Two Ecumen-Managed Communities Receive Workforce Grants for a New Program To Help Retain Employees

Two Ecumen-managed communities in rural Minnesota are teaming up to create a new program aimed at increasing employee retention by helping employees balance their work and personal lives.

Pelican Valley Senior Living in Pelican Rapids and Sunnyside Care Center in Lake Park each have been awarded a $25,000 Workforce Solutions Grant from the LeadingAge Minnesota Foundation to support the initiative.

“We sometimes lose good employees simply because they have a personal crisis and see no alternative but to quit working,” said Barbara Axness, Executive Director of Pelican Valley Senior Living. “We plan to create a supportive and proactive program that will help employees deal with their personal challenges.”  

The grant money will help fund a new position called “Retention Specialist,” which will be shared by the two sites. This position will be an advocate and partner for employees, getting to know them personally, establishing trusting relationships, and providing resources and support when they need help. 

“We envision the Retention Specialist assisting employees in navigating challenging life events and preventing small issues from becoming big issues that affect their employment,” said Danielle Olson, Executive Director of Sunnyside Care Center.  “Also, the Retention Specialist will teach life skills to help employees be more successful at work and have healthier lives outside of work.”  

Olson and Axness said they expect the Retention Specialist role to reduce employee turnover, increase employee satisfaction and help in recruiting new employees. Results will be carefully measured over the two-year grant period. They said the primary goal of the program is to increase the quality of care for residents by having a longer tenured and more engaged workforce.

The grant from LeadingAge Minnesota, the state’s largest association of aging services providers, was awarded through a program funded by the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies (MACP), a foundation that takes a strong interest in workforce issues in rural Minnesota. MCAP supported the $1 million Workforce Solutions Grant program to improve the experience of care for older adults by funding emerging and proven workforce strategies that increase the quality, quantity and capacity of the caregiving workforce.