Brand & People are Squishy
Sandra Preyale has graced the halls and led HR at Christian Dior, L'Oreal, Coach, LVMH, and Amazon.
Why leave a history of big brands and take the Chief People Officer mantle at Aegis Living? Because it's squishy. Squishy provides purpose and goes beyond mere HR, Talent Acquisition, and Brand. Because squishy is REAL.
Enjoy this Cult Brand podcast, supported by Smashfly, which was recorded at the base of a mountain in Banff, Canada before the world turned upside down. Enjoy!
PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:
James Elis: James Ellis from, The Talent Cast. You may not be aware of this, but a couple years ago I lost a bet, so now I'm contractually obligated to say nice things about Chad and Cheese. Well, I took that, let's say lemon and turned it into lemonade. I took interviews from Chad and Cheese and turned it into a book, but I added a lot of other people you're going to want to talk to. It's called Talent Chooses You. It is hiring better with employer branding and it is available on Amazon, June 15th, you should go and buy it, bye.
SFX: A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!
Chad: I love this woman.
Chad: This is exactly what we talk about all the time. You're not trying to poach talent. You're manufacturing talent.
Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls, it's time for The Chad and Cheese Podcast.
Joel: Oh yeah. What's up gang? We're back in dance, doing that podcast thing.
Chad: So hard at the base of a mountain talking to people about podcasting and branding and now talent acquisition.
Joel: Yeah. In case you missed it. I am Joel Cheesman. This is the Chad and Cheese Podcast. I'm joined here with Chad. Hi Chad.
Joel: And we are honored to have as our guest Sandra Preyale. I [00:01:37] didn't I?
Joel: With Aegis Living.
Sandra: Yeah. That works.
Joel: Okay. It's an Irish lass who married a Frenchman. So I'm all messed up. So you're with Aegis Living. Most of our listeners don't know who you are. So give us the elevator pitch on that. And then more importantly, we're going to talk about your lecture or presentation this morning and get into all kinds of talent acquisitions.
Chad: Just get in it.
Chad: Get dirty.
Sandra: Aegis Living is a privately owned, founder driven still, senior living company. We're present in the Pacific Northwest, actually in three States today, California and Washington and Nevada. We are really looking to reinvent this space because I don't know about either of you. I don't know if you have parents or grandparents that have ever had the opportunity to go into a senior living company, but you
Joel: I live in one now actually.
Sandra: ... Well, then it must be pretty sad, because that's what
Joel: The meatloaf is fantastic.
Sandra: ... And the bingo is probably amazing.
Chad: The bingo.
Sandra: But that's what it is. You go there to die and you play bingo, until you do. And that's the perception that people have. Aegis Living is very different. And we're a company that's growing. We're looking at probably opening another 40 communities in the next five to seven years, which will bring us to 70. Our intention is not to be the biggest, it's to be the very, very best.
Joel: Which means how many hires for those facilities of late?
Sandra: We'll have to hire probably another three to 4,000 employees. So we currently have two and a half thousand employees that serve two and a half thousand residents. The ratio one-to-one, it's very labor intense.
Chad: Oh wow. Yeah.
Sandra: And we're in probably the most difficult market to hire for.
Chad: Is that normal though, one-to-one ratio? It doesn't seem like it is because most of the
Joel: Even Thinker is like five to one.
Chad: ... Yeah. Most of the facilities that I've been in, it doesn't seem like there's the as many staff as there are residents.
Sandra: Yeah. So, it may be very simply because they just can't hire. And many companies have difficulty hiring and the turnover rate in our space, nobody really talks about it, but it is in the 100's. 100, 120%. We are much, much, much, much lower. And we do everything to keep it low.
Chad: Not a lot of poaching, I would assume too, right?
Sandra: Yeah. You're in a space where, the starting wage, if you've never done this before, is minimum wage. And so when you're looking to hire and someone who's going to provide incredible care. and to a vulnerable adult. And not only incredible care, but real quality life experience, you have to do a lot of things to make sure that you're bringing that person in, that you're nurturing them and that you're really engaging them, so that you keep them. Because effectively they probably could get more going to Amazon, working in a fulfillment center or driving an Uber or any of the other things that they could be hired into.
Joel: So what was your session about today? What did you focus on?
Sandra: I focused on what makes us different from a culture perspective. And it's really driven by Dwayne Clark, our founder. And it might sound squishy guides, but we talk about leading through vulnerability, servant leadership.
Sandra: And our leaders, they are serving our employees, our frontline staff. That's what they do. They are looking to satisfy the legitimate needs of our employees because it's our employees that are doing the real work.
Chad: Right. How do they do that though? Because we've heard that from so many companies. We serve our employees, but it's like, okay, I really need the how, I love the why you do it, but what's the how?
Sandra: We're constantly reinventing. But we have a mantra and the mantra is equally valid for our employees as it is for our residents, "Know me, protect me, engage me, celebrate me, wow me." And that mantra, is the framework for all of the things we create in terms of engagement, in terms of aspirational people development, in terms of ensuring that we're retaining people over time. And so to give you an example, and the wow me, we organize a lottery twice a year, where all of our line staff can enter into the lottery and win $50,000. Which is a big deal. I mean, that's obviously more than a years salary, that changes a life. And it's only open to line staff. We have created a program called, Dollar Meals. So our care manager, who may be a mom with children, can buy a meal for up to four people and take it home with her from the kitchen she's working in, so she doesn't have to cook when she gets home in the evening. We have a foundation called Potato Soup, where it's a foundation that's actually funded by our employees. There's about a quarter of a million dollars at any given point in time. And it's really there to help employees in need. They have a big health issue, they have an issue with a divorce and they need legal help. And many of our employees come from outside of the U.S and if there's been as it was in certain parts of the world and big, big climate issues. And they might have a family back there that has issues and they lost their home. Well, we help them go there. And what's really, I think really strong in this is, and I didn't create it so I don't take any credit for it, is that we have 500 employees that on a regular basis are putting money from their pay, every paycheck into this Potato Soup. And many of these employees are earning the minimum wage and they're doing that to help one another. So I think it shows just how much of a community we're trying to create.
Sandra: Yeah. So they're some of the examples.
Joel: Yeah. You have quite a background, COACH is on your resume, Amazon, which we talk about frequently. We'll get into that.
Chad: Oh, yeah.
Joel: Those are big brands, well known. And so the senior living, wouldn't necessarily be a natural progression in my mind. So what was the genesis of
Chad: She's shaking her head vigorously.
Joel: ... The genesis moving from those big brands to senior living?
Sandra: Yeah. You know that I started my presentation without this morning because effectively... When I announced at Amazon, I was heading HR at the time for what we call the sellers division. And the sellers division was generating half the revenue for Amazon at the time. It's all the third-party vendors on the platform.
Chad: Oh, yeah.
Sandra: And we were doing some really cool things. We were doing machine learning, we were creating a lot of stuff. We created Amazon Pay, which rivals with other forms of pay. We
Chad: Apple, Samsung. Yeah.
Sandra: ... And so, when I was approached, it was a headhunter and I thought, why the hell would they even consider me? One, I know nothing about health care. Two, this feels small. And I must be honest, I was scared. I had never not been to a senior living company, since I had been about 10 years old and I went with my dad to see my grandmother at the time. And it was scary.
Sandra: Everywhere, it smelled.
Sandra: People looked really sad. And so, I thought this isn't for me. And then I was on a layover at a Dubai airport. I was actually going to Hyderabad to speak at the first, Women Leaders in Tech, conference there.
Sandra: And I don't know if either of you have ever flown from Seattle to Hyderabad.
Sandra: You have three hours, at two in the morning, at Dubai airport and there's nothing to do. And so I thought, what can I... Maybe I should take a look at this. What is the market? And it was just kind of surfing on the web and seeing this is going to be an incredibly vibrant industry. It is at the moment, the baby boomers are hitting this as consumers, not as customers. They have really different expectations. The industry traditionally is really conservative and it's not answering what baby boomers are going to want. At the same time, there's all these challenges from an HR perspective, how do you attract people and pay them $13 and expect them to stay? All of these things are meaty big problems to solve in sort of the Amazon speak. And honestly, I loved what I was doing at Amazon, but at the end of the day, do I want to sell more stuff to more people?
Joel: Is it change somebody's life?
Joel: That's the question.
Sandra: Yeah. And so the purpose of this and then getting into starting to interview, with Dwayne and the leadership team and realizing these people are on a mission, it's not a company, it's a course. And they really believe that... And we believe that we're going to transform this space and we're no longer talking about it at senior living. We're talking about it as wellness. If you can position it in that way, it just completely opens the perspective of what we're doing.
Chad: Words mean everything, right?
Sandra: But they do, but because they set a structure, you have to put substance behind them, but it allows you to dream and then to start bringing people around it.
Chad: Yeah. What do you want to be? I mean, that's, you have to start somewhere right?
Chad: So when it comes down to hiring and trying to, again, there's only so many of these types of individuals in healthcare and wellness.
Chad: So it's hard. Do you work directly with marketing? Is there a marketing department and what is your relationship with them?
Sandra: So we do have a marketing department. We work with them in a very operational way. If you go on our website, you'll see something called the wisdom diaries, which is the way we talk about who we are. And that was something created by the marketing team. It's all about connection and it's all about the fact that, we have 50 different nationalities that work for us. We have just opened a senior living community in Newcastle in Washington and it's open to Asian, a wide variety of Asian residents. You think their differences. In fact, there's more that unites us than divides us. And that's what this is about. So we do work with marketing and we don't work enough with them because we need a lot more to build our employer brand.
Chad: Yeah. Well and I think a signal of a place like the gathering, having somebody from town acquisition and then also connecting with us, is our second year here, that they understand the importance behind that connection. And I believe, tell me what you think. I really believe that, marketing is falling down and they don't see the actual candidates coming in. And that's like a blind spot, because in most cases, in tell us about your applicant tracking system, the amount of people who come to your site, right? Those people could prospectively be the ones that are utilizing your services later and, or they have family members.
Chad: Right? So that impacts, I mean literally impacts the bottom line. Is that a story that you're telling in TA so that marketing understands how important it is that you perspectively get more collaboration and budget?
Sandra: It's interesting you asked that because, we have a number of our employees that do have family members in our communities and they placed them once they had joined the company. We're expensive, we're high end. And so, it does require to have a certain amount of means, but it's something that's known. With two and a half thousand employees, two and a half thousand residents. We should know our residents. And one of the biggest failures of many companies, and Jeff Bezos announces it, in his letter to his shareholders every year, is that you lose the day one perspective. You lose who you were at the very origin, when you had your leaders doing everything and they knew the frontline, they were the ones providing care to. And when you get bigger and you're more successful, you lose that, because it creates structure, you create layers, you create people who make decisions, who don't get into the communities.
Chad: Swerving further away from what matters.
Sandra: Exactly. We tell our stories with... And it's actually done with marketing. And every day we have a ritual called standup, where in every community it happens three times a day at home office that happens once a day. The standup is one of our hallmarks. It's the, one of the ways we operate, it brings together our employees. The first thing we do is, we celebrate an employee. And the second thing we do is we celebrate a resident. And we do that even at home office.
Chad: And that happens every day?
Sandra: Every day. And at the community level three times a day because we're 24/7 business. So you've got shift. It's really essential. Our president Kris Engskov came from Starbucks. He was head of North America. It's big, big team, he had 70,000 employees. And when he joined the company and I was creating the onboarding plan, we had him go into our communities for six months. And he was a care manager for three months. So he got the little old ladies up every morning.
Sandra: He dressed them. Well, he showered them first, then he dressed them, then he brought them to breakfast. So he could really understand what our employees are doing because we celebrate that. One last thing maybe and just related to that, when I joined, I wanted to understand, why did the care managers that we have that have been with us for 10 years or more, why did they join originally and why are they still with us? What is it that keeps them here? And unanimously they all said, "I love my residents and they love me back." Now that's squishy to talk about love in business, but it's not in our business.
Chad: We'll get back to the interview in a minute. Building a cult brand is not easy, especially when you're sending candidates into a black hole, which is why you need friends like Roopesh Nair, CEO of SmashFly on your side.
Joel: Having someone submit a resume that just goes into the black hole is devastating for candidate experience, doing to close the black hole and ensure everyone has a great experience when applying.
Roopesh Nair: We're doing a group of things out there. One is to ensure that the application experience itself is seamless by integrating with ATSs meaningfully and providing the statuses back and forth and ensuring that deliverers of communication are activated every time there's a status coming back and forth from the ATSs. So just kind of providing transparency in the application process by leveraging our candidate relationship management solution. The second aspect is then actually ensuring that we're using our matching algorithm to bubble up people pretty quickly where they are a great fit for that particular role in the company and ensuring that the conversational engagement starts right away and the recruiter is notified while the engagement is going on. It's critical then that ways we are prioritizing those engagements which are needed to the most important applicants right away. And then eventually ensuring that anyone who is not necessarily a good fit at that point, we have continued to engage them. Whether it is the job they applied for or for any other job or for that matter, just general brand awareness and general engagement around what might be a good fit for those guys, and shows that that black hole is minimized. .
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Chad: You are the people business.
Sandra: We are the people business.
Chad: And people need that feeling of as Douglas Atkins talked about, belonging.
Chad: And if they feel like they belong, the residents and obviously, the only way they're going to feel that way is if staff feels that way. Right?
Joel: So I think that's a great internal message, but obviously a challenge to get that message out externally to get people to come work for you. So
Chad: In a job description.
Joel: ... Sort of tactical, yes. What's the secret sauce in giving that message externally for people that you're trying to recruit?
Sandra: Well, one of the ways, and again, it's actually working with marketing. So you're absolutely right, that's really a crux to helping us communicate better. But we tell stories, we put them on our website of leaders in the organization that started out as care managers and we have a number. So we have managed to create career path thing for, people who have the aspiration to continue growing and developing up to the level of vice president of operations. And that gives aspiration. It allows us to hire people that may not want to do that, but seeing that we care enough to do it, they're more inclined to actually want to talk to us. We've just recently created as well as school internally, I don't know if you're aware, but in Washington you have to have a certification called the CNA, to be able to work as a care manager. And it's really tough because many of our care staff they come from very different demographics, that English is not their first language. So they fail the class and these classes are organized by third party vendors and they're expensive and most of them pay for it out of their pocket. We decided to create it in house. So to hire care staff, that may not have had that experience.
Chad: I love this woman.
Chad: This is the, this is exactly what we talk about all the time. You're not trying to poach talent, you're manufacturing talent who are fitting to the culture of what you want and what they want.
Sandra: Yeah. Well. Thank you, that's really well said.
Chad: So, I'm sorry. Continue with the pipelining.
Sandra: So we've just recently launched it and we're hiring for that. So we're hiring for them to go into our school. I have someone on my team who's a registered nurse, who created the program, got it certified by the state of Washington. Now it allows us to actually organize it and do that in house. Another thing we were doing, and it's still early days, so I will put a kind of a preface that it's... I can't share any results with you, but we've realized that there are cultures that have the DNA to care. How do we go after them in a more strategic way? We've actually gone to Puerto Rico and we've started to meet different associations. We've looked at what care is, in Puerto Rico. Actually families don't put their elderly family members in homes today and because it's not part of their culture. But we have a huge amount of young people that want to have a career an opportunity to grow. And just don't have that opportunity in Puerto Rico. So we're going to be creating a bridge to bring them over to the mainland and provide additional sourcing for us. Because again, that's the way we think we'll be more vibrant if we are doing that rather than poaching people and paying them a dollar more to actually get them in.
Chad: Now is there a contract? You're coming over, you're on a contract. I mean, you could... I was in the military for 20 years and I mean, to be able to have my GI bill at the time, $40,000 now it's like a hundred thousand dollars but you have to sign a contract.
Chad: And I always thought that that just made sense for somebody who wants to do this. So you guys have pretty much mimicked that to an extent.
Sandra: Yeah, that's true. Mm-hmm(affirmative). It is and we're obviously relocating them. We're paying for their relocation, we're paying for their certification because there's no requirement in Puerto Rico, putting them up in housing temporarily. In Washington it's... Again, this is a tough problem to solve for because there's no base of Puerto Ricans in Washington. If we were doing this in Florida, they have a whole series of opportunities to reach out to somebody who can support them. So we're utilizing a social worker who helped them, so that we can really provide the support and ensure that we're being successful. And yes, there will be a contract.
Chad: Yeah. Makes sense. Yeah.
Joel: We talk a lot about technology on the show and everything from chatbots and AI and automation.
Joel: I mean, you're talking about some really warm and fuzzy stuff, some blocking and tackling. Is there any technology that you're excited about using currently or maybe in the future?
Sandra: Yeah. And it doesn't belong to me. We have a whole department called Life Enrichment. And Life Enrichment is the organization, it's actually part of our marketing team that provides all of the evidence-based programs that we offer to our residents. But they also provide training to our employees around dementia. And we've done two things and through technology, that is supporting just what we're able to offer. The first one is, we have a service so that any residents family member, at any given point in the day can just click on an app and see what their mom is doing. The type of programs she's participated in, because to be honest some of our residents don't remember. So they say, "Oh, I didn't do anything today, I didn't leave the room." And then we find
Chad: Yeah. Why is mom in the room all day? She's like, she hasn't. She's play, yeah.
Sandra: ... And, yeah. So, we have the photos, we have her participating. And so this gives us a real perspective to share, with the residents family members, who sometimes are not actually in the same geography.
Chad: So, is that something that you share almost like a portfolio inside the technology in the app?
Sandra: It's something that is available to the resident’s family member and the residents themselves.
Chad: Okay. Because, I mean those are still life memories, there's dad having a good time playing poker.
Sandra: Yes, exactly. Absolutely.
Joel: How about tech in terms of recruiting?
Sandra: So, there is one other thing that we're doing that we're working on and training for around dementia. Utilizing tech to give our employees the experience of what dementia feels like and looks like. And so utilize
Joel: Just say VR.
Sandra: Oh, yeah. So.
Chad: And Just go ahead and drop the mic.
Joel: I'll be at the barchat too.
Sandra: So that's part of the things that we're doing to really, so that we're connecting better with our residents. In terms of recruiting, we use kind of the classical stuff. We use greenhouse. I use enneagram to test on certain qualities that we look for around servant leadership.
Chad: Let's talk about back to the application process and the black hole that we always talk about. Okay? So applicants come through they're, the silver medalist, the bronze medalist or what have you, they're not getting the job. How do they not go into the black hole? How do you guys nurture, keep in touch with them? Because more than likely you're going to have a job opening sometime and that silver medalist is going to be your next gold meld list. So what do you guys do to nurture them and make sure that they have a continued great experience?
Sandra: So that's an interesting consideration, because if anybody is a gold medalist, they're going to be hired on the spot. If we don't hire someone in three hours, they found a job somewhere else. If we're talking about line staff, if we're talking about general managers, obviously that's a longer process. As we look at
Joel: What if they're not the gold medalists, what if they're the bronze medalist, but you would still hire them if you had a position open?
Sandra: ... In care staff we don't and we talk about this on a constant basis, and we actually challenged GMs who may have a need. If you were talking about walking around a community or a retirement home in other people's jargons and seeing that there's not enough staff on the floor and there are a lot of companies that will compromise and that will hire warm bodies, because they just can't hire the people they really need. We do not do that. We have to hire great people. And good isn't just good enough. And that sounds really aspirational. But what we do is we say for all of our residents, when you come in the door, you can have a tour 24/7 in one of our communities and you can go in without any form of meeting or agenda and just walk around the community, you will be offered a tour. We try to create a wow experience for our residents and the family members. We try to create a wow experience to go back to the mantra I shared earlier on. For candidates who come in the door, we don't keep, obviously we can track, my care manager who's applied to our communities. We know that they've applied in the past. We know what we've said about them. We'll check and see if they're still good, but we won't, it'll be a passive approach. If I'm looking at general managers, marketing directors, sales directors, we have someone in my team who heads talent acquisition and she's reaching out to people, the same people constantly, to keep them warm. She shares, innovation that we've, she shares videos, some of the things I shared about with you earlier on. So that they really are understanding that we are still open. We invite people as well to an event called Epic. Epic is a three day non-business meeting, for our executives. And it means empowering people, inspiring consciousness.
Joel: See what you did there.
Sandra: Uh-huh(affirmative). And smart, yeah.
Joel: Yeah. Dare to get past me.
Sandra: Yeah. And it's an event where, you'll have obviously sort of our key people in the room over three days. The objective of that is to help them become better individuals and not just in work, but as a person. Be a better husband or wife to be a better friend. And so they get access to a whole series of great inspirational people. And they also work on something that we call transform a life. And we ask people, we ask our teams, who are going to participate in this event and we put them into groups. And so groups of six or seven, we give them $500 and we say, "Go for it, you transform someone's life and then you're going to present it at Dwayne's Night during Epic."
Sandra: And we do, I mean, honestly, people generally spend more because they put their own money in, but we have done things that are magical. And it makes you feel so proud to see that this is how people invest their time. And we can talk about that. So we obviously put it online and share some of the things we're doing.
Joel: Let me come off my VR cloud for a second because I'm so happy. In today's world, most of who you are is what people outside of the organization say you are.
Joel: And, I'm just curious about Glassdoor, Indeed reviews, other things like that. You currently have a four out of five star rating on Glassdoor, your CEO has a 90% rating, so not too shabby. But how much attention is paid to that from you? How much attention is paid to increase, you're nodding your head for listeners that can't see her? So talk about that and how important it is, and what you do to play damage control or improve that score.
Sandra: A little bit less than 10 years ago we were rated number 46 out of 600,000 companies in the U.S, in Glassdoor, as the 46th
Joel: Wow, not too bad. Wow!
Sandra: ... And a company like Aegis that people didn't know. We take anything that our employees share in terms of feedback very, very seriously. We have someone in our marketing team that is scouting every single review from Glassdoor. As soon as we get one, where there are questions, where there are challenges from an employee who said... Who is not happy with the experience, it's sent to the whole leadership team. Our COO, most often will respond, but one of us will respond within 24 hours and will respond, "We want to talk to the person to find out what happened." Obviously they don't want to come forward, we will put in a response onto the site, but it's a lot of work and we believe it's really essential because we ask for feedback. So we use Glint.
Chad: Oh, okay.
Sandra: If you're aware.
Sandra: To get a number of, quite a bit of feedback throughout the year. Why Glassdoor is important, because obviously candidates look at Glassdoor.
Sandra: We're doing it for our employees internally. We should be generating real actionable results if the experience has not been what an employee is looking for. And sometimes it's the manager who just was not good, didn't communicate. And we have to manage that. It becomes a management problem. It can be that we haven't taken the time to share and value that employee. So, there's a lot of things we can do, but we take it really seriously.
Joel: That's great. We've had people on, that bury their head in the sand and don't bite any mine. So it's refreshing to hear the attention that you pay to it.
Chad: Well, you have just become my new best friend. But we're going to have to wrap up.
Sandra: Thank you.
Chad: But I think we're going to have a version two of this. That we've got to dive deeper into some of this with you. But if people want to learn more about Aegis, want to learn more about you, where should they go?
Sandra: We have a website Aegis Online. I never, don't respond to someone who reaches out. And my address is firstname.lastname@example.org. So if people want to share or give feedback, be more than happy to have them reach out to me.
Joel: Be careful what you wish for Sandra.
Chad: Connect on LinkedIn.
Sandra: Yeah, I'm on LinkedIn.
Joel: Thanks for spending time.
Chad: Thank you so much.
Sandra: Thank you very much.
Chad: We out.
Joel: We out.
Outro: Well, this has been the Chad and Cheese podcast. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts, so you don't miss a single show. And be sure to check out our sponsors because they make it all possible. For more visit, chadcheese.com. Oh yeah, you're welcome.