The Square
News and perspectives from Covia.

Covia and Jobvite have been recognized for their partnership in talent acquisition by the 2020 Brandon Hall Group Human Capital Management (HCM) Excellence Awards. The two organizations were awarded Silver for Best Advance in Talent Acquisition Process, and will be recognized at the HCM Excellence Conference in January, 2021.

For the past three years, Jobvite, a comprehensive talent acquisition suite that offers a marketing-inspired approach to recruiting, has collaborated with Covia to streamline Covia’s workflow and automate recruiting tasks. Covia also worked with Jobvite to launch a new career site in an effort to better market company culture and simplify the application process.

“By integrating with Jobvite, we were able to save a minimum of 600 recruiting hours per year with the HRIS integration, and elevate the talent acquisition team as a strategic service for attracting higher quality candidates,” said Prab Brinton, Covia VP of Human Resources. “Jobvite has reimagined our recruiting efforts and made us nimbler and more effective, and I’m so thrilled that our partnership is being honored by Brandon Hall Group.”

“We are so proud Covia is being recognized for its work, and the Jobvite team is excited to be along for their talent acquisition improvement journey,” said Aman Brar, Jobvite CEO. “Covia has always strived to hire the best candidates who support its mission of cultivating healthy communities for aging adults. We just made it easier for them to engage with a larger pool of high-quality applicants and achieve their talent goals.”

Since the inception of its partnership with Jobvite, Covia has achieved a 33% increase in applicant numbers and a remarkable 90% automation of the hiring process using Jobvite services, including digitization, easy-apply, AI technologies, and more.

“This award shows that the Covia organization is open to new ideas that will help move our business forward in a constantly changing world,” said Wendy Dugan, Covia’s HR Business Partner for Talent Acquisition. “Our culture continues to evolve and adjust to new environments and I’m excited that we are able to stay on top of our game and recruit top talent.”

Having an automated recruitment process in place before the start of the pandemic has allowed Covia to continue recruiting without missing a beat. “We didn’t have to think about a ‘socially distanced’ application process as we had already implemented it with Jobvite’s easy-apply, electronic screening forms, automated calendaring and video interviews. With these systems in place, we didn’t lose any time as the pandemic created new job openings,” said Brinton.

“Building the system before the pandemic was invaluable,” said Dugan. “From my vantage point, it really has been business as usual when it comes to recruiting.”

The HCM Excellence Awards is the most prestigious and longest-running recognition program in human capital management. Brandon Hall Group’s industry-standard awards program recognizes organizations that successfully deployed HCM programs achieving superior and measurable results.

Award entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group analysts and executives based upon the following criteria: fit the need, design of the program, functionality, innovation, and overall measurable benefits. A full list of the winners for the HCM Excellence Awards is available here.

In addition to receiving this award, Covia is presenting at Recruiter Nation Live, sponsored by Jobvite, on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. To learn more about Jobvite, visit www.jobvite.com.

For the third consecutive year, Covia has been certified a Great Place to Work™, based on results from the Trust Index survey administered to all of Covia’s employees. In addition to being certified as an organization, 12 of Covia’s communities and programs also certified on their own.

Overall, 83 percent of Covia’s employees say that Covia is a great place to work. 88 percent agreed with the statement, “I feel good about the ways we contribute to the community” and 87 percent agree that “When you join the company, you are made to feel welcome.”

One respondent commented, “When I first started people were so nice to me and so accepting, and now I get to be the same way when new people start too.” Another said, “I genuinely feel that people care about each other and want to make it the best possible workplace. This is paired with genuine care for our residents, participants, volunteers, and employees.”

“Great Place to Work certification is more than a badge,” says Prab Brinton, Covia’s VP of Human Resources. “We conduct the survey to learn, develop, and grow because we want to continue making our environment one that we all enjoy coming to every day.”

“We applaud Covia for seeking certification for the third consecutive year,” says Dr. Jacquelyn Kung of Great Place to Work’s senior care affiliate Activated Insights. “These ratings measure Covia’s capacity to earn its own employees’ trust and create a great workplace for high performance.”

Almost 950 employees responded to the survey, a response rate of 94 percent – Covia’s highest response rate ever. Prab Brinton and Nelia Mori, Human Resources Business Partner, made special visits to Covia’s communities, setting up separate and appropriately distanced booths with individual screens where employees could take the Great Place to Work survey safely and securely.

“The Great Place to Work Survey Road Show allowed us to show appreciation for the employees,” says Mori. “Not only did they have the opportunity to express their opinion, they also enjoyed the socially-distanced snacks, the games, the raffles. Then they went back to their departments and told their coworkers about it.”

“Completing Great Place to Work certification in the midst of COVID-19 shows a commitment to listening to employee feedback and striving to be an elite employer, regardless of current challenges,” notes Dr. Kung. 

Covia’s profile is listed among other certified companies here, and the organization is now eligible for the Best Workplaces in Aging Services list, which will be announced by Fortune Magazine in December 2020. Covia previously ranked #29 in Best Workplaces for Aging Services™ in 2018.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Covia is dedicated to supporting team members as they provide essential care throughout our communities. Part of this support is the ‘Essential Support’ program, which was put into effect on April 29th. This program includes financial support to help with unexpected costs, time off, choice of a fun “family time” membership, and merit increases.

As Covia CEO Kevin Gerber noted in a letter to employees with the announcement of the program, “We are so proud of the work our employees have been doing under difficult circumstances to make sure that our residents are safe and well cared for. The Essential Support program offers more support to all of our employees who are providing essential services for life and safety.”

The Essential Support program began as a survey, when Covia leadership reached out to employees throughout the organization to gauge how best to provide support during this time. Based on survey responses from over 600 employees and in the spirit of Covia’s Guiding Principles, the program provides assistance in areas where staff showed interest and need. These benefits fall into different categories including merit increases, help with expenses, time off, paid leave, and protective equipment.  

The Essential Support Program

As part of the Essential Support program, beginning in May, all employees at Covia communities who joined Covia before January 2020 will receive a merit increase. This is paired with up to $500 to go toward essential expenses such as groceries and childcare.

On top of monetary benefits, the program also includes the ability to earn up to 1 floating holiday per month to use as needed and a commitment that employees will not lose wages due to COVID-19. If a Covia employee contracts COVID-19 or is waiting on test results, the organization will ensure that team members are properly compensated. This includes coordinating with State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits and ensuring staff have enough paid time off or paid sick leave for wages not covered by SDI.

In addition to the personal protective equipment (PPE) that is in use at the communities, Covia is also supplying cloth masks to employees that they can take home to their families. The Essential Support program also offers a benefit employees can share with their family. They can choose between a Disney+ membership, a Netflix membership, an Amazon Prime membership, or a Costco Goldstar membership, which can be utilized now for shopping or entertainment, or a Fandango Movie Card that can be used after the crisis is over.

“In creating this program, we started with a simple goal – support our team members holistically,” says Prab Brinton, Vice President of HR. “We understood the financial strain COVID-19 had caused and were committed to providing support to help ease the financial burden – and, we wanted to do more. We wanted to provide the gift of time to rest and recharge.  Time to share with their children, spouses, and loved ones – even if it was something as simple as watching movies on Netflix, enjoying the classics on Disney +, or shopping on Amazon for some home essentials. Our team members are more than a financial transaction, they are what make Covia a unique place to work.”

Thank you to all Covia employees who are ensuring residents are receiving the best care during this difficult time. Covia employees who are interested in learning more about the Essential Support program, please reach out to your HR representative. And if you are interested in joining the Covia team, please visit our careers site!

Happy Employee Appreciation Day! We are so excited to celebrate all of the amazing people who help Covia support older adults around the Bay Area and beyond. In honor of this holiday, we were inspired to share stories about our incredible employees from throughout the organization.

Community Services

Lizette Suarez, Well Connected Español Program Manager

Lizette came to WCE without having ever worked with older adults, but her humor, energy, dedication, passion, and skills leave me believing that she was the only person for the job.  As a one-woman team for the first year, she made our fantasy of diversifying Well Connected a robust reality and has successfully created a virtual community for nearly 100 older adults living across 5 states!

Amber Carrol, Director of Well Connected

Rita Mukhsinova, Ruth’s Table Manager

Rita implements gallery exhibits and events of incredibly high quality, which challenges preconceptions of senior living communities. A Bethany Center resident recently commented that a gallery lecture, “was so intellectual and stimulating. Sometimes people think that just because you’re older you won’t get it. The whole gallery and its programming is so intriguing.”

Katie Wade, Director of Social Call

Resident Service Coordination

Kristy Huang, Resident Wellness Director at Casa De Los Amigos

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Kristy Huang, Resident Wellness Director at Casa De Los Amigos in Redondo Beach for her hard work and dedication. Kristy went above and beyond with coordinating IWISH (Integrated Wellness in Supportive Housing) programs by herself after her partner RWD moved to another site. In spite of the difficult situation, Kristy has been doing an awesome job balancing health presentations, exercise programs, social workshops, art therapy classes and more while managing it all on her own. She kept her professionalism and still manages to serve residents with a great smile.  I am grateful and appreciate her willingness to go the extra miles.

Sarah Choi, Lead Resident Service Coordinator

Covia Communities

Elvyra Abare, Canterbury Woods Executive Director, and Wei Chang, Canterbury Woods Transportation Manager

The incident/accident I experienced on January 21st on the way to a Covia meeting in Walnut Creek re-affirmed the correct decision I made about entering the Canterbury Woods community. Elvyra, the CW Director, finding me bleeding profusely, took charge and her calm voice and clear directions soothed my state of mind and prevented me from over-reacting. She treated me like I was her mother and that had a profound effect on my perspective of the situation. Where could I find such support in a moment of distress? Canterbury Woods of course…

And Wei, the transportation manager, who had to revise his driving plans because I did not heed to his rules about getting in the limousine, and who understands so well the flaws of human nature. Wei is a master at decision-making, is a compassionate human being and surprised me when I came out of E.R. Wei was there waiting for me and worried about my nutritional needs. Wei easily combined his responsibilities with the CW group he was driving to the Covia meeting and giving me his caring attention. Wei is a multi-tasking man with a heart. Thank you both, Elvyra and Wei.

Canterbury Woods Resident

San Francisco Towers Staff

Thank you! We have just been through an ordeal that I would have had difficulty managing if not for our staff at the SFTowers.

One morning, I heard my husband calling for me. I found him lying in a pool of blood in our hallway near the front door. I called Security and when someone arrived he wisely called our 2nd floor. Two Skilled Nursing staff took my husband’s vitals and called for an ambulance. At the hospital, we found he had dislocated his shoulder.

When we arrived back at SFT, our front desk called for a wheelchair to get us to our apartment. Almost immediately Grace Tom from Resident Health Services, an angel, arrived and took over. She organized everything, meals delivered that day, assistance, doctors orders to the PT people, and for our new doctor to make a house call. Dr. Aissatou Haman came to our apartment and scheduled my husband to see an orthopedic doc and have x-rays done.

While the above was happening, Troy Stewart, Housekeeping Manager, sent someone up to clean up the blood residue I had missed on the floor and the walls. Thank you to our staff for everything. We are most grateful for the care and attention we received in our hour of need. Everyone here knew what to do and did it.

San Francisco Towers Resident

Support Services

Accounts Payable Team

In our Finance Department, Accounts Payable is responsible for making sure that every invoice gets paid, and Deanna Garcia and Stephanie Canady are an amazing team. Every once in a while you get lucky and find an employee that is a quiet constant, always comes to work on time, hardly every misses a day of work and is dedicated to doing a great job.  Deanna is that person! Stephanie is one of those people that is dedicated to not only doing her job well, but she also makes work fun!  I really appreciate her quick witted humor!  She makes me laugh and smile no matter what problem we are trying to solve.

Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources

Grant Edelstone, Senior Director of Risk Management, Compliance & Risk

Grant is one of those people that you can always count on.  He always gives solid, well thought-out advice and is never too busy to lend a hand. I appreciate his calm, professional approach.

Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources

The stories mentioned display only a fraction of the hard work and dedication that Covia employees bring to their job every single day. Thank you to everyone who supports our organization. You are a valued part of our team! 

* Some of these stories have been edited to protect resident’s privacy.

As the situation in Sonoma County continues to develop, Covia is working with our communities  Jennings Court and Spring Lake Village in Santa Rosa, with Friends House in Santa Rosa (with whom we have a management agreement), with our Community Services program participants throughout the county, and with our employees to ensure everyone’s safety.

Friday, November 1, 2019

10:00 am

We’re pleased that life is starting to return to normal in our communities. We continue to be grateful to the firefighters who are still working to contain the Kincade fire, which as of this writing is only 68% contained. And we offer comfort and condolences to all who have sustained losses or been traumatized during this past week.

All residents have returned to Jennings Court and were welcomed home with a communal meal of chili. Residents are continuing to return to Spring Lake Village and Friends House. Covia employees who evacuated are also returning to their homes. Welcome home, everyone!

Unless there are further developments, this will be the final update on this blog post.  

Thursday, October 31, 2019

11:30am

Containment of the Kincade fire is now at 60%. In Santa Rosa, all evacuation orders and warnings have been lifted. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

4:40pm

Power has been restored to Spring Lake Village.

2:45pm

The Evacuation Order for Jennings Court has been downgraded to an Evacuation Warning. Residents are allowed to repopulate with advisement that a warning is still in place. 

1:30pm

Power has been restored at Friends House. 

10:00am

Winds overnight were not as strong as predicted, which allowed firefighters to hold the line. Containment of the fire is now up to 30%, according to Cal Fire. Winds are projected to be calmer through today though a Red Flag warning is still active.

Friends House and Spring Lake Village continue to shelter in place, remaining on alert, though a mandatory evacuation is unlikely today. Power remains out at both locations.

Power has been restored to Jennings Court though the mandatory evacuation is still in place.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

9:30 am

Friends House and Spring Lake Village continue to shelter in place. Although a mandatory evacuation is unlikely today, we remain on alert. Our main concern at this time is the air quality, and we continue to encourage our Independent Living residents to consider voluntary evacuation.

Representatives from PG&E contacted Spring Lake Village to report that they will not have power restored today because the community is too close to the fire zone to be able to inspect the lines before they would be required to turn off the power again. The community is receiving deliveries of food and fuel.

At Friends House, Executive Director Clara Allen reports that the County Ombudsman visited the campus on Monday to check on residents and provide support.  

According to the report from Cal Fire updated at 7:30 this morning, “Favorable weather conditions will enhance firefighting efforts in the morning while narrow roads and steep terrain are still making access to the fire areas difficult. Weather predictions show Northeast wind gusts picking up this evening. Firefighters will continue to mitigate structure threats and find opportunities to construct more control lines.” We are hopeful that firefighters will be able to make further progress in containing the fire throughout the day.

Monday, October 28, 2019

7:30 am

There have been no new developments overnight. Spring Lake Village and Friends House remain in a state of watchful readiness. With almost no winds forecast for today, we are hopeful that firefighters will be able to make some progress in containing the Kincade fire today. We do not expect to see mandatory evacuations put in place today, but will be ready in case we receive the order.

Employees: please report to work at your usual time if you are able. If you have evacuated out of the area or are unable to report to work, please inform your supervisor and HR manager. Thank you!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

6:00 pm

There is little new information to report.

The Executive Directors of Friends House and Spring Lake Village report that there has been no change. Covia has spent much of the day working to support the staff on-site, ensuring that Friends House and Spring Lake Village are fully prepared to evacuate, should a mandatory evacuation order be put in place. Winds in the region are blowing southwest and the fires does not appear to be getting any closer to the communities.

Friends House and Spring Lake Village have suggested voluntary evacuation to those residents who have a safe place to go. This allows residents time to relocate to a place of their choice with more time to prepare. It also allows the reduced number of staff to focus on helping residents at a higher level of care both in providing for their daily needs and in the case of a mandatory evacuation.

Jennings Court has been evacuated, although a few residents have refused to vacate the premises. The Santa Rosa Police Department has been informed of the residents who have chosen to remain on site.

Social Call Santa Rosa has ensured that its most vulnerable participants have been able to evacuate.

Employees should keep their supervisors and HR department informed about their availability.

Please stay safe!

8:00 am
As of now, Jennings Court is under an evacuation order. Sadie Bracy, Jennings Court’s Housing Administrator, is facilitating the evacuation and Karim Sultan, VP of Affordable Housing is providing support. All but a few Jennings residents have relocations sites they have individually chosen. Those who do not have another evacuation site are being provided with a place to stay in Oakland.

As of this writing, Friends House and Spring Lake Village are outside the mandatory evacuation order zone, but we are encouraging voluntary evacuations. Residents are asked to please inform their communities if they are evacuating, along with their new location and contact information. If you are a resident who has evacuated or are otherwise off-site and not informed your community of your location, please contact your community as soon as possible.

Social Call Sonoma County has reached out to participants to check on their safety.

Employees should report to Spring Lake Village or Friends House for their normal shift as they are able. If you are unable to report to work, please inform your HR department and supervisor as soon as possible. We are working to communicate with all staff today. Please follow any evacuation orders you receive.

We will provide further updates as the situation develops.

Earlier this year, Covia was certified for a second year as a Great Place to Work. This certification, based on a Trust Index that includes over 60 evaluated elements, considers not only organizational culture but also each team member’s experience.

“We like to get feedback from the organization to see how we’re doing,” says Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources. “Are we meeting our objectives? Is everybody engaged with their current roles? And, most importantly, are there areas to improve? At the end of the day, we want to build a strong culture and the only way that we can do that is by getting employee feedback.”

The Great Place to Work survey revealed a lot of exciting insights about Covia. One of the things that was made clear in these results is that employees are proud of their work. 89% of respondents indicated that they “feel good about the ways that Covia contributes to the community” while 87% feel a sense of pride about what they have accomplished. The people stand out at the top as one of the main reasons employees enjoy their work, especially in their interactions with staff and residents.

“The work that we do truly makes a positive impact in people’s lives,” says Lizette Suarez, Well Connected Español Program Manager. “I am surrounded by a great team who is dedicated and committed to making a difference in the world.”

The Great Place to Work survey not only highlights successes but also serves as a great tool to pinpoint areas of improvement within the company. Based off of the results of the survey, each community has identified specific goals that will be their focus over the next year. These goals range from managers more readily including employees in important decisions to working quicker to adapt to changes.

Beyond these individual goals, there is one company-wide goal, which is centered on creating a great culture. Over the next year, Covia will focus on developing a hiring culture that is both fun and effective with the goal of bringing in more candidates that are a great fit. This will include becoming more transparent and creating a New Hire Orientation and Onboarding process that does a better job of orienting new hires within their particular community as well as with the company as a whole.

These goals will be evaluated through pulse surveys sent out to employees periodically. Based on these surveys, the entire company as well as each community will be able to determine if they are moving forward or if more work is needed to reach their designated goal.

 “All of the work that has gone into identifying these goals and tailoring them to each community is intended to better the experience of every employee,” says Brinton. “There are always places to improve and the Great Place to Work survey has provided a great jumping off point from which to evaluate and enhance Covia’s employee experience.”  

Each year, Covia sends candidates to LeadingAge California’s EMERGE program to build and develop their capacity for leadership and to help them network with other leaders in the Aging Services field. This May, Rosa Torres, Human Resources Manager for Los Gatos Meadows, and Cammille Lo-Li, Regional Social Services Manager for Covia Affordable Communities, are graduating as members of the class of 2019, and Maggie Youssef, Health Care Administrator at St. Paul’s Towers, will join the class of 2020.

“EMERGE is a year-long program to help candidates reach their potential in their organization to successfully lead innovative programming within their organizations,” explains Jerry Brown, Senior Director of Covia Affordable Communities, who helped establish the statewide program and has served as a coach for the past four years.

Brown explains that EMERGE fellows “can be any level of employee. It doesn’t have to be a CEO. It can be a maintenance person or a nurse, which I think is the wonderful thing about it. The supervisor sees the value that you have as a leader – that you can be a leader, not necessarily in the current job you have, but for the organization in some way.”

Lo-li first heard about the program while working at another organization in 2011. “I got that opportunity back then when I was first on the job as a Resident Service Coordinator. But I put it on hold and things kept holding me back [from participating]. So I’m glad that as soon as I was employed by Covia, I got a call saying, ‘Hey, Cammille, we want you to participate.’”

Youssef explains, “I applied for the EMERGE program so that I can professionally grow as a leader, build long lasting professional relationships with other leaders from other organizations and network with other fellow EMERGE members.” For Youssef, “Although I’ve worked in the Long term Care industry the last 25 years, I believe that there is so much more to learn. It is an ever evolving industry. The EMERGE program can help me improve on the skills I already possess and develop other skills I need to become a better leader in the industry.”

Participants in the program meet in person four times a year, participating in site visits at LeadingAge California member communities. They read and discuss four books on leadership development, and participate in monthly team calls between sessions. Each participant also creates an Action Learning Plan, or ALP, to apply what they have learned and bring it back to their workplace.

“It’s a training to help you lead, but it’s not only that,” says Torres. “I feel that this year has helped me to understand people in all their diversity, how to deal with them, how to communicate, how to address employees properly.”

Torres’ ALP involved building a more inclusive culture in her community. “The first thing I did was instead of saying ‘Staff Meeting,’ I changed it to ‘Team Meeting.’ And you know, believe it or not, that Team word made a big difference for some employees. I had people from the Environmental Services department tell me that this was the first time that somebody saw them as part of a team.”

Lo-li is developing a social work mentorship program “by shadowing current employees in different positions, getting their interest in the aging services field.”

The ALPs are not just theoretical projects, but actually get carried out and have an impact on the participants’ organizations. A previous EMERGE fellow implemented Covia’s comprehensive, organization-wide online Accounts Payable system as her ALP.

In addition to what participants bring back to their organizations, “I got really good friends and I appreciate the training because of that,” says Torres. “You learn a lot of things about yourself, about your job, about the people around you.”

As a coach, Brown says, “I like hearing everybody’s personal stories. I like seeing the best practices when we go visit sites. There’s some really wonderful programs out there, innovative things. Covia has some of the most innovative programs within the whole membership of LeadingAge California. We should be very proud of that.”

“I’m really glad that Covia continues to support the program and that Cammille and Rosa both were able to get through the program this year and graduate, and I hope that they encourage others to do so too,” says Brown. “We have to remember that it’s not a cheap program. You are getting the support of your supervisor because you’re not at work. Other people have to fill in for you while you’re away. And so Covia’s really making an investment in your leadership, allowing this education. You’re being honored, I would say.”

“I wish that every employee, every colleague would get to attend, just to get the experience of it,” says Lo-li. “It’s an adventure ride.”

For the second consecutive year, Covia has been certified a Great Place to Work.

Great Place to Work™, an independent research and consulting firm, evaluates an organizational culture brief as well as more than 60 elements of team members’ experience on the job. These elements include pride in the organization’s community impact, employees’ belief that their work makes a difference, and a sense of respect, fairness, credibility, and camaraderie. Together, these items are called the Trust Index.

The certification process at Covia considered almost 700 employee surveys from across all of Covia’s California communities and locations. To be certified, an organization needs a participation rate of over 50%, and a Trust Index score of 75% or greater. Overall, 66% of Covia’s employees participated in the survey with a Trust Index score of 77%.

Being certified makes Covia eligible to be considered for the Fortune Great Places to Work list, including Great Places to Work in Aging Services. Last year, Covia ranked 29th on the list. The 2019 results will be published late this summer.

Survey results will be used to create action items to improve the employee experience. After reviewing the results, Covia will determine an action item that will be applied to the organization overall, and each community will also develop an action item that is specific for that location.

“The Great Place to Work certification is a testament both to the quality of our workplaces and of our employees,” says Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources. “We want to take this moment to celebrate this achievement as we strive to become the best workplace we can.”

The company overview is available online at the Great Place to Work website.

Originally published in Engage Winter 2019

In December 2018, Sandra Crowder, Environmental Services Tech, was named Los Gatos Meadows Employee of the Quarter.

The Covia community shared on Facebook that “Sandra’s positivity and attention to detail inspires all who cross her path. She holds herself to very high standards and strives to provide excellence to residents, team members, and guests.”

For her part, Sandra says, “One of my goals at work is to make people smile and feel cared for which is easy here.” She adds, “Also I have a wonderful supervisor and I feel appreciated by my boss and the management.”

But which came first: Sandra’s high standards, or the appreciation of the management?

“What we find across all industries across all countries is that people want the same thing,” says Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Activated Insights, a senior care company of Great Place to Work. “And it comes down to trust.”

Great Place to Work has been studying the elements of trust in the workplace for over 30 years. They have found five key elements: Respect, Credibility, Fairness, Camaraderie, and Pride. Together, these comprise the Trust Index – a measure that is tied to increased organizational performance.  

According to Kung, the first three measures – Respect (I feel respected by my employer), Credibility (I can believe what my employer is telling me), and Fairness (I feel that decisions and policies are fair) establish a relationship built in trust. “What really elevates it even more is Camaraderie, which is with my coworkers, and then Pride in what I do,” she says.

For the first time this year, Great Place to Work has offered a list of Best Places to Work in Aging Services.  Covia, a LeadingAge California member based in Walnut Creek, placed 29th overall.

The Trust Index has been shown to have a causal effect on improving the workplace. “You improve the Trust Index score, and your performance as an organization improves. In public companies, the best companies outperform the stock market index by a factor of 200 to 300 percent,” says Kung. “In our industry, higher Trust Index score, lower employee turnover. Higher Trust Index score, happier residents and families. Higher Trust Index score, better occupancy.”

Of the five dimensions of Trust, Covia rated highest in Pride and lowest in Fairness – a typical result for the Aging Services industry, according to Kung.

“Our industry compared to other industries really stands out for that reason – pride and purpose – and it’s the organizations that highlight and inculcate that best that seem to do best,” says Kung. “And of course they also are high in respect, credibility, fairness, camaraderie.”

For fairness, perception is key, and a lot of the perception is based on day to day activities, such as scheduling. “Scheduling is really important for this industry. If you’re not getting what you requested and you see someone else and you don’t know why, then it’s perceived as not fair.” One way to improve the perception is to make sure employees understand why something is the way it is.

Another common area of perceived unfairness is compensation. “Our industry does not do a good job communicating how compensation is determined,” notes Kung. “And compensation includes of course the pay itself, but also benefits, and having some sort of share in success.”

For Covia, which had been evaluating employee satisfaction through other surveys since 2010, the choice to partner with Great Place to Work made sense.

“Quite honestly, it’s a great recruiting tool,” says Prab Brinton, Covia’s Vice President of Human Resources. “The minute that you say, ‘We’re a great place to work,’ the candidate instinctively paints a picture of what that looks like for them.”

“I think the designation is also a good reminder for our current workforce,” she adds. “It reminds them: ‘Oh, wait a minute. Actually, you know what? We are a pretty good place to work because here’s what all of my peers are saying. Here are all the great things my employer offers me.’ It’s a great reminder, just from a retention perspective.”

“The other thing that was really good about this tool is that it’s also being able to tie our employee feedback to the resident experience,” says Brinton. With other surveys, “We got lots of great information, but how do you tie it into the resident experience? With Great Place to Work, we were able to give them that information and they were able to correlate that together for us.”

And of course, the Great Place to Work survey gave Covia information on where it can grow and improve, both overall as an organization as well as at a community or departmental level.

One area where Brinton feels Covia has room to improve is in building stronger relationships with employees, rather than spending the bulk of the time in bureaucratic tasks. “We have systems to handle day to day tasks. These systems help us move employee conversations from ‘did you fill out your benefits paperwork’ to ‘let’s talk about what would be the best benefit choice for you and your family.’ Or if you know that there’s a rising star within your community – the conversation turns to ‘Hey what are your plans? I know you’re getting ready to graduate from school, what are you planning to do? Have you considered this kind of position with us?’ We should be turning it more into that kind of relationship. We spend a lot of time building those relationships with our residents. We need to do the same with our employees.”

In her one-on-one meetings with her direct report, Brinton focuses on four areas: the status of current projects; any roadblocks or concerns; current successes; and ongoing career development needs and desires. “I do think that a lot of times in many organizations, HR falls into the role of ‘managing’ employees through their tenure. The true role of HR should be to create an environment that employees can come in and do a great job every day and feel pride in the job that they are doing. We’re also here hopefully to educate in some way, to help employees along their career path.”

And if the original career path doesn’t work, there may be another way to use a talented employee’s skills and talents. Gina Secchi, Marketing Coordinator at St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland, started her career at Covia as the Catering Manager at San Francisco Towers. “I loved the event planning and the San Francisco Towers residents and felt mentored by [Director of Dining Services] Larry Brooks,” says Secchi. “Unfortunately, the commute was too much and I wasn’t going to be able to stay. When I mentioned this to Larry, he was instrumental in me coming to St. Paul’s Towers. He knew my strengths and suggested to [Executive Director] Melody Mitchell and [HR Director] Donna Tendler that I work at St. Paul’s as the marketing coordinator and they all helped me to do so. Larry made me feel very respected because he said, ‘I wish you could stay here but I would rather have you work for Covia than have the company lose you.’” Secchi is now considering getting a degree in Marketing. “I know that Covia has a program that assists with going back to school and I am looking into participating in this program.”

“I would say to other aging services companies, figure out ways to make your employees feel connected to the organization, to the management teams, to the other employees. I think that goes a long way,” says Brinton. “If you don’t feel connected to your spouse or partner, you say, ‘OK, I need to find greener pastures.’ It’s the same thing on employment. If employees don’t feel connected then they’ll ask themselves, ‘Why should I keep coming here? You don’t value anything that I bring to you.’ It’s really being able to harness the connection between employer and employee.”

“Covia believes that every single employee is essential and vital to our team. Our management staff works hard to communicate this and to be sure everyone is treated that way,” says Ron Schaefer, Chief Operating Officer. “Covia is also a great place to work because of the important work we do: supporting older people to live well and age well.”

“There are always the usual things: you have pay, you have benefits,” says Brinton. “I think more importantly are the people you work with, believing in the mission of the organization, and being surrounded by a bunch of people who are driven by that same thing. I think that makes Covia a great place to work.”

Brinton adds, “I think something that makes us unique over numerous other industries outside of senior living is the employees get to feel like they have an extended family outside of your work family. You have these great seniors or elderly people that you are interacting with on a day to day basis. One, they’re very grateful that you’re there helping them. But two, just think about all the stories you get and the added knowledge or learning. You just feel connected.”

This connection is clearly felt by Sandra Crowder at Los Gatos Meadows. “I truly give my all to Covia and the residents,” she says. “I also receive a lot of joy from the residents in return.”