Careers with a Cause

Careers with a Cause

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Mike: Welcome back, friends, to Aldersgate OnAir. The last year and a half has been full of challenges. The impact that COVID has had on society as a whole is undeniable. Even though we’ve seen a lot of progress with businesses and the economy opening back up, many operators find themselves facing massive workforce shortages.

It is indeed a time of great reckoning as potential jobseekers are reevaluating their career paths, financial needs, and personal priorities. As a result, employers are tasked with examining their own priorities and redefining job codes, benefits packages, and work environment in order to entice employees back into the workforce.

Leading the charge to revitalize the workplace culture is, of course, Aldersgate. Not only are they continuing to offer potential key members a quality of life approach, flexible scheduling, and an “everyone is family” philosophy, but they are constantly adding to their already impressive benefits package that includes tuition reimbursement, career-oriented training, a free food pantry, and an onsite learning center where parents can have their children learn under supervision while they work.

Their commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity has enabled them to grow a family of team members and residents representing over 30 nationalities, ensuring that everyone feels welcome and supported in their continuing mission to honor elders.

Joining us today to talk about Aldersgate’s unique hiring philosophies and career opportunities are Employee Relations Manager Kyle Hodge and Director of Human Resources Juliette Hryusv. If you’re considering making the move back into the workplace or if you know someone who is, check out this conversation and see why Aldersgate could be right for you.

Hi, Kyle. Hi, Juliette. Welcome to Aldersgate OnAir. Thank you so much for joining me today.

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Kyle: Thanks, Mike.

Juliette: Thank you. We’re glad to be here.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. I was actually really excited when I found out we were going to be talking about this today because it’s an important topic that’s very relevant in the world right now. One of the things that I like about Aldersgate is that y’all are very proactive in the way that you approach problem-solving and your approach to the staffing shortages is no different.

Before we dig into the finer details on that, let’s get a little bit of background on you both for the listeners. Kyle, let’s start with you. Tell us about your role and how you came to be at Aldersgate.

Kyle: Yeah. Yeah, I’d love to. So, I’ve been here about five and a half years, and I am the employee relations manager. That job has really morphed in the last two years into recruiting, onboarding, orientation, really trying to keep that flow of good talent into the company and, when you get here, what can I do to help you stay here and make it your forever place.

I’m a born and raised Charlottean. I’ve known about Aldersgate my whole life and just really, really appreciate everything Aldersgate brings to the community. It’s a pleasure to be employed here.

Mike: Absolutely love to hear that. Juliette, how about you? Tell us your story.

Juliette: Yeah, so I actually have only been working at Aldersgate for about five months. My background is in hospitality, so I come from hotels.

I had, like everybody else, a rough goal during 2020. Professionally, it gave me a lot of thinking time because I worked at a closed hotel for about three and a half months. I was the only one there, which kind of made me go back and rethink what I wanted to do.

I saw Aldersgate as an opportunity. I’d been wanting to get into a nonprofit for a while. I looked through their website. I read through the core values, through the mission and vision, and it really called my attention.

It was the first thing or the first sentence on the mission where it says, “We honor elders,” so that word to me just said, “Okay, I really want to be here.”

Then I got a call from Kyle, actually, and got it set up. Then I met the senior leadership team, which really closed the deal for me.

It’s great people. They are very, very passionate about their job, about what they do. What else do you want in the HR world, right?

Yeah, so then I’ve been here. I’m actually the director of human resources for the Shamrock campus and for Aldersgate at Home.

Mike: Awesome. We have two HR rockstars here with us right now at Aldersgate OnAir. This would be a really fun and cool way to tell the world what Aldersgate has to offer.

Kyle, you and I were talking off-air just a few moments ago about how the landscape has changed in regard to workforce and employment. How have things changed for Aldersgate over the last year and a half or so?

Kyle: Yeah, so that’s really interesting. This industry knew that this was going to happen because right now baby boomers are moving into retirement. There are about 10,000 people a day moving into retirement age, so it’s a great time to be in this business. Before COVID, we thought we had a little more time to plan for it.

[Laughter]

Kyle: Then COVID hit and the workforce crisis came with it earlier than we had planned for. So, it’s something that we had our eyes on down the road. We knew we were going to need to address it, but we thought had more time. We really amped up what we do here and do well, tried to let the community know all about that, all about Aldersgate, that it’s a great place to be, it’s a safe place to be, and that we are a company that is growing and really expanding our place in the retirement industry.

Mike: Yeah, and I think that, unlike a lot of other places that are simply throwing their hands in the air and saying, “It is what it is. I don’t know what to do. Nobody wants to work. I guess I’ll have to run short-staffed forever,” Aldersgate acknowledges the challenge but continues on the quest to attract new talent, provide new opportunities, and continue on the path of honoring elders.

Juliette, how would you describe the overall culture there at Aldersgate?

Juliette: Yeah, so I mean one of the things that attracted me to Aldersgate was the culture, right? As we talk about our core values, diversity is obviously on the forefront of everything that we do, including obviously honoring elders. But it is also kind of a family environment as well, which is what I like.

We strive to be in front of things, so proactive instead of being reactive, which is hard to find. Sometimes you have to wait until something happens in order to do something. So, I think one of the things that I really like about Aldersgate is the fact that we’re constantly thinking about improving ourselves. It’s never, “Let’s just settle for what we have.” It’s always a constant improvement. We want to do those things for our team members, so we want to see them improve as well.

Mike: You mentioned the diversity piece, which is always at the core of Aldersgate’s values. I wanted to mention that I had heard that over 30 nationalities are represented there onsite. Is that true?

Juliette: That is correct, which is insane and amazing all at the same time.

[Laughter]

Mike: Yeah. every time I walk the campus there, I see this sea of awesomeness. People are so friendly and so welcoming. It’s really quite humbling.

When you’re looking to attract workers, especially since you mentioned that you consider everybody family, what are some of the benefits? Why would someone want to work for Aldersgate? How are you incentivizing your offers?

Juliette: Yeah, so even before COVID and then during COVID, we continued to look at things and see what else can we offer people besides health insurance, 401(k), PTO time. One of the things that Aldersgate offers is tuition reimbursement, which I love. It pushes our team members to go out there and continue to pursue that education, and we’re able to help them out there.

The other benefit that was created during COVID was the food pantry. This was to help our employees, and we kept it until now. Our team members can actually go and shop for groceries, and it’s completely entirely free. We offer free lunches. We do turkeys during thanksgiving.

We also offer vaccination through our clinics. Kyle, help me out. There are so many things. I have a running list in my head.

Kyle: Yeah. One thing I was particularly proud of was, last year when schools were closed, we opened a learning center here on campus, a virtual learning center. If your kid was doing remote learning with their school, but you couldn’t leave them at home (you weren’t comfortable leaving them at home) you could bring them to work with you. Here on campus, we had a designated spot. They did their schooling with their teachers, as normal (as they would do at home) but we provided some adult oversight.

We fed them breakfast. We fed them lunch. We had a lot of other stuff going on as well. That was totally free to all employees who wanted to bring their kids. That, in my opinion, was really game-changing for us last year because you’ve got to take care of people’s families.

Mike: Yeah, you really do. I love the element of the food pantry and the learning center. I remember talking to Kathleen Hendrick about that program last year when it was first getting going, and I’ve seen it in action.

In terms of benefits, I think those two programs specifically really represent some outside-of-the-box thinking. A lot of us think about how much money am I going to make. But for others, there are deeper decisions involved.

It’s going to be: Do I even work? Do I put my child in daycare? Can I afford daycare? How can I balance my schedule?

You offer team members the ability to feel okay that they can bring their children there and have them cared for and supervised. It sends the message, “It’s okay. Life happens.” For a lot of people, that’s a deal maker or a deal-breaker.

Now, Juliette, you mentioned the vaccinations. I noticed that at Aldersgate health, wellness, and safety are huge priorities. There’s constant COVID testing going on. Team members are always being screened. You’re requiring your team members to be vaccinated. And you have plans in place in case people need to take some unexpected time off. Could you please elaborate on that a little bit more for us?

Juliette: Yeah, so we actually have an employee COVID clinic here onsite where employees can go into and get COVID tested. We offer a COVID top bank (is what we call it). We get leaders and other team members that have extra PTO time, vacation time, and then donate it to their bucket. If somebody is out with either COVID or they had reactions to the vaccine, we actually offer that top time if they don’t have any available to them, so they’re not going without pay.

Kyle: Something else I was really proud of is people like Juliette – and you mentioned Kathleen and myself – and all of the leadership here, we all went out and got our temporary CNA license. We went through the dietary aid training. We didn’t expect just sitting in our offices and say, “Okay, go get them, folks.” We prepared ourselves to go help them with the work so that not only if they got sick and couldn’t be here, but just to give them a break sometimes, to offer a chance to, “Hey, take a day. We’re going to cover you on this stuff.”

Right now, we have a sign-up out for managers to help clean two of the specific healthcare areas, and we’ll be doing that because we don’t expect the housekeepers to have to do all of the work themselves.

Folks are just stepping up and, certainly, the healthcare people have. The housekeepers have, the culinary folks have, and our leadership here is demanding that we do the same. It’s not just us here doing our own jobs. We’re doing whatever we can to make things right for everybody.

Mike: Yeah. Sometimes we all wear a lot of hats.

Juliette: Yes.

Mike: I think, prior to COVID, that was already a thing for some people, for sure, but now even more so. I see the way that Aldersgate really has taken this family vibe and said, “Hey, we’re going to continue to do what we have to do to make people feel valued.”

Moving on from there, Kyle, there are a lot of career opportunities right now at Aldersgate. Can you discuss some of those with us?

Kyle: Absolutely. Yeah. I’d love to. In this industry, this day and age, we’re always looking for RNs, LPNs, and CNAs. We also, here at Aldersgate, use med techs and medication aids in our healthcare areas.

Our culinary, we have a real just world-class culinary department. It’s not what you would think of as hospital-type food. It is really fine dining. It is creative. It is fantastic. Folks in the culinary industry, whether it be at Aldersgate or somebody like Aldersgate, you don’t just have to go to a restaurant. You have a lot of opportunities to come to a place like Aldersgate and really grow, really learn and grow, and work in what I would say a really nice, controlled environment where things are safe for you and just offer you a ton of opportunity.

Mike: Yeah. Folks, allow me to say, if I may, to all of you out there in career opportunity land, that as an executive chef myself, you should really check out the Aldersgate culinary team and their offerings. Seriously, the menus are awesome. The food is awesome. If you’re looking for a restaurant-style experience without having to work those ridiculous restaurant hours that we all know about, then you need to check out the Aldersgate culinary program. If you think that this is just going to be cafeteria-style retirement home scoop and plop food, heck no.

Juliette: Yeah.

Mike: This is world-class stuff with awesome, fresh food. Take my word for it. Sorry I kind of hijacked that there for a second. Juliette, you were going to add to Kyle’s comment before I took us down that rabbit hole.

Juliette: Yeah. No, I was definitely going to say, in the culinary hospitality world, you work those crazy hours. Then to be able to do the culinary work and not have to be here until 2:00, 3:00 a.m. in the morning, that’s amazing.

Also, I will say, our residents are very demanding with their service and with their food. So, it’s not like you’re coming here to serve hospital food at all.

Mike: Uh-uh. No, and I have seen the demanding nature that some people have, and rightfully so, right?

Juliette: Absolutely.

Mike: Because they deserve the best efforts, the best food, the best quality – you name it – and that’s what they get.

People out there that are looking to branch into new horizons can feel comfortable that this is not your typical cookie-cutter CCRC, for sure. So, quality of life, work-life balance, Kyle, you offer a pretty good program for that, correct?

Kyle: Yeah, we really do. When you hire someone, you don’t just hire them to do a job. You hire those important points in their life that make life worthwhile, their kids going to school or their birth or the parents’ retirement or eventually the deaths in their life. You hire the full person, and we really embrace that here. We are just such a family-oriented, very caring place.

If you look at the length of time that our employees come here and stay, it’s really impressive. If I can get somebody to stay here one year, I can keep them for a long-long time.

[Laughter]

Kyle: I can keep them for a long time. That’s some real buy-in there.

It does give you a chance not only to work for a nonprofit here in Charlotte, but one that’s been in business for over 70 years. We’re not going anywhere. We’re growing. And you get to do this important work honoring elders no matter what your job is.

You can leave here every day knowing you did a good job, knowing that you did a fulfilling job. That’s really key, something key that our employees look for.

Mike: What personality traits do you look for in your team members? Obviously different jobs are going to have different expectations surrounding them but, generally speaking, is there a certain type of personality that you are looking to add to the Aldersgate family?

Kyle: Well, we like folks who want to be around elders. That’s why we’re here. The business of how we handle elders, how we relate to the elders on campus, and eventually – quite frankly, it’s something I’ve experienced myself – how we handle death. That is just so important in what we do.

My dad passed away here at Aldersgate just two years ago. I was amazed at how we went around the business of handling that. It was just really profound.

It’s folks who want to be in this industry or folks who are new in healthcare. We love new folks, too, new in healthcare, new in culinary because we do embrace the teaching aspects of our relationship as well. We love to have nursing students and CNA students. If you’re in the culinary business, you may start off as a server or dishwasher, but let us help you become that executive chef one day. Use Aldersgate to help you grow. We’re just looking for folks who want to work.

Mike: You look like you wanted to say something there for a second, Juliette. You just got really passionate for a quick second. What was that all about?

Juliette: [Laughter] Yeah. No, I am always amazed because I think, being new to this industry, the way you handle death here is an important part of the job. I’m always amazed on how well our team members, leadership team, everybody knows how to handle it, how to react, how to continue to give the best that they can every day.

But honestly, I think, for me, one of the things that is most important is that great attitude. Just having a good attitude, I think the skill set we can teach, we can train, so there’s no need to have tons of experience because we can offer that here. It’s just like Kyle said. Wanting to come to work, have a good attitude, and want to honor elders because that’s what we do.

Mike: Yeah. Bringing that back to what we talked about earlier about the landscape changing, the prior mindset of many companies was to only hire people with extensive experience or specific backgrounds. Of course, we know that that resulted in a super-limited applicant pool and contributed to additional shortages.

Obviously, some jobs require training, certifications, and some level of experience. But ruling out people who don’t yet have that experience or who are willing to be trained is a huge oversight. There are tons of potential employees who have great attitudes and are willing to learn, grow with a company, and give long-term commitments in exchange for on-the-job training, forward mobility options, and a good work-life balance.

If you combine that with childcare, food assistance, education, and a system in place to help people earn their credentials, Aldersgate really is adapting to the changing landscape and giving opportunities to people who feel like their options are limited. On top of that, I understand there is a pretty awesome staff recognition program in place. Is that true?

Juliette: Kyle, you’ve seen all—

[laughter]

Juliette: Throughout the years, Aldersgate does a lot for the team members. We do love to do recognition events, and we love to throw a party.

[Laughter]

Kyle: Yeah. The company really does look for ways to honor our team members as well as honoring the elders. We want to hold up these folks. Truly, we were calling them heroes long before it became the neat thing to do is to call folks heroes. The people who work in this industry are just so important, and we always are looking for ways to just notice that, applaud that, and really help folks feel good about what they do.

Mike: Yeah. I’ve heard the phrase “heroes work here” used many times, I’ve seen the signage, and I’ve witnessed some pretty epic interactions that are indicative of Aldersgate’s culture. I just think that’s awesome.

Juliette: Yeah. One of the recognition programs I really like is called The Shining Star. That’s a way for the actual residents to recognize employees. Through Wellzesta, which is their resident program, they’re able to recognize team members for going above and beyond for them. We’re actually announcing three shining stars tomorrow in the resident association meeting. They get a prize, and they get to be recognized in front of everyone, so I really like this program.

Mike: Yeah, that’s awesome. When the time comes to bring people on board, when those job offers are ready, if I am a new team member ready to join the Aldersgate family, what should I expect in terms of training and employment standards?

Kyle: Yeah, well, each department has their department-specific training. Based on the job that you do and where you’re working it’s a little different. Everybody’s first day starts with me. Yay!

Mike: [Laughter]

Kyle: They get to spend some time with me. We dot the i’s and cross the t’s, but we do some fun stuff, too, talk about the culture, and get to know each other a little bit.

Juliette: Kyle is being modest.

Kyle: [Laughter]

Juliette: He does a great job when it comes to the onboarding and giving the history. He knows the history of Aldersgate like the back of his hand, and then giving the culture. Truly, he does a great job from the get-go on the onboarding piece of it.

Kyle: Thank you. We do feel it’s important that people know where it is they’re coming to work. We want them to know about us. We want them to know that we’ve been here, what we stand for, and what they can expect. We offer just multiple ways for people to get information. I make sure they’re all aware of that – Where can you find this? Where can you find that? – before we turn them over to their departmental managers, the hiring managers who are going to spend a lot of time with them, too, making sure that they’re very comfortable in their work areas, that they have a peer to work with, that they really are ready to do the job.

Mike: Yeah. I think that’s absolutely epic. Now, I’ve got a collection of quotes that came from some of your team members that describes how they feel about working at Aldersgate, so I’m going to read these off, but we’ll keep them anonymous so as not to make anyone uncomfortable. Here we go.

• The first quote says, “It’s a meaningful job. I make a difference in what I do.”
• Another team member says, “I feel supported and not pressured, which I like.”
• Another team member says, “Everyone is so welcoming. I love it here.”
• The next quote, “It feels like working here is a blessing.”
• And the last one I’ve got says, “Great organization. A perfect job.”

Now, I don’t know if y’all are paying people to say that stuff or what.

[Laughter]

Juliette: We’re actually not.

Mike: Okay, yeah. So, no these are genuinely legitimate quotes, folks. Like I said, I’ve been there, I’ve seen the smiles, and you’ve got some employees that have been with you for over 20 years—

Juliette: Yes.

Mike: –that are in it for the long haul, and it takes a lot to keep employees. In fact, you don’t even look at your employees as employees, right? Everybody is a team member. It takes a lot to keep people happy, and it says a lot that people are willing to stay.

Let’s be honest. Sometimes jobs are not the most fun place to be. Even though we all have to earn an income and make a living, there’s got to be more to it than just that. Something at Aldersgate strives for is to keep their team members satisfied, address their concerns, and give people the best possible culture they can.

Closing this out then, Juliette, is there anything else you want to say to potential candidates and the world in general?

Juliette: Yeah. I am loving my time at Aldersgate. I know I’m in the honeymoon phase still, but I highly encourage, if you have not looked into coming to a retirement community, the industry as a whole, I will say this is a very rewarding job. Definitely check it out.

Mike: Kyle, your turn. What do you want to add to that?

Kyle: Yeah. I encourage everyone. Give Aldersgate a try. If you give us 1% of your trust, we’ll earn the other 99%, and we will make this a place that you want to be.

Mike: Fantastic. Folks out there who want to apply for a job or a career at Aldersgate, how do they go about doing that?

Kyle: You can apply. Most of our jobs, all of our jobs are posted on Indeed. We also have our own website, aldersgateliving.org, or just come on by. We’ll sit down and let you fill out a paper application if you want to.

Mike: There you have it, folks. Check out Aldersgate if you’re looking for something rewarding and just a little different. Juliette, Kyle, thank you so much for joining me today on the show. This has been a great conversation. The two of you have given people some great incentives and reasons to consider joining the Aldersgate family. I look forward to meeting your new team members in the very near future.

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Juliette: Thank you. Bye.

Kyle: Thank you.

Mike: Thanks, of course, to all of you out there in radio and podcast land, for joining us today. I know this is a sensitive topic for some, but one that we felt was important to address. The decision of when to go back to work and where is an important one and requires careful thought and consideration. As a job seeker, there are many companies out there who would love to have you and who are ramping up their incentives to get you to come on board.

As an employer, well, the times they are a-changing. What used to be status quo in terms of environment, working hours, pay, benefits, and work-life balance is no longer acceptable to a large portion of the population, especially in the service industries. Luckily, Aldersgate is aggressively addressing those concerns and would love to talk to you.

Until next time, take care, stay safe, and we’ll talk to you soon at Aldersgate OnAir.

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