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On March 6-8, 2017 the Avila Institute of Gerontology sponsored a conference for leadership and mission. As staff retention and hiring has been progressively becoming more difficult, we focused on staff retention and talent acquisition, also including sessions on reflective leadership, ethics and overcoming fears of change.

Reflective Leadership

The conference began on Monday afternoon with the session “Reflective Leadership” presented by Terrance McGuire, Ed. D., and Kathleen McGowan, MSW, of McGuire Associates. Terrence and Kathleen presented the importance of recognizing opportunities within employees by using Reflective Leadership process. They explored the aspects of values, self-awareness, and change while also explaining how to implement and examine situations that could occur within facilities. Several individual and group activities gave participants the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences as leaders and identify how they can be more responsive and thoughtful in addressing practical situations that arise in their workplaces.

Staff Retention

Focusing on staff retention, the Avila Institute invited two speakers to speak on the topic. First was Joan Wetzel of Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS) who shared the talent acquisition, retention and succession planning model and strategies used by ERS. Their model has been very successful earning them the “ Enquirer Media top Workplace Award” for 7 years running. Finding direct care workers is difficult and keeping them can be even more so. Joan quoted Katie Sloan, President and CEO of Leading Age, “We will need ONE MILLION more direct care workers nationally by 2024.” She also shared the 10 Hardest Jobs to Fill in 2017 which included home health aide/nurse assistant, physical therapists and Registered Nurses. Despite this, ERS has been able to establish a consistent workforce. Joan shared with us their strategies on advertising for help including video testimonials, using social media, internal referral programs, and techniques for better interviewing. This led into staff retention and how developing healthy relationships and leadership is important. ERS has about 9 programs to help develop and support their leaders. She also discussed the importance of getting employee satisfaction feedback before they leave. Lastly Joan spoke about succession, making sure there is a plan and grooming for top leadership positions, talking about their own experience when their CEO retired.

Alfred W. Norwood, faculty member of the Avila Institute added to the topic with the latest research on recruitment and retention. He spoke about turnover costs, appealing to millennials and new methods for both hiring and retention. Participants broke into groups during a brainstorm session to further discuss staffing and retention challenges and solutions.

Organizational Ethics

Next MC Sullivan presented on Ethical Leadership and the nonprofit sector. Reviewing two models for ethics, MC explained that organizational ethics is not only doing the right thing, but also doing it for the right reason. It is important that healthy organizations demonstrate behaviors and practices that reflect the integration of core values and mission. After reviewing the two models, MC led the participants through a case study and group work helping to demonstrate organizational ethics.

Coping with Change

The last session “Choose Reflecting Hope Not Fears” was presented by Linda Corley, Producer and Writer at LCL Productions. During this presentation, Linda discussed the importance of change, and how it is imperative for all of us regardless of our field. True change requires first an openness, and then reflection, education, and conquering of fears. Linda shared her own personal experience with change as she transitioned from producing medical documentaries for PBS with more traditional methods to reality shows including the Lifetime Reality TV Show “The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns” in which she worked closely with millennials. Linda further discussed how, when we are faced with change, it is an opportunity to improve our work, meet our goals and create more satisfaction in our lives and in the lives of others. Linda also continued the discussion by showing how further change has led her to develop videos for health care including the upcoming palliative care videos for the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm.

Three of these sessions will be presented again at the CHA pre-assembly "Keeping a Healthy Organization" on Saturday, June 10, 2017.


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