Your community needs a vision (cont.)

What leaders and the leadership team say and do is important to staff. Employees are watching all of the time—they see and they know. Leaders will lead and followers will follow. Is your staff following you? Our previous column touched on vision, and this column expands on the benefits of a vision for both leaders and staff.

A leader comes to a new position or to a new organization, hopefully wanting to accomplish something special—in essence, a vision. If the leader does not have a vision, plan, or idea of what they are building and where they are going, then the rest of the staff will have a great deal of difficulty trying to follow. Leaders who have no vision or direction are going through the motions but will not get very far. If the leader’s only focus is on the financial outcome of the organization (the way in which they often measure their success) it is a poor strategy for the increasingly competitive environment. They will find themselves with unengaged staff, high staffing costs, and low staff retention along with decreased resident and family satisfaction. And word of dissatisfaction travels fast to potential employees, as well as residents. In time, this reputation will be their downfall.

Leaders with a clear vision are optimistic, hopeful, energetic, decisive, innovative, and open. They know where they are going and are determined to get there. And their employees are clear about that, too. When the leader is focused and consistent, staff know what is expected and in time take over much of the daily tasks, allowing the leader to lead and focus on the whole organization, marketplace, strategies for improvement, growth, and the future.


As a motivator and driver, vision gives employees something that they can work together to achieve. It gives the staff an opportunity to be part of a group of people who are working to achieve something special. A vision excites employees and unites them as a group, as they are all equally responsible in the development of the vision and hence the achievement. If there is no vision then there is nothing to work toward, nothing that binds the employees to one another, and nothing that encourages departmental and interdepartmental work. When there is no vision, staff simply come to work do their own individual job and leave.

Employees like working for an organization that is seeking to accomplish something significant. Not only will they stay, they will encourage others they know to come to work at the facility. Employees are proud when working for an organization that the public recognizes as stellar and “the best.” When this occurs employees become a source of not only staff recruitment, but are often involved in talking with people in the community about the wonderful organization in which they work. It is an excellent marketing tool and often results in increased business.

Staff recruitment and retention is enhanced by a vision and reason for being. When used properly, a vision enhances the organization’s ability to recruit and secure the “right people.” Potential employees deserve to know what they are joining and to determine if it is right for them. It will enhance the facility’s ability to determine what employees are right for them, as well. Only those people hired who believe in the vision will work in tandem with other members to see that it is realized. Engagement occurs when employees are working for something they believe in, something that is important to them personally and consistent with their desires.

If a potential employee or existing employee cannot join others in support of the new or existing vision, it does not mean that they are not good or right—it simply means that this is not the right workplace for them. It is not unusual to experience a loss of some staff, even tenured staff, when a new vision is implemented. Some employees simply do not want to work in a manner that is consistent with the vision and it is best for the employee and the organization to separate when this occurs. It is difficult enough to get everyone moving in the same direction without the distraction of an employee who will work against what you are trying to create.

When employees are engaged in the vision, are educated and prepared for their specific job, and are clear about the organization’s expectations for performance, it enables them to make decisions on their own. Once equipped, employees are secure in making decisions without a need for prior approval. As long as the decision supports the vision and expectation for performance, their decisions will be appropriate.

It is our belief that a vision needs to have a service-orientation that includes all people touched by the organization: residents, families, staff, and community. Hence, decisions about what staff members are able to do in their roles include not only serving the residents and families, but consist of caring for and serving one another. When this is verbalized and expectations are clear, one act of kindness results in another and so it builds. The entire workforce becomes one—working together, heading in the same direction, and helping one another along the way. This approach breaks down the departmental “silos” and encourages interdepartmental engagement to the benefit of the residents, families, and the entire staff. Every task and every need becomes the responsibility of every employee, and they begin to work collaboratively always focused on the ultimate destination.

Do you have a vision? Is it a vision that all employees share? Is it a living, breathing, operational vision? Is it a working vision or simply words on a page, mounted and framed on the lobby wall? Actions speak louder than words and people are not fooled by a lovely vision when what they experience day-to-day is not consistent with the words. Employees are not easily fooled. The vision must be a part of all of the employees lives—shared and embraced by all.

Susan Gilster, PhD, FACHCA, NHA, Fellow, developed the Alois Alzheimer Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, which opened in 1987 as the first freestanding dementia facility in the United States.


Jennifer L. Dalessandro, BS, NHA, is the Assistant Administrator and Research Coordinator of the Alois Alzheimer Center and has helped it evolve into a person-centered facility.


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