Lisa Haglund was confident in her abilities to lead when appointed by the Heritage Ministries Board of Directors as permanent President and CEO of Heritage in May 2020, but as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world, and presented struggles that few could have ever predicted in the senior care industry, she was presented with a new challenge—how to redefine the employee culture, and the strategic future of Heritage in the midst of the most difficult days the company has ever seen.
Facing almost daily regulation changes at both state and federal levels designed to keep the senior residents in Heritage communities safe and healthy, her employees worked around the clock. Haglund said that she and her newly aligned executive team recognized that the stress and sacrifice was taking its toll on their employees, who in the midst of caring their residents, were beginning to struggle with their own morale.
She shared, “The work our employees do each day is heroic, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have worked tirelessly. During this difficult, and often stressful time, they and their families have sacrificed so that our residents can continue to receive the same compassionate care. It was my priority to ensure we treated our employees with the same values and mission we ensure our residents receive. As leaders, it is our job to care for our teams and our residents, anything less is unacceptable.”
Haglund went on to say, “Heritage is evolving to provide a strong employee and team culture as we rebuild a strong future. We have a strength in our workforce that should not go unrecognized, every role matters.” She and her team sat in many meetings, often early in the morning and late at night, analyzing the many needs of the organization for both residents and employees. From those discussions, the #HeritageStrong movement was born.
“#HeritageStrong is all about the members of our entire Heritage family nationwide. We support and care for each other—Heritage is home, for all of us, and we keep that theme in everything we do. Family cares for family,” she continued.
One of the first items Haglund stressed necessary was a major revision to the company’s hazard pay structure during COVID-19. “Employees were being asked to put themselves, and their loved ones at risk, by volunteering to care for COVID-19 positive individuals. We valued their dedication to Heritage and our residents for putting themselves in this position, and felt strongly that we needed to have a financial incentive tied to it as a thank you for their service,” she said. When working with COVID-19 positive residents in a separate quarantine unit, employees care only for those residents and must follow special protocols to ensure everyone’s health and safety. Heritage also began instituting weekly employee drawings to reward employees for their hard work.
She shared that Heritage has also begun rolling out a phased program at all of their communities, nationwide, that will focus on taking care of all employees through a mind, body, and soul approach, known at Heritage as “Feeding the Hearts of Heroes.”
She went on to state that already, all Heritage employees, nationwide, now receive free weekly meals for them to take home and share with their families, along with meals during shifts, when possible. Additionally, Heritage will begin to offer all employees free mental health care in both group and personal settings on site in 2020, and complimentary massages with a licensed massage therapist when it is safe and allowed to do so.
In addition Haglund, CEO, along with the newly formed executive team, have prioritized projects and strategies that will ensure the future vision of the #HeritageStrong organization. Ranging from bringing therapy back in house, improving quality of care, activities, and improving information technology, they are reviewing systematically every aspect of the business.
Haglund stated, “While the pandemic has been difficult, and we anticipate it will not go away anytime soon, we also see a great opportunity, to evolve, innovate, and ensure our cherished mission remain strong for many years to come. What a blessing it is to serve alongside a Board of Directors and teams who recognize that now is our moment to shine.”