The Old Folks Home

William Tincup Audacious Ideas, Culture, Good HR, HR (& Life!) Advice, William Tincup

You have a new job. Yep, you’ve been promoted. You are no longer in the HR game; you are now managing a rather larger retirement community… in Phoenix, Arizona, no less. Yeah, it’s hot, but it is a dry heat. You’ll get used to it after the first year or three.


What’s your new world consist of? You have many hats… you run the place after all. You have to attract new guests to the facility. Through attrition or otherwise, you have beds to fill. 1000 beds to be precise. So, how do you attract candidates to your lovely facility? Once they or their families have agreed… how do you welcome them to your community? Say, what’s the first two weeks like for them?

I mean… your facility kicks major a$$. Everyone has a golf cart. You have PlayStation Monday, endless movie day Tuesday, killin’ social media Wednesday, how-to-homebrew Thursday, sex-over-70 Friday, casino night Saturday and God-can-be-your-friend Sunday.

If that weren’t enough, there are endless activities and lessons—your guests love dance and golf lessons. You squeeze in about 10 hours worth of fun each and every day. Guests can select the things that are interesting to them and opt out of stuff rather easily. Think of it like this: the end of your life should be fun, dammit.

You have wonderful activities and your crew is willing to try almost anything for the guests of your community. The people that make up your community love it here—love it.

That said. Your guests get older right in front of you. They outgrow the fun and activities. They move from independent care to dependent care to hospice to death. More often, that takes years, but sometimes time is a cruel thing and they move from one stage to the final stage rather quickly. You and your employees have to contend with that eventuality. You’re in the death business after all.

And people deal with death in rather messed up ways. Especially the family members that are losing mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, etc. How do you keep yourself motivated to create a wonderful experience for guests and employees? How do you NOT let it get to you?

Oh, and that’s not even the hardest part—you have to get paid for all this. You have to wrangle with the insurance companies on a daily basis. What a complete kick in the teeth that must be… fighting for money.

Truth is, your job is NOT easy.

Okay shift gears… back to real life. Your current gig doesn’t seem that bad now, huh? Just kidding.

Two things occurred to me as I had this thought:

1) HR is everywhere

2) the essence of being humane needs to be everywhere.

Firstly, look at that scenario again: recruiting, onboarding, performance, succession, engagement, training, communications, compensation, learning, compliance, etc., etc., etc. The whole scenario was loaded with HR-related concepts. So, you know more than you think about running a business. With your head down in the weeds it might be hard to see that, but I can see it. Clearly see it.

Secondly, if we were truly running a retirement community, the ideal would be that the facility exudes the essence of being humane. Meaning, at every single inflection point or juncture you and your staff would treat your guest by being humane. Policies be damned. Finances be damned. The only thing that would matter is how humane are you with your guests. Which I can only imagine is tough. It’s not easy being humane. All-the-freaking-time humane. I’m sure the darkness creeps in. I’m sure people get tired or numb to all the pain. I’m sure it must become easy to rationalize or justify NOT being humane.

Now, for a moment… think about your own HR organization and the essence of being humane. Are you being humane to your job applicants and/or employees? No judgment—I’m sure it isn’t easy being you. Really. That said, please do me a favor: think about it for a moment… are you being humane at every single juncture? By the way, when I say humane, this is what I mean…

hu•mane: adjective, characterized by kindness, tenderness, gentle, mercy, sympathy, or compassion

Truth is, we’re all getting older, and we’re all going to die soon and some of us pay taxes.

Have a wonderful freaking day.