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by Lisa Holland, Quality Improvement Director, be.group

be.group culture change

be.group serves nearly 4,000 residents across thirty-four communities and employs 1,200 team members throughout California. be.group was established in 1955 and is committed to helping seniors enjoy rich, purposeful lives.

In 2010, our 65-year-old senior living and affordable living organization, Southern California Presbyterian Homes, set out on a bold, new path. Inspired by a new CEO and management team, our goal was to redefine senior living. We introduced a new name—be.group—to reflect our vision that a senior living community should be a place where people can be their best selves.

Of course, we knew we could not simply change the name and expect to have a culture that could deliver on the brand promise. So our leadership team, collaborating with Brand Integrity, refined the mission and vision statement and developed a new set of core beliefs and behaviors.

Maybe that sounds familiar to you? Maybe you’ve launched a new mission and values—but then nothing changed. Not only is this a waste of time, but it can cause employees to lose trust in leadership. At be.group, we were determined to be different.

The Secret to Success

I’m going to share the secret of how, over the past five years, we have changed employee behaviors, strengthened our culture, and improved our business outcomes. Simply put, we had the right tools, the right mindset… and dedication!

To start, we implemented the Brand Integrity Living the Brand System, which includes both employee and resident survey tools to help us understand where and when our core values are being demonstrated. Then we launched its online employee recognition system. This fun, peer-to-peer recognition tool allows us to reinforce, remind, and celebrate when our employees are living our values.

The results are incredibly rewarding. They include:

  • 13% increase in Net Promoter Score (NPS) from 2011 to 2016
  • 45% decrease in nursing terminations within the first six months of employment (intro period) from 2014 to 2016
  • 29% decrease in total nursing terminations from 2014 to 2016
  • 94% of managers submitted recognition for others using the Brand Integrity Platform™ in the past year
  • 76% of non-managers either recognized someone or received recognition through the Brand Integrity Platform in the past year

Three Keys to Success

Technology, however, is just a part of our success. Looking back over the past five years, I can tell you that no matter what tools and approach you use, you will need the following:

  1. Tenacious commitment from leadership. Leaders cannot waver from their focus on culture change. Do not get distracted by other issues!
  2. A simple message that is constantly reinforced to the workforce. We follow the Brand Integrity philosophy that the way to truly change behavior is to follow the recipe of 1% training, 99% reminding.
  3. A balance of discipline and flexibility. What looks great on paper may not fit each location or department. Work with your managers to implement in a way that works for their unique teams. Once your managers take ownership for implementation, your rate of success increases exponentially!

Now, five years later, it is gratifying to see the progress we’ve made toward our mission to redefine senior living. We can see and measure, by using the Brand Integrity Platform, the thousands of examples showing how our employees deliver on our brand promise: To create positive and memorable experiences in every interaction.

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According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, nearly 20 percent of nurses leave the profession entirely during their first year. Another one in three is gone within two years.

The price of this turnover? The Journal of Nursing Administration estimates that it costs roughly $82,000 to replace each nurse. Given high turnover rates, this can equate to an annual cost of a whopping $4.4 million each year for a 300-bed organization.

In addition, recent studies have found that there’s a strong correlation between how happy nurses are with their jobs and the quality of care.

We Believe Recognition Matters

Brand Integrity is helping to stem the tide of nursing turnover. With real input from our client base, we have witnessed a direct connection between nurses who feel appreciated and also actively recognize others for good work, and their longevity within an organization.

In fact, we found that when a unit or location increased the number of strategic recognitions made, that total nursing terminations were 80% lower than in units without the activity and focus on recognitions.

Strategic recognition is powerful medicine for a field that will need a whopping 1.1 million new nurses by 2022. Let’s work together to nurture the ones we have and create the right environment for the next generation of nurses to thrive.

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There’s a lot of talk lately about the need for companies to define their larger purpose. In fact, a Harvard Business School article from earlier this year reminded us all about the importance of this for the ever-influential millennial population:

“… all the mentoring and flexible schedules won’t matter if a company is missing one of the most crucial pieces for attracting millennials. It must have a clearly articulated mission that includes a higher purpose than simply maximizing profitability.”

When a company’s purpose is accurately defined, employees from entry level to C-level clearly understand their greater mission and are empowered to appropriately articulate that purpose when asked, “what do you do?”

But, how do you put this into action? How does the concept of purpose impact our day-to-day lives?

We can be informed of our company’s purpose and know how to talk about it, but for it to cross the gap from conceptualization to implementation, it really comes down to daily interactions. As an individual employee, understanding the impact that I, in my role, am truly having on those around me.

It’s in these interactions – peer-to-peer, leader-to-team, employee-to-client – where the true purpose of a company takes shape.

Daniel Pink explained this concept perfectly in a Business Insider article, taking the idea of a company’s purpose and breaking it down in to “big P Purpose” (the overarching company mission) and “small p purpose” (the daily contributions that make a difference and are strong motivators). Here, an experiment at a college cafeteria found that, when visible barriers between the line cooks and diners were removed, and the cooks could see their customers, the quality of their food improved.

They saw the relevance in their job (their purpose), and their performance increased as a result.

Take some time today to look around and observe your employees and peers taking these “small p” actions. Regardless of how regular they may seem, they all add up to the “big P,” shaping the company and the teams within. Recognize others for their contributions and help them see just how much those “small p” moments matter.


If there is one thing the recent great recession has taught the aging services industry, it’s that very little is in its control. Senior living communities can’t control the economy and can’t control the housing market.

Fortunately, what is in its control is actually the most impactful of all: the “experience” delivered to employees, residents, prospective residents, and family members. Learn how something as Aging Servicessimple and powerful as employee engagement can transform your organization’s experience and make a difference in your ability to:

  • Attract residents and increase occupancy rates
  • Retain employees and positively impact turnover
  • Decrease resident and family complaints

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ROI from employee engagement? It’s possible.

Lutheran, a 600-person senior care and youth services organization in Jamestown, NY is proof. They’ve achieved outstanding results, including a jaw-dropping decrease in turnover and increased level of customer satisfaction, all by implementing a simple, yet powerful process for driving sustainable culture change.

Watch the video to hear from Lutheran CEO and President, Tom Holt, in his own words.