Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is a hot topic across nearly every organization and industry. Senior living is no exception, yet traditionally, there has been a lack of DEIB initiatives in a substantial number of retirement communities, including continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, or life plan communities). It simply hasn’t been a priority in many cases.

A recent survey, conducted cooperatively by several senior living industry advocacy groups, examined DEIB in the senior living sector and also explored ways that communities can improve their DEIB standards. And it might just be more valuable to the industry — both in terms of the quality of their “product” and in their profitability — than you’d think.

Senior living’s DEIB initiatives

Conducted by talent management consulting firm Ferguson Partners and released by the Senior Living DEIB Coalition (a partnership between senior living industry advocates Argentum, the American Seniors Housing Association [ASHA], and the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care [NIC]), the 2022 Senior Living DEIB Survey was the first of its kind.

The survey collected detailed information from 44 participating organizations within the senior living industry and examined both the degree to which DEIB initiates are utilized as well as the diversity of each organization’s staff. Among the survey participants were organizations representing independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing care, as well as CCRCs, which offer a full continuum of the aforementioned care services.

Some of the key statistics uncovered by the survey include:

  • 27 percent of the survey’s 44 participants have a formal DEIB program in place, and an additional 46 percent have implemented some DEIB initiatives and/or policies within their organization.
  • Over half (56 percent) have instituted a formal DEIB committee that is responsible for developing, implementing, and/or reviewing DEIB strategies or initiatives within their organization.
  • More than 90 percent of the surveyed organizations focus on gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation as dimensions of their diversity initiatives. Other dimensions (such as age, religion) are less commonly used.

>> Related: Why You Should Look for Diversity on a CCRC’s Board of Directors

An industry working toward improved DEIB

The current demographics of the senior living industry reinforce the need for DEIB initiatives. For example:

  • Nearly three quarters (73 percent) of senior living professionals are women (27 percent are men).
  • Overall, within the surveyed organizations, 53 percent of employees are white, and 46 percent are people of color (POC). However, just 17 percent of executive management is POC, a significantly lower proportion than the organizations’ overall racial diversity levels. Similarly, women occupy just 40 percent of leadership positions.
  • A large majority, 95 percent, of survey participants said they are taking intentional steps to recruit potential employees from underrepresented groups, and 98 percent are making efforts to increase retention and/or promotion rates of underrepresented groups.

Make no mistake: DEIB initiatives are about much more than just political correctness or “wokeness,” as it is sometimes referred to pejoratively. According to 2020 research by McKinsey & Company, DEIB impacts a company’s bottom line, and when executed effectively, creates a competitive advantage as well.

McKinsey found that a diverse, inclusive work environment contributes to a more effective work culture, attracting better talent and boosting employee morale, which in turn leads to more successful business outcomes. This includes more equitable gender balance as well as greater racial/ethnic diversity at the leadership and board level. On the flip side, organizations lacking diversity in their management and C-suite underperform as compared to their peers.

>> Related: Working Toward Equal Access in LGBT Senior Living

Why DEIB matters to senior living communities

It’s no secret that more satisfied employees typically are better employees. They are motivated to help their company succeed, be that through improved customer service, good stewardship of corporate funds, dedication to a task well-done, etc.

The McKinsey research suggests that organizations with well-executed DEIB initiatives are able to attract and retain top talent. All of this translates to a higher quality “product” — a better-run, more profitable, more productive organization. And for the senior living industry, their “product” is the facilities, services, and amenities that they provide to their residents.

For a CCRC or other type of senior living community, the job satisfaction and dedication created by strong DEIB programs can manifest itself in countless ways: going the extra mile to ensure that residents are happy, healthy, safe, and well-cared for; taking care that the campus is clean, well-maintained, and attractive; ensuring that meals are delicious, healthy, and aesthetically appealing.

In short, a diverse, equitable, inclusive work culture that emphasizes employees’ sense of belonging engenders pride in a job well-done. And this pride will only improve the “product” that senior living residents receive.

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