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Charlestown Earns Third Place in Large Business Category of Best Places to Work Awards by Baltimore Business Journal

October 4, 2011

Publication notes "friendly small-town" feel of the community, career development opportunities for employees

CATONSVILLE, MD---Charlestown retirement community, developed and managed by Erickson Living, earned third place in the Large Business Category for the 2011 Best Places to Work Awards, sponsored by the Baltimore Business Journal.
The award was presented at a luncheon ceremony on September 22nd at the Westin Baltimore Washington Airport Hotel.  Twenty members of the Charlestown team attended the event, which included thirty finalists in four categories from micro business to large business.
Garret Falcone is the Executive Director of Charlestown. Along with Paulette Tansill, Human Resources Director, he accepted the trophy from John Dinkel, President and Publisher of the Baltimore Business Journal.
"We are...Charlestown!  That's the phrase that best reflects the sense of pride and connection that we have for our employees," said Mr. Falcone.  "Our mission is to share our gifts to create a community that celebrates life.  In serving over two thousand residents each and every day, I couldn't ask for a more dedicated team.  It is an honor to accept this recognition as a top-flight large employer in the region by the Baltimore Business Journal."
In 2010, Charlestown's sister community, Oak Crest, also earned third-place in the large business category.
According to the Baltimore Business Journal, the publication "began accepting nominations for its annual Best Places to Work contest in December 2010.  The nomination process lasted several months.  Once the nomination period closed, BBJ research partner Quantum Workplace contacted all of the nominees and invited each to distribute a workplace satisfaction survey to its employees.  Quantum grated the surveys and assigned a score to each business based on a 100-point scale."
To read the profile of Charlestown found in a special publication entitled "Best Places to Work: Baltimore Business Journal 2011 Spotlighting Greater Baltimore Businesses who give their employees the star treatment," click here
Below are excerpts from the awards nomination of Charlestown:
Founded in 1983, Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville is the flagship campus of Erickson Living.  Since that time, "Charlestown Pride" is reflected in the mission-based work of our employees in serving our residents.
Over 2,200 residents live on our 110-acre campus.  Charlestown provides employment for 1,100 employees in a variety of functions: clinical health care, food service, housekeeping, maintenance, grounds, transportation, social work and many other administrative positions.
Charlestown hires approximately 300 people each year and enjoys a retention rate of 78%.   Of special note is the high retention rate of 85% in Health Services.  This is significantly greater that the industry norm of 40% in skilled nursing facilities.
Integration of Culture and Mission
"We share our gifts to create a community that celebrates life!"
A unique feature about working at Charlestown is that the life of residents and employees alike centers around the mission of Charlestown to "share our gifts to create a community that celebrates life."  This mission is supported by the following values:  Respect and Caring, Diversity, Friendliness & Enthusiasm, Integrity, Responsibility, Excellence and Teamwork.
The following are some examples of how our unique culture is translated into employee behaviors:
• Nearly 10,000 people applied over the past year to fill approximately 300 positions throughout Charlestown.  Although many of these applicants possess top skills and accomplishments, many do not successfully complete the rigorous interview process that includes meeting a variety of people on multiple occasions while answering behavioral based questions that reflect the values.  We seek people with both top notch skills and pleasant personalities who reflect the values.  But if we can only get one, we choose great people and then develop their skill set.
• Everyone is expected (and held accountable) to wear names badges every day so we can call each other by name.
• Everyone is expected to be the "eyes" and "ears" of the community, report suspicious activity or people, and pickup any trash on the grounds and to treat our community as "home."
• Employees are empowered to do anything - within reason - to help care for or to serve a Charlestown resident.
We also put "our money where our mouth is" by rewarding employees who consistently demonstrate these values through the performance management and development process.  According to our latest employee opinion survey (Holleran, 2009), 88% of our employees indicate they know and understand the values, and 86% of our employees say they are proud to work at Charlestown.  (Note: Holleran is an independent employee evaluation tool that is used by more than 300+ health care facilities.)
Because we believe in employee growth, a talent review and a development planning process are two annual core activities that are the cornerstone of growing an exceptional workforce.  These activities are designed to ensure that leaders are prepared for new and expanded opportunities in an environment that encourages growth and personal learning.
This is supplemented by an internal training curriculum that focuses on professional development, life skill-building and fun workshops designed to encourage creativity and promote learning on all levels.
In an average year, we promote approximately 55 employees to new and/or expanded opportunities.  And we are proud that 10% of our workforce has been with us more than 15 years!
Employee Benefits
In addition to a comprehensive benefits package - including a variety of health plans, dental, life and disability insurance, paid time off, education assistance, and a retirement savings plan - Charlestown also offers several unique programs to attract and retain quality people throughout the Baltimore area.  A few highlights follow:
Employee Loans: Financial assistance and counseling are available if an employee faces an unexpected emergency which poses a financial hardship.  An on-site financial planning program was available to employees and family members in 2010 which resulted in a collective reduction of $31,000 of debt and a savings of $24,000 for class participants.   Our goal with all programs is not only to help employees but also to teach skills and provide resources for them to help themselves.
Employee Discounts: A variety of employee discounts are available for many goods and services such as office supplies, computers, paint, car buying, car rentals, exercise equipment, and household appliances.  New discounts are routinely added to this growing list.
Student Scholar's Program: We depend upon local student workers to provide dining services to our large resident population.  In addition to providing work opportunities for the students, this unique experience encourages intergenerational relationships between them and our seniors.  Each year, the residents sponsor an annual fund-raising campaign to reward exemplary students who have demonstrated a strong personal commitment to serve a senior population in a professional and caring way.  These monies are used to provide financial support for students to continue their education at degree granting institutions.  Since its inception, Charlestown has granted over $1 million to over 1,900 college bound students for tuition, books and fees.
Residents routinely comment on "what a privilege it is for them to form connections, watch the students grow and to be a part of shaping their futures by sharing their wisdom."  Conversely, the students enrich the lives of the residents with their enthusiasm, respect and kindness.  The residents really are their "extended" family......they make an investment in our students and also in the future.
On-Site Employee Health and Wellness Center: An on-site health and wellness center provides low cost health care for all employees 18 years of age or older.  Convenient on-site service means no driving and shorter waiting times.  In addition to acute care, many health and wellness benefits are also available - blood pressure screenings, cholesterol checks, etc.  Through the promotion of our services and easy accessibility of on-site care, we have averted several life-threatening situations and guided many onto the path of health and wellness.  In fact, our on-site Emergency Medical Services team has won two Star of Life awards in geriatrics by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS).
There are many other programs and services available to Charlestown employees - subsidized bus passes, uniform vouchers, employee meal discounts, and discounted on-site fitness center - to name a few.  Beautiful walking paths surround the community and all buildings on campus are linked with climate controlled bridges.  An on-site bank, stores, restaurants, free parking and easy access from the Beltway provide comfort and convenience to employees.
We recognize that not everyone has the same needs when it comes to benefits so management continually strives to offer a comprehensive program to meet the varying needs of our workforce.
An Open Door Policy
Effective communication is a critical element that drives successful business results and employee satisfaction.  It builds a strong foundation to ensure employees feel connected and have a way to share their opinions, engage in a dialogue and be heard.  Some of the cornerstones of our communications program are:
• Computer workstations that exist throughout the community where employees can easily access HR forms and other information.
• A monthly newsletter that is distributed with both corporate and community news and updates.
• Quarterly all-staff Town Hall Meetings that are held on all shifts where employees can address questions in person.  Additionally, we have an 'open door' policy so employees can easily address any issue in-person.
• Regular meetings between staff and department managers to maintain strong communication and build relationships.
More than a Workplace
In order to make work "fun," we take special efforts to celebrate both company and personal significant events with an emphasis on building relationships and promoting an enthusiastic and team-based environment.  There are community-wide picnics, departmental celebrations, holiday parties, crab feasts, employee flea markets and other activities where employees can relax and re-connect with each other.
This year our second annual Employee Celebration Week will show our appreciation to all employees with an ice cream social, free employee meals for all three shifts and trip to the Orioles/Nationals baseball game in Washington DC.  We will also celebrate their "gifts" through an Employee Talent Show and Employee Art Show.
An active employee committee plans fun, educational and diverse events open to all staff such as the Frederick Douglass/Martin Luther King Jr. storyteller and a Women's History Month Showcase.  This committee, along with the entire community, works to support many charitable causes in an effort to "share our gifts" with those in our surrounding community.
These causes include volunteering at soup kitchens, holding school supply drives, partnering with WBAL for the annual Coats for Kids collection, collecting clothing and toiletries for our troops in Iraq (which led to recognition from the U.S. Army and Air Force), collecting clothing items for Suited to Succeed, and most recently partnering with Soles4Souls to donate 462 pairs of shoes from residents and employees for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan.
And because we know that our employees' families contribute to the success of our dedicated staff, we include them in social activities whenever possible such as the Holiday Dinner Party, dancing and karaoke, trips to Atlantic City, and bus trips to New York City for shows and shopping.
We honor and recognize years of service, good performance and "above and beyond" efforts in all areas.   Our departments have recognition programs to promote the good work, commitment and the demonstration of company values by employees.
The highlight of each year is the selection of two employees who best represent the Erickson Way values.  It is heartwarming to hear the demonstrations of these values as we thoughtfully consider these nominations.  The Erickson Way award winners receive a cash award, time off from work and a special recognition for them, their co-workers and their family.
Charlestown Pride
The pride of Charlestown is the competence, compassion and commitment to excellence in service to our residents by our employees.  Through our mission and culture, we seek to create an environment where our people are empowered to do their best work with integrity.