Totally Motivated: Employee Engagement & Resident Satisfaction in Senior Living

A survey of over 600 employees and almost 2,000 independent living residents from 29 senior living communities revealed important insights into the relationship between employee engagement and resident satisfaction.

In the survey, residents were asked to rate their level of satisfaction with their community and its services, while employees from every area of service were asked to evaluate aspects of their work environment and their satisfaction with their community.

The researchers investigated the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that determine what motivates employees to work—they refer to this combined measure as employees’ Total Motivation, or ToMo—and compared this with the employees’ own satisfaction with the community and with resident satisfaction scores. Intrinsic factors included beliefs that the job is fun, important, and aids in personal goal achievement. Extrinsic factors included doing the job to avoid disappointment, to earn a living, or for no good reason.

Employees who worked in administration or sales tended to have the highest ToMo scores, so the researchers tested the relationship with resident satisfaction when only these areas of service were included. As expected, communities with the highest ToMo scores for administration and sales employees had the highest resident satisfaction scores, while lower ToMo scores for these areas of service were related to lower resident satisfaction scores. When all departments were included, however, employee ToMo and resident satisfactions scores were not related.

Researchers also found that employees with the highest ToMo scores were more likely to recommend the community as a place to work and as a place to live and were more likely to be satisfied with their job and working conditions.

While the relationship between ToMo and resident satisfaction was only apparent among employees in administration and sales, the researchers noted that this may be because these employees are more involved in implementing the community’s overall mission and vision than their coworkers. This doesn’t necessarily mean communities shouldn’t aim to enhance engagement among all employees. These results support the idea that when employees are able to find enjoyment and a sense of purpose in what they do, there are direct benefits to resident satisfaction.


Paris KV, Howell, RM, and Smith ER. Employee total motivation (ToMo): A key performance indicator of customer satisfaction. Seniors Housing & Care Journal (2018); 26(1): 16-27.

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