Senior Dining Service

Creative Recognition Program Improves Community Culture

A diverse hospitality workforce is brought together by a program that encourages recognition and relationships, driving better engagement, retention and satisfaction. 

Taking Teamwork to New Levels

Cantata is a nonprofit senior living community helping individuals to live their best lives as they age. Based in Illinois, their successful campus services include independent living, assisted living and enhanced, long-term care. When Stephen Manno came on board as Morrison Community Living’s on-site General Manager of Hospitality in 2017, he noticed a disconcerting trend. Cantata’s nutritional, environmental, housekeeping and nursing teams all depended on each other, yet interactions between these groups were siloed, with limited intergenerational and inter-group communication. The result was a staff whose members were serious about their jobs but lacked the higher levels of inclusiveness and open communication found in the most successful healthcare and hospitality organizations.

Manno and Cantata’s leadership agreed that there was an opportunity for improvement and Manno leveraged Morrison’s Hospitality Experience program to make it happen. The process began at Showtime, Morrison’s short, all-hands meeting held at every client location before breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition to providing information necessary for meal service, Showtime also offered team members an opportunity to recognize each other for jobs-well-done. The experience was so heartening and successful that it opened the door to a more formal, expanded program. 

An early component of the program was the establishment of a core mode of behavior, which could be summed up as, “We’re happy to be here.” This included being sure to speak kindly to one another, always remembering to say “please” and “thank you.” It also included a recommendation to respond to thanks with “my pleasure” or “happy to do it,” which reinforces ownership of a helpful act, instead of “you’re welcome.” Even the simple act of smiling at each other helps to set the stage for developing better relationships, common ground and mutual respect. From there, Manno instituted Morrison’s formal peer-to-peer recognition program in which he began by telling team members, “Managers can’t be at all points of service to witness all of the extraordinary things this team does. We need your help to bring those moments of excellence to light.” He then set up a computer to make it convenient for his associates to write recognitions for each other at the start or end of a shift.

Morrison Director of Field Learning, Tom Rummel, noted that language barriers needed to be overcome in order to encourage better interactions and communication. Even though all team members spoke English, many felt more comfortable speaking their first language (most commonly Spanish and Polish). Since the formal recognition was input into a computer, team members were encouraged to write comments in their preferred language; Manno then translated comments into English. Even with the imperfections of online translation tools, the specific information and feelings within everyone’s comments were clear.

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