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ERS's Ways of Working: Engagement

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At Episcopal Retirement Services, we are committed to enriching the lives of older adults in our community. Guiding and driving this mission? Our Ways of Working, which embody how we do what we do, as well as our six Core Values comprising relationships, integrity, engagement, inclusion, person-centeredness and progressive thinking.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve been working as an organization to evaluate how these values support a rich and vibrant culture within each of our communities. We recently addressed relationships, progressive thinking and person-centeredness. Up next? Engagement.

ERS & Resident Engagement

An integral component of ERS’s Core Values, we define engagement as “envisioning all to be in relationship with those we serve and with whom we work.” This means we actively participate in decision-making to improve elders’ lives, our work environment, and the services we offer.

Engagement is critical because it means that people are fully involved in, enthusiastic about, and inspired by an organization. All ERS programming is designed with cultivating engagement of both staff and residents in mind.

For example, when CEO Laura Lamb moved from her office in Deupree House into another office, she felt a disconnect with residents. In response, she created the Resident Volunteer Program, through which residents volunteer their time and skills to support office staff. Said participant and Marjorie P. Lee resident Ginnie Smith, “I have always been an active volunteer, and this sounded perfect for me. I enjoy the activity in the reception area, welcoming the staff and guests, and helping out with whatever might be needed.”

Adds Deupree House resident Kate Hauer of her own volunteering experience, “This has been an opportunity for me to offer my skills and learn more about our organization. I appreciated what we do, but even more so now, seeing the day-to-day work that is done by the staff.”

And then there’s the fact that volunteering supports positive aging by benefiting the mind, body and soul — which is why ERS offers many opportunities for community members to lead more engaged and fulfilling lives through volunteering.

ERS also took volunteering to a new level with the introduction of student interns — not only at the support offices but also in the Marjorie P. Lee and Deupree House communities. This multi-generational initiative amplifies engagement. Said Volunteer Services Manager Katrina Taylor of the phenomenon, “We have support from our residents and the students, and they bring different skills and help each other.”

The Employee Engagement Imperative

Engagement is important for happy residents, but it’s also important for satisfied staff. Employees who are invested in the ongoing success and wellbeing of the organizations they represent are not only happier but also more productive.

One indicator of staff satisfaction where ERS shines? Low staff turnover and high rates of retention. ERS boasts exceptionally high career longevity among its employees. According to Director of Nursing Judi Dean, who has worked at ERS for more than three decades, this is because she and her coworkers share a common goal. “It felt so different because of the people — welcoming, compassionate, dedicated to caring for the residents...When you all have the same goal, it’s easy,” she said of her first day at ERS.

Dean is far from alone in her commitment to ERS. A staggering 29 ERS employees across all levels have at least 25 years of service with ERS. This outstanding accomplishment would not be possible without engagement. Said Resident Assistant Carol King, who recently celebrated her 50th anniversary with ERS, “When I came to Marjorie P. Lee, I knew it had to be a special place. And I stayed!”

ERS has also been honored with the distinction of being a Top Workplace for 10 consecutive years. This honor is especially meaningful because it was bestowed by employee votes.

While the relationships between residents and staff are a huge part of what makes ERS such a special place to live and work, they wouldn’t exist without the organization’s focus on creating such a caring environment. “We put a lot of time and energy into defining what we want our desired culture to be, and it stems from our values,” explained VP of Human Resources John Wetzel.

Indeed, creating a culture of engagement doesn’t happen on its own. However, with the right strategies, the pieces organically fall into place. Concludes Lamb of ERS’s extraordinary community engagement, “Not every organization can make that kind of teamwork happen, but it occurs very intentionally yet naturally here at ERS.”

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Kristin Davenport
February 20, 2020
Kristin Davenport is the Director of Communications for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Kristin leads ERS’s efforts to share stories that delight and inspire through social media, online content, annual reports, magazines, newsletters, public relations, and events. Kristin earned her BFA in graphic design from Wittenberg University. She joined ERS in 2014 after a 25-year career as a visual journalist and creative director with American City Business Journals. Her role at ERS has ignited her passion for making Cincinnati a dementia-inclusive city, and she spends time with residents as a SAIDO® Learning lead supporter. Kristin is the executive producer and co-host of the Linkage Podcast for ERS. Kristin and her husband Alex live in Lebanon, Ohio, with their two daughters. She also serves as a Trustee and the President of the Lebanon Food Pantry and is a board member for ArtScape Lebanon, where she teaches painting and has an art studio, Indium Art.

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