunch and you’ve just gotta get somebody on the floor. You’re like, oh, we’ll teach them on the job or we’ll put them with somebody who’s got some experience and they’ll learn on the fly.

What happens is you just lose so much in that communication and laying out those expectations. So, I’m looking forward to hearing some tips on how to kind of break that trend.

Cara: Yeah, so, it’s a balance between being speedy and yet letting through to them what you really need to. So, in some of my talks, I say we need to expedite the process and get them really the way that I talk about that is you never want somebody to sit the bench. And so, you want to be speedy that they get out there and they get to do what they love so you don’t want them to, you know, well wait, hold tight, it’ll be awhile before you actually do the job you thought you were going to be doing or the job that you really want to be doing. We don’t want to hold them back from that.

I think of it as like telling Superman, no just be Clark Kent for a while. Just wait, hold tight, no cape. Not yet, not yet. We don’t want to do that because you may run them off that they say I’m not even doing what I thought I was going to be doing and I’m Superman and I have so much to offer and they won’t let me.

But then, at the same time, we don’t want to push them out there too quickly where we didn’t give them the proper introduction to their team or to the job. We didn’t give them proper training, that type of thing.

So, it’s just a balance of figuring out what do you really want them to know when they come onboard and instead of thinking about it as a boot camp mentality, like, okay we’ll just cram all this stuff into three days or five days or however much.

Think of it this way- what do your new hires need day one, week one, month one and year one and continue to sprinkle training and team building and building their confidence in the company, deepening their roots in the organization and on their team which is gonna make them stay longer and just really making them seem at home and comfortable.

Josh: So, back up just a minute, because I’m a little bit slow on the uptake sometimes. You shared a lot of information.

So, it sounds like for the employer, the operator, the manager, you’re saying take a step back and almost create an outline- what do you need to accomplish. Maybe there’s things that you’re trying to squeeze into that first week or that first month where, hey, that’s not mission critical, but those might be a little bit further down the road.

So, prioritize your training, maybe put that on paper or put it into whatever electronic training program. Is that what I’m hearing?

Cara: Absolutely. Use your LMS. Use your Learning Management System and also remember that from an adult learning standpoint, we retain very little when it is pushed at us all at one time. So, that’s another reason that you don’t want to cram all the learning because then what happens if you cram it all into the first one, two or three days then three weeks in or three months in, they make a mistake and well, we taught you that on day one. Really, because you taught me like 800 things that all came at me that were new.

Another thing to think about is has this person ever worked in senior care or not? Because I encourage senior hair providers to have a separate onboarding checklist for people who’ve never walked in our field. We have a lot of jargon. Come on now. We have a lot of acronyms, we have a lot of jargon, not only within the profession but within your building, your company has its own jargon and acronyms and what do you name the different wings of your building and what do you call the different positions within the building and things like that.

So, that’s something that if people haven’t ever been in the field or ever worked for your company in particular, there are a few added things that you should do. You don’t want your new hires to ever feel stupid.

Josh: So, speaking of acronyms, you spelled it out for us, but you said LMS. Learning Management System. So, okay, as an operator with emerging technologies, everything, we’re getting pushed to all these systems and software and fancy bells and whistles that are supposed to help promote your learning management system, to help deliver your learning management system. I’m sure some of that’s good.

Your perspective, you see a lot of different operators, a lot of different operations, different management systems. Pros, cons- what is out there, what’s effective, what’s working with today’s workforce that delivers that.

Cara: That’s a great question. Honestly, I am not as well-versed on the healthcare specific learning management systems. As you know, half of my business is in senior care and half of my business is not inside senior care so a lot of the systems I know are kind of industry agnostic. But, I do know for…Cornerstone is one of the huge learning management systems and success factors and those sort of things. I believe HealthcareSource is a form as well that I’ve heard good things about.

And so, I can’t tell you exactly which ones would be best for you, because it kind of depends on the size of your business. Cornerstone is only going to be for someone who has tons of buildings because it’s the Cadillac model of that. But, I would just make sure that you find an LMS that fits the size of your company and certainly if you’re growing you need to take that into consideration.

But, the learning management systems have great uses but you gotta have somebody who owns the system. You have to have a system administrator that that is their job, at least part time, at least 20 hours a week. Someone at your corporate office that assigns those classes properly out to people, that sets up the email notifications, that will follow-up with people when they’re behind on classes. We all know there’s some classes that you have to have for compliance purposes and that’s the reason groups go into the LMS space. But, then there’s a lot of soft skills training that should be pushed out.

That’s one of the things we talk a lot about is management so if we want to stay with onboarding here, but we talk about managers who get promoted or even supervisors, what is your management training plan. What is their orientation like when they go into management? Too many people have access to an online class platform and they said, oh yeah, well we have healthcare academy or we have one of things, Alias, or what not. We have these, but there’s no plan to use it. There’s no our administrators need to take this many classes a month, or they need to make sure they have these classes if they’re a newer administrator for example, or newer department director.

So, we definitely help companies figure out what is the best training plan for the onboarding and all new hires and also anybody who is promoted or brought in at the supervisor or management levels. Critical.

Josh: I think you just brought up such a critical piece and that’s who is going to champion this. I think it can become overwhelming. A lot of our audience, we’ve got a wide variety; we’ve got folks that are part of huge organizations that have someone dedicated full time at the corporate office or a regional person who is championing the system.

The struggle is what kind of advice and what level of priority can we give to our listeners that may be part of that single community or a small platform that’s in rural America that is really wanting to provide a quality work environment, a quality onboarding experience, but they’re feeling like they’re drowning and they’re like, I can’t afford somebody who’s going to pay, I can pay them 20 hours a week just to focus on this. Sometimes you say, well, maybe you can afford not to but is there anything you’re seeing out there or is there anything- what advice can we give our listeners?

Cara: Sure. And certainly somebody who has an independent facility, they’re not going to need that 20 hours. They might need 5 hours a week for somebody that works on that. And really, if you have under a hundred employees, you probably still need a learning management system just for the compliance reporting, but you may not need to have a full blown system and excel spreadsheets might actually still work for you to some extent. But, I do think that the learning management systems, they can just automate so much of that for you and really take it off that person’s plate.

The big takeaway here is not so much in which system to use, but have a system. Whether you’re using Excel spreadsheets or whether you get a basic LMS or a Cadillac model LMS, you have to have an intentional plan of what are we pushing out when that is beyond check, check, check, check, check. You know, that we have to have handwashing…and things like that. It’s got to go beyond that, particularly into the soft skills- what communication modules are they getting, are they getting team building modules, any type of management training and effectiveness, understanding today’s workforce or appreciating your staff more- that kind of stuff.

Josh: So, we’ve talked a little bit about the onboarding, the importance of that. The learning management system, a champion to really drive that. Let’s talk about what I see in the industry a lot is sometimes we do even a great job or a good job or a satisfactory job at the onboarding. You get that person in there and then annual training rolls around and you’ve got this pile of regulatory stuff that you’ve told them and you taught them real quickly on the onboarding process but you gotta check off that list for the state when they come in. But, you know, what I often see is, you know, you’ve got a three ring binder, sometimes, full of materials for an all-day where you’re just hitting them with so many things just to get a check off list.

What are some best practices that maybe we can make sure that we’re being effective not only at the onboarding but kind of carrying that torch through the organization, through their tenure to help with that retention?

Cara: Right. So, that goes back to the day one, week one, month one, year one type of thing. You can take that into the annual regulatory stuff. I focus, I mean I’ll just be honest too, I’m not a compliance guru, I’m more on the soft skills and effectiveness of managers. So, to me, you just want to make it suck as less as possible. You know what I mean?

Josh: Yeah.

Cara: So, don’t have bad e-learning. Stop. Please. Do not have terrible e-learning, don’t have e-learning that is the same every single year, that has not been updated for years. Do not use providers, do not go that route because it’s doing you a disservice with your staff. Then they will dread training and dread when they’re assigned something because I have watched this same exact video three times already. So, you’ve got to make sure your stuff is up to date.

And look at the providers. When you go to these trade shows, ask them that question- how often are you updating the content and do you have anything new? What do you push out on the soft skills side as well as the compliance type training? That’s a really big one. Because you can just give your entire staff a bad taste in their mouth about training altogether and then it’s *merh merh* when they feel like they’ve got to go through these modules again. It shouldn’t be that way. They should be excited that they- they may not be excited about every single compliance-type class- but if they like the e-learning (and) it’s been done well, then they’ll say, oh, great, I get a break for a little bit. I’m gonna do a couple modules here.

I would encourage you to put in some of the soft skills or more fun modules with the compliance stuff so it isn’t the dreaded check, check, check day.

Josh: So, you’re kind of breaking my heart a little bit. You’re saying the 1980s Osha VHS tape that we’ve been showing for 25, 30 years- that’s not effective?

Cara: Stop!

Josh: No?

Cara: Please stop! Your people hate that. Don’t you hate that? I mean, every person that does it hates it. So, why would you torture your staff when we don’t have to do that? There are better providers out there. Go to your next trade show, find a better provider. They are out there. So, that’s the important piece.

And also, check in with people. I think if we’re going to talk about onboarding today, we can’t move on without saying you’re got to check in with your new staff. And the quicker people are leaving, right, so if you’ve got a lot of 30, 60, 90-day turnover, check in at day three. At day eight. Don’t wait 30 days that aren’t showing up for week two.

And whatever it is, if you don’t have people not showing up for day two after a first day of orientation which I hope is not boring and the terrible e-learning like click, click, click, click quiz. That’s bad e-learning, okay? So, if that’s what their day one is, boring HR paperwork and lunch by themselves and terrible e-learning in the afternoon, then why would they come back for day two?

And if day one or week one is we pushed you out on the floor and gave you no resources or training and everyone is too busy to answer any questions that you have, why would they come back for week two? So, we’ve got to check in with our people and you have to determine at what point makes sense. Is it at the end of day one, how did that go? What questions do you have? Here’s your buddy.

I was just at a conference this weekend that they brought back the old school buddy system that they new people, if it was your first time to this conference, you got assigned a buddy. People volunteered to be buddies who wanted to walk around with a newbie. It was phenomenal. I mean, I had buddies that I talked to that said I was scared to death to come and my buddy was with me along the way, answered all my stupid questions, you know, like what does LMS mean or whatever it is, right? That kind of thing.

So, bring that back. It is a great team building tool. Make sure you have some kind of liaison or buddy for those newbies that come in, the new hires. And then check in with them regularly.

Another big trend that I’m seeing is stay interviews. So, certainly you cannot wait until year one is over or even six months in to check in with people and instead ask them questions about how we are as an employer. How’s it going? What do you like about working here? What do you wish was different that would make coming back tomorrow even better for you?

Josh: So, I love that. How do you create that to where they feel like they can give you an honest opinion? Like, that environment?

Cara: It’s a good question.

Josh: It’s like you can ask that question, but how do you create and foster an environment to where if you’re going to say that that they can come in and sit down and give you that constructive feedback in a positive manner and not feel like they’re going to get whammed or fired.

Lucas: It’s also different generationally. Maybe you can go into that. You can’t just give a cookie cutter program because different generations are going to answer that question differently, won’t they?

Cara: Exactly. And I’m so glad you brought that up because you can’t just jump into stay interviews with here is our template questions. Things like that. You can’t do that because you’re right, people don’t trust you and they’re thinking, why are you asking me that? What’s going to happen? Why did he ask me that? You know, that kind of thing.

So, they’re not going to be super candid. Some people will, you know, their life is an open book. But most people are not going to be candid if you just go up and say, hey, tell me about a frustrating day recently. Why? What’s behind this?

Josh: ‘There are no frustrating days here! This is a wonderful place!’

Cara: ‘This is a great place!’ Yeah, so actually, when we teach about stay interviews and how to implement that, we say just start with an informal 5-10 minute check in, standing up. Just walking to them, where they are and say hey, you know we’re trying to make this a better place to work. That’s the goal. You’ve got to remind them that we’re trying to create a better place to work. So, I just wanted to get your thoughts on some of things. How do you feel about this as an employer. They’re probably still going to be pretty tight lipped and everything.

But those questions of tell me about a great day recently. Why was it so great? And then you get them talking and you follow-up with would you tell me about a frustrating day? What really got under your skin? And it could be that systems were slow, that residents were abusive, whatever. It could be that the team didn’t help me. It could be that my boss yelled at me and I didn’t even know that I did anything wrong. Just be prepared for anything to come out of their mouth. Or, it could be that I had a really rough morning with my kids or my family at home and I just had trouble focusing that day because my mom is sick or anything like that.

So, you ask them, so tell them about a frustrating day that really stressed you out. And is there anything that we could do so that doesn’t happen again. Because, you know, if it’s systems, gosh well this LMS keeps churning or my whatever system or this kiosk that we have isn’t working right and it’s slowing me down. You can find out things like that drive your staff crazy or it could be management problems, could be teamwork problems, those kinds of things.

Lucas: Well, and so, talk to the manager that may be used to going down this path and getting the very vague answer that now is talking to a millennial that really gives it back, full raw feedback. Unadulterated feedback.

Cara: Yes, more than their two cents.

Lucas: Right. They’re used to that, oh, we’re good everything’s fine, thanks for asking but then they talk to somebody who just really give unadulterated feedback.

Cara: Right, right. So, with that person, often times that person thinks they know what should be done around here, you know, and I’ve been that person in my past career. So, I would encourage you to listen- let them just blah, blah blah. Let them go, let them give you all the ideas and really listen because there’s going to be some golden nuggets in there. There’s gonna be a few things that’s like, hm, that really is a good idea. The other nine things you said? Yeah, yea. But that one was really good.

So, you don’t want all of it to go in one ear and out the other. But make sure that, if you can and I know we don’t have all the time in the world, but don’t cut them off. You might want to tell them, if you could change two things around here, what would it be? Instead of just, how can we make this a better place. Because that opens up the floodgates, right?

So, you could say, if you could prioritize all these great ideas you’ve got, what would you if you had the power to change two things around here? And really just let them dive into that or make them think and prioritize and let the good ones bubble up to the top.

Lucas: So, to Josh’s point earlier, let’s talk specifically, just maybe to round out this topic. Let’s talk to the operators that are smaller, regional, they just don’t have that full time person. So, they’ve got to maybe go out to a third party trainer to come in and maybe kick start maybe bi-annually or annually. What should they be looking for to kind of bridge that gap in onboarding and then continued training follow-up, so to speak. We have somebody that we just brought on our leadership team and one of the things he said was repeat and follow-up until they mock you.

Cara: That’s a good one.

Lucas: Don’t just say it one time, not two times and expect everything’s just going to happen, especially with something that is new. Maybe you can speak to that?

Cara: Right. Yeah, so, we see all too often that training, particularly for managers and supervisors, it got cut long ago. And we have promoting people into these positions the last ten or more years without giving them the tools to be successful. And then we wonder why we’ve got all this turnover. Why don’t people want to work here? Well, it’s because your managers, often times, don’t know how to manage conflict. They don’t understand the millennial mindset so there’s a terrible us versus them type of mentality going on.

There’s lots and lots of gaps between where we’d like our managers to be and where they are. And, don’t get me wrong, every building has a few incredible managers. It comes naturally or they’ve had the training from their past or great mentors, for example, but I would encourage any building, no matter what your size is and no matter how big your group is, to identify the gap of what is keeping our managers from being the best they can be and then ask a training group for that.

So, there are some programs- we were talking earlier- we are rolling out a new retention book camp for leaders that includes self awareness things. So, I’m a huge fan of self assessments, of personality assessments and things. So, we’re actually combining now our generational training with self-assessment and personalities, right? Because, you can have an introvert and an extrovert who’s a baby-boomer or an extrovert and introvert who are millennials. That’s not a generational thing.

So, I think, coupling those together as well as EQ which is emotional intelligence, that’s another big class that we’re seeing a need for now. Those types of things. If we can figure out what are the gaps between what our managers need to have to be successful at managing not just millennials but all of our staff and how do you manage a boomer and a millennial and not tick everybody off and push everybody away.

Identify those gaps and then find a training company- some of it can be done online-; there is some good online soft skills stuff. But, really, you need either in house or bringing in experts to do regular quarterly trainings. I see that a lot. Or monthly trainings, depending on the size of your group.

Lucas: Yeah, yeah. Cara of Crescendo Strategies. You were so nice last time. You are the author of “Staying Power.” This is an incredible book that we did a great giveaway last podcast. And one of our close followers, David Hopkins, was the winner of the book and posted about it.

Cara: Yay! Thank you David!

Lucas: Yeah, he’s an ED in Florida and does a great job down there, really has the heart for senior living and so we’re going to do that again. Cara’s very gracious. So, we would just ask our listeners to go onto our social pages and like and share and comment and tag someone in the comments that you think needs to know about this topic of retention and staying power and the things that we’re talking about today that are in the content of Cara’s book.

So, great interview here at the Thrive Center in Kentucky. So, Cara, thank you so much for being with us today. We’ll connect with you in the comments section and thank you for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.

Leave a Comment

Episode 40: Cara Silletto