Every day at a Seasons Retirement Community starts with a 10-at-10 huddle: a time for the staff to check in with one another, solve any issues and set themselves up for a successful shift. “What we have is a culture of people who roll up their sleeves and get things done for the right reasons,” says the company’s CEO, Mike Lavallée.
Established in 2009 and headquartered in Oakville, Ont., Seasons Retirement Communities now has approximately 1,500 employees as well as 22 properties across Canada with a further five in development. In hiring and promoting staff, management is constantly looking for this spirit of service, no matter where it comes from; in one of the Seasons communities, a dining-room server worked their way up the ladder to the GM role.
But there’s nothing like a crisis to test a company’s core values — and the COVID-19 pandemic did just that. Recognizing early on that staff retention would be a challenge, Lavallée made a crucial move. He put a 20 per cent pay premium in place for all of Seasons’ front-line workers. “That was not a popular decision in the industry at the time,” says Lavallée. “But it’s an example of what we felt was the right thing to do.” Others in the industry followed suit, he says. “We just got there faster.”
By March 2021, only 4.2 per cent of Seasons residents and only 4.4 per cent of staff have tested positive for COVID-19, and the resident vaccination rate was at 94.9 per cent.
Lavallée knows his industry now faces a new challenge: how do you attract new residents in the aftermath of a pandemic? He feels certain that cultivating the right environment will make all the difference. It comes down to understanding that people’s needs change later in life, but they still want community and care.
“It has nothing to do with age; it has everything to do with purpose,” Lavallée says. “What do you want to do and how do we help you do that?”