Each year, our communities prepare to mitigate the effects of seasonal influenza. This task requires preparation and care. As a team, we take great care to minimize risks. A global pandemic is a whole other situation—unexpected and unpredictable when it arrives.
Individuals Who Care
Regardless of the industry, you’ll always find team members who step up to the challenges that inevitably present themselves. We benefitted from incredibly insightful experts and leaders at Brookdale who helped us prepare early on for what would end up being a global health event. What I would come to see over the next couple of years is, during times of crisis, ordinary people rise to the occasion to do extraordinary things.
Jim Seward, a former member of Brookdale’s board feels our leadership’s awareness, care, and independent thinking were key in the early stages of COVID-19, prompting Brookdale’s team to take proactive steps that helped make a critical difference. This enabled Brookdale to navigate one of the most challenging crises ever while staying true to Brookdale’s DNA and culture. I completely agree.
It was the leadership of Jim and so many others in our organization—manifested in care, awareness, and independent thinking—that ultimately made the difference in navigating this challenge. The same is undoubtedly true in any organization when confronting difficult situations and unprecedented scenarios.
Recognizing the Efforts of Your Team
It’s during challenging events that you need individuals to rise to the occasion and give their best. Expecting that of your team without recognition and appreciation will result in burnout and discouragement—regardless of how committed they are.
During the pandemic, our corporate leadership team recognized that our team members were working as hard as they could. The higher a leader’s position, the greater the responsibility they had to help others. The entire leadership team sought to keep associates motivated at a time when the world was filled with fear and uncertainty. We needed to foster a sense of community and connection, and we needed to show team members at every level that we noticed and appreciated their efforts.
Brookdale has a rich tradition of recognizing associates and leaders, even before the pandemic. Since 2016, Everyday Hero Awards have been made monthly at the community level and quarterly at the corporate and divisional levels. Residents are often involved in selecting community winners, and the recognition is similar to an “Employee of the Month” designation.
When the pandemic started, we significantly increased the number of Everyday Heroes honored in each of our communities and at the corporate and divisional levels, recognizing our associates’ valiant efforts. This was an important way to honor the sheer volume of extraordinary contributions being made. Between March and June 2020, we had almost 6,000 Everyday Heroes winners.
We also wanted to honor outstanding service and accomplishments on a higher level. One of the first new awards created after I became CEO in 2018 was the Cornerstone Award. Each year, we select a total of four recipients to be recognized for their deep strength in one of our four cornerstone principles—passion, courage, partnership, and trust.
We created these company-wide awards for two reasons. First, the awards reinforce our culture. By establishing an award for each of the cornerstones, we shine a light on the essence of our culture as exemplified by those who visibly demonstrate our principles. Second, naming the awards for accomplished leaders who have strengthened Brookdale’s foundation and made a lasting impact on Brookdale’s success over time honors them. Every year, the Cornerstone Awards are important, but the intensity of 2020 made our associates’ contributions even more meaningful.
Unique Circumstances Sometimes Require More
Just like Brookdale, your organization may have a system for recognition in place. However, sometimes especially trying events or circumstances may warrant additional action. We created the Servant Heart Award during the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally, we don’t provide special recognition for senior leadership team members for the many contributions that they make. We expect much from our leaders; with privilege comes great responsibility. Even so, the pandemic required extraordinary efforts. Many of our leaders were working around the clock with such intensity and pouring so much of their hearts into the business to help protect our residents, associates, and Brookdale. These individuals were making enormous sacrifices for the good of others. They needed to understand how important they were to me and our organization.
Our associates each received a letter from me and a crystal award in the shape of a heart commemorating their service and memorializing their unique contributions as we battled the pandemic. For individuals outside of the company, we hosted a virtual award ceremony and provided them with a crystal award in the shape of a heart. This little memento had such a positive impact. We heard from many recipients that receiving this award was one of the most meaningful moments in their careers
That’s why recognition is so important; it’s meaningful to the very individuals who provide incredible contributions. I don’t know if we’ll face another global pandemic in my time with Brookdale, but I know there will be plenty of other unique challenges—just like any organization. No matter the task, there will always be team members and leaders who do their absolute best; make sure they feel your appreciation. After all, your success is built by the collective effort of these very individuals.