Allison Vessels is Committed to Culture

How HR Director Allison Vessels works to make Windsor Run feel like home

Allison Vessels is committed. As director of human resources at Windsor Run, Erickson Living’s new senior living community in Matthews, North Carolina, Vessels has dedicated herself to fostering a culture that makes staff and residents alike feel at home.

allison vessels
Allison Vessels, Erickson Living Photo by Ellie Asemani, Ellie Photo

When Windsor Run opened in May 2018, it was all hands on deck to make a good first impression on new residents. Staff members helped each other succeed beyond their own official duties. Vessels even served as hostess in the restaurant, striving to ensure that Windsor Run residents experienced the same high-level dining services as were offered at other Erickson communities.

“You can’t just say, ‘It’s not my job,’” Vessels explains. “We work together to achieve a common goal: taking care of our residents. Nothing is beyond me as far as my role goes. I am willing to do what it takes to create an exceptional resident experience, whether it is my area of expertise, HR, or cleaning up a spill. It’s remembering we are here for our residents.”

To Vessels, commitment doesn’t just mean doing odd jobs to make sure things run smoothly. It also means living the Erickson Living company values of respect and caring, diversity, friendliness and enthusiasm, integrity, responsibility, excellence, and teamwork every single day. Whether she’s passing someone in the hallway, leading a team huddle, or coordinating a monthly town hall, Vessels makes a point of connecting to and getting to know the people around her.

“We live our values one interaction at a time, and anyone can see that from the moment they come to one of our campuses. It’s different from the moment they’re greeted,” Vessels says. “I know that many of our residents choose Erickson Living because of the staff, because of the friendliness. It makes them feel like they’re at home.”

Every month during the community’s town hall meetings, staff and residents are encouraged to share mission moments where the values have been present in key interactions. Those “mission moments” are a chance to hear about the security officer who makes everyone feel safe and happy, the seventy-nine-year-old who felt like he was surrounded by family while celebrating his birthday, and the housekeeper and mechanic who supported a resident when her washing machine broke and flooded her apartment.

“She was so grateful to everyone who rallied to help fix the washer and save her Oriental rugs,” Vessels remembers about that last resident. “She said it was a small act of kindness—the kind that makes all the difference in someone’s life when they are having a bad day.”

Mission moments also provide an opportunity for reflection. Vessels likes to use them to gauge her and her staff’s success in having a real impact on Windsor Run residents. “Success means you know how your culture is doing. It’s the little things that show people are going above and beyond in their jobs,” she says. “I’ve been in other organizations where the values are pretty strong. But we really hold everyone accountable to our values. And Erickson Living took it one step further; they have partnered with ELI, Inc. to offer Civil Treatment® programs for both our leaders and our employees.”

“If our employees weren’t engaged, they wouldn’t be going above and beyond.”

According to Vessels, ELI, Inc.’s Civil Treatment training is a great complement to Erickson Living’s culture, encouraging Erickson employees to not only talk about their behavior but also to think about the impact of their actions before speaking. Vessels became certified in Civil Treatment during her first few days as director of human resources, and soon afterward, she started hosting Civil Treatment training sessions with her team at Windsor Run.

“Having these classes and putting everyone through them really shows our commitment to our values,” Vessels notes. “As many people have come up and told me, we really do honor and uphold those values.”

“Allison and her team at Erickson have it 100 percent right,” says Stephen M. Paskoff, Esq., founder, president, and CEO of ELI, Inc. “They continue to reinforce the Civil Treatment messages after the initial classes are completed through communications, meetings, and follow-ups, ensuring leaders and employees are more respectful and mindful of their actions and behavior.”

Of course, Civil Treatment sessions aren’t the only way that Vessels encourages and inspires her team to live the Erickson values. “If our employees weren’t engaged,” she says, “they wouldn’t be going above and beyond.” For Vessels, a big part of employee engagement is making sure that Windsor Run serves as a resource to her staff. That means preparing staff for new changes to the Windsor Run community and supporting the career development of staff members by letting them know about new positions opening up.

On a broader scale, Vessels says, it also means caring for the staff’s well-being. Windsor Run offers an on-site employee health and wellness center that partners with staff members to manage their chronic illnesses, speak with staff physicians, receive flu shots, get their annual physicals, and more.

It is because of that dedication to employees’ well-being, Vessels says, that the Charlotte Business Journal recognized Windsor Run as one of the Best Places to Work in 2017, and in 2019 as one of Charlotte’s Healthiest Employers.

As Windsor Run and its other senior living communities grow and expand, Erickson aims to continue helping its staff and outlining the competencies they need to hold each other accountable through a new initiative called a “one-team journey.”

“It started with our chief executive team at corporate, and then it cascaded down to our senior leadership team and executive teams,” Vessels says. “And now we’re rolling it out to all the leadership teams in the communities. It’s a feedback system of competencies, requests, agreements, and behaviors that we commit to as a leader in order to operate with one another and our teams. One Team is the culture by which we lead the organization.”

ELI is a training and consulting company that helps healthcare organizations solve the problem of bad behavior in the workplace. This means more than just preventing discrimination and harassment lawsuits: it’s about addressing the bigger costs of lost productivity, turnover, quality of care, patient outcomes, and brand damage caused by uncivil behavior.

Our award-winning training experiences are based around realistic industry scenarios and are backed by our deep legal expertise and a proactive, high-touch approach. It’s how we’ve helped many of the world’s leading healthcare organizations align their values and culture to reduce risk and improve results.

ELI is proud to partner with Allison Vessels and her team to help make Erickson Living a Civil Treatment® workplace.