Why is DEI Important in Senior Living?

December 16, 2022 / Diversity & Inclusion

What is DEI in Senior Living?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in senior living are more imperative than ever before. It is much more than just morally right – it can also make a good business decision. But just what are the benefits of DEI in an organization?

Before diving too far into the value and impact of DEI to senior care providers and the “how to” recommendations on implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy for senior living communities; it is important to define what DEI means to our industry. 

  • Diversity is about representation, not only who is in the room but who is not.  Our organizations and senior care centers aim to reflect the community they serve while leveraging the opportunities that diversity brings. Diversity can include but is not limited to ethnicity, class, gender, or disability, as well as life experiences, training, schools of thought, language, political identities, and more.
  • Equity is built on the understanding that everyone doesn’t start out of the same circumstances and that there are biases present even without us being aware of them. Measures are put into place to make sure those starting at a disadvantage have the right opportunity to succeed despite any obstacles they may face. 
  • Inclusion exists when the employees in your community know that they are welcome and they belong. Why is inclusion important in the workplace? When your voice is heard in a welcoming environment, you contribute more of yourself and your perspective to help the organization reach its full potential. Preliminary studies show inclusion can manifest through leading indicators such as occupancy, employee tenure, and Trust Index scores.

These DEI principles help ensure that policies and programs are unbiased, and fair, and provide equal potential outcomes for all individuals and employees of the company. Investing in our caretakers, staff, or partners’ educations and career paths leads to higher retention rates, engagement levels, as well as happier residents and family members.

Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, recently gave insight to what it takes to be a Great Place to Work in 2023 and what Diversity, Equity and Inclusion means to your employees,

Employers through their messaging need to communicate why diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and belonging makes a difference. Employees are looking for evidence this belief exists in the company and they’re also looking for a way to get matched with a company free of bias and assumptions.

The Value of Diversity and Inclusion in Senior Living Organizations 

A McKinsey & Company report cites that, “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25% more likely to outperform the industry median profit growth from bottom quartile companies. And executive teams in the top quartile from an ethnic diversity perspective are 36% more likely to financially outperform the industry median.”

Sometimes the data tells us what we already know, senior living organizations with a DEI strategy achieve a more diverse and inclusive workforce widening their collective perspective and delivering better outcomes for their seniors and stakeholders. 

But how to collect DEI data and benchmark your senior care organization vs the market is a continuing challenge in the industry…until now. 

Senior Living DEI Data Collection

The collection of DEI data from your leadership, caregivers, associates, and staff can seem like a daunting challenge for any organization.

A low-cost certification process, combined with a two-week survey window provides an opportunity for our senior care partners. Not only does this baseline employee engagement – it also provides deep insight for those wanting to improve their company culture.

If you’ve spoken with DEI consultants, likely you’ve found the solution expensive and opaque with complicated implementation strategies with long timelines. But when you participate in the Great Place to Work in Aging Services program, all employees of the organization are provided a survey that already includes DEI questions while providing leadership with employee feedback and a Trust Index score supported by 30+ years of research, results, and implementation. 

What used to take months of planning and implementation is now delivered in a simple dashboard snapshot. Once your senior living organization completes the employee survey, you will receive a custom diversity, inclusion, and equity report.

Implementing DEI Strategy for Senior Living

Understanding the current state of DEI at your organization through the evaluation of quantitative and qualitative data is the first step to implementing a DEI strategy for senior living organizations. Your baseline as well as industry benchmarks will help your team prioritize and set SMART goals for DEI metrics moving forward as well as reveal any gaps or unconscious biases that currently exist within your organization and its processes.  

Akerah Mackey, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist with Vi Senior Living puts inclusion into perspective stating, “Inclusion doesn’t naturally result from diversity. You can have a diverse and talented team, but that doesn’t mean that everyone feels welcome or valued, resulting in reduced retention, engagement, and job satisfaction.” While we strive for diversity, it will be equitable outcomes that separate on-paper metrics from tangible cultural impacts. 

Senior living operators agree that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategies cannot be a one-time effort or accomplished overnight. DEI initiatives need to be integrated to the organizational values as well as the mission statement to encourage follow-through and resource allocation. The incremental change can be supported with outside experts, data science, and focused communication as well as implementation. Rome wasn’t built in one day, but it was built from within. 

Sharing DEI metrics on a CEO/leadership monthly dashboard and quarterly listening sessions have helped organizations inspire the change they seek. Over 2,000 organizations, such as Vi Senior Living, have committed to CEO Action pledges to integrate and advance DEI strategies within their workplace including the creation of new diversity and inclusion roles.

How to Start a DEI Initiative at Your Organization 

The following are some actions that are recommended for getting a DEI Initiative up and running at your organization:

  1. Collect and evaluate your DEI data to identify a baseline and any gaps or unconscious bias that exists within your organization 
  2. Compare to the senior living industry DEI baseline
  3. Create SMART goals and commit to an attainable long-term strategy 
  4. Adjust or add internal processes such as holding diversity and inclusion workshops, creating mentorship programs and providing a library of resources and materials for associates
  5. Launching associate groups such as a virtual roundtable to share evidence-based information to inform policy or creating a charter advisory committee for developing company-wide initiatives
  6. Adjust hiring and by making it a prominent piece of orientation and onboarding and a component of every performance review
  7. Add DEI to your core values or mission statement 
  8. Measure outcomes and employee feedback 
  9. Report monthly (at least quarterly) on progress
  10. Celebrate incremental change and your diversity through recognition of associates during events such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month 

Senior Living Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Recap 

Implementing diversity and inclusion policies in senior living can reap many benefits. Not only are they important for your employees, residents, family members, and stakeholders; they help provide a foundation of empathy – which our industry sorely needs.

Diversity is not just about having different people; it’s about making sure all people are treated equally. Establishing an environment where everyone feels empowered to voice their opinions leads to meaningful change. Incorporating these practices from day one helps eliminate unconscious bias from the hiring process, encourages more diverse applicants (especially in leadership positions), and leads to thriving innovation among current team members.

Addressing equity and inclusion by supporting all employees through professional development and succession planning, establishing two-way mentor programs where mentors work with people who want to grow their careers up the ladder, etc. you can make your DEI initiative an important part of onboarding and orientation during the hiring process and throughout the lifecycle of an employee. And by encouraging leaders to invest in the ongoing collection of DEI data and employee feedback for developing strategies and implementing DEI initiatives and projects, everyone will benefit from applying DEI strategies in our organizations.

Interested in learning how we can help you with your DEI initiatives? Reach out today!