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Why Brookdale Should Not Be on The List of Worst Companies to Work For

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Over the last couple of weeks I have received about half a dozen emails from readers that start with these words:

“Have you seen this?”

 Followed by a link to an article titled  Worst Companies to Work For at the website 24/7 Wall Street which lists Brookdale Senior Living as one of the 11 worst.

To Write or Not

I really struggled with whether or not to write this story because, ultimately, I am an industry shill, meaning I love the industry and believe overall we are doing a very nice job of caring for seniors in this country.  While I know these kinds of stories increase traffic to the website, they are far from my favorite kinds of stories to write.

I also struggled because over the past few months I have gotten to know a number of the Brookdale leadership team both at a corporate and regional level and I like them personally and, more importantly, I see them doing the things that need to be done to create a successful culture even with 1,100 communities. Ultimately I decided to write this story, in large part because, this is the kind of thing Senior Housing Forum is willing to tackle, and because there are some important lessons for the industry.

The List

For the past three years the website 24/7 Wall Street has scoured the website Glassdoor to come up this their list of 10 or 11 worst companies to work for.  The website Glassdoor is best known for being the one place disgruntled current and former employees can go to vent their unhappiness.  They also sell advertising to employers who are hiring; a mix that seems more than a little bit schizophrenic.

Some Perspective

  • There are more than 40,000 individuals who work for Brookdale, and given that number, there are going to be unhappy employees and ex-employees.  Currently they have 349 reviews (positive and negative) going back to 2008 and in comparison to the size of the Brookdale workforce, that number of reviews is very low.

Additionally, one of the criteria for being on the list is that a company needs to have at least 300 reviews (more on this below).  At the time of the article Brookdale had a grand total of 322 reviews.  If there had been just 23 fewer reviews, Brookdale would not have been included.

Ultimately, the more employees a company has, the more likely they are to have at least some bad reviews no matter how good they are.  A fairer way to asses the quality of the work experience is to calculate how many reviews a company has per 1,000 employees.  It is fair to assume that the fewer the number of reviews, the happier team members are, since the site is primarily exists for unhappy people.  I did the math on the list of worst companies:

o   The highest ranked company had 56 reviews per 1,000 employees;

o   The lowest ranked company had just 6.5 reviews per 1,000 employees that place is held by Brookdale.

  • The bigger a company is the bigger a target they will be.
  • Team members who are happy are much less likely to bother with a site like Glassdoor.
  • Andy Smith, the CEO, has a relatively high rating, which suggests those providing reviews like the current direction of the company.
  • I took a look at the Glassdoor ranking for 9 other large senior living companies and their rankings are not substantially higher than Brookdale’s.
  • It is hard to know if having a low rating really means anything.  There are really two questions:  Does having a low ranking make it harder to hire quality people?  Does it have any impact attracting new residents?

Some Lessons

There are, in my mind, three “there but for the grace of God” lessons for the industry (rather than being specifically directed at Brookdale):

  • Creating a strong supportive culture is a really really tough thing to do.  The larger the organization is, the more difficult it is to accomplish that goal, and the more important it is to be deliberate about the process.  It requires hiring like-minded leaders up and down the management chain that are effective at conveying positive corporate culture to the next level down.
  • Even if the culture at your senior living community is healthy, it reinforces how important it is to keep messaging that healthy culture throughout the company from top to bottom.  It needs to be done every day at every level.
  • Ultimately Glassdoor is a consumer review site for employees similar to the Senior Housing Forum partner, Caring.com is for senior living consumers.  If you have a healthy company, you might want to go to your team members and ask them to go to Glassdoor and talk about their own experience.

What do you do to create a positive culture in your organization? What do you do to message your positive culture throughout your organization?

Steve Moran

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