Tracy Newcomer, our Vice President of Human Resources, joined Country Meadows Retirement Communities in 2008. Beforehand, she worked for 20 years at UPS in several roles, covering workforce planning, employee relations management as well as health and safety management. She has a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s degree in personnel management and labor relations. Tracy is also a certified SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources).
Why did you pursue a position in human resources at Country Meadows?
When I discovered the family-focused environment at Country Meadows, it sold me on the job–I knew right away this is where I wanted to be. As a family-owned and -involved company, Country Meadows understands the personal needs of co-workers. With three children, I was looking for a better work-life balance. Here I have had a valuable career that I love while managing my family’s needs.
For what kinds of positions do you manage the hiring at Country Meadows?
Essentially all of them, but with lots of help! Though my team in Hershey is ultimately responsible for recruiting and hiring everyone at Country Meadows, we manage employment at the campus level. We have 10 retirement communities in Pennsylvania and one in Maryland. Each retirement community has an HR team consisting of an Employment Specialist, Talent Development Coordinator, and Office Manager. They manage the interviewing, hiring, orientation, training and career path development of co-workers at their campuses, as well as all HR administrative details.
My staff and I recruit co-workers for all campuses, handle the hiring paperwork and ensure job candidates are qualified and that we conform with EOC (Equal Opportunity Compliance). We also work with our VP for Learning and Development to train our staff at each campus.
What do you look for in individuals who wish to work at Country Meadows?
We always seek people who are compassionate, dependable and driven to make a difference in our residents’ lives. We look for those with positive attitudes, kindness and excellent customer service skills. Though we welcome and provide on-the-job training to those new to the profession, we also seek certified professionals in the health field like RNs, LPNs and CNAs (certified nursing assistants).
During interviews, we look at how candidates present themselves and ask them to shadow someone currently in the role. That’s important for them and us. We observe and ask ourselves: Are they engaged with co-workers? Are they comfortable interacting with residents? Do they understand the philosophy of our company? We ask them questions about their past work experience, the challenges they encountered and how they handled them. As you can tell, we exercise great care in our selection process. Plus, we hope they are just as diligent in their evaluation of us. It is important to find the right fit—for both of us. We want our co-workers to be successful and fulfilled. And we want our residents to receive the best support and care.
What training does Country Meadows provide to its newly hired co-workers?
First, we acquaint them with our family environment. Our co-workers learn quickly that Country Meadows is our residents’ home, and we are their guests. They learn, too, how to say ‘yes’ to residents—to find resourceful ways to meet their needs. For example, last month a resident’s granddaughter got married in Colorado, though she was not able to attend. Prior to the wedding, one of our co-workers contacted Mary’s daughter to arrange for the wedding to stream live on FaceTime. Mary and her friends gathered to watch on the big TV screen. The bride waved to them during the ceremony while they cheered in response. Mary said, “I feel like I’m there!”
The first three days of employment are typically spent in orientation or “on-boarding.” Our Talent Development Coordinator plans this, covering our culture, regulatory issues, fire safety, professional standards and computer training. During this time, new co-workers meet with department leaders, learn how our departments work together and visit resident care areas to observe interactions. It’s also a good bonding opportunity for this new group to get to know each other and be a resource going forward as they learn their way.
Each department holds specialized training, such as mentors (fellow PCAs) for at least the first 40 hours for personal care associates (PCAs), who care for residents’ daily needs outside of health care. We also provide co-workers with training throughout the year. We not only want them to meet the required standards but also go above and beyond in delivering the best care possible.
Does Country Meadows hire summer workers? How do you ensure they’re properly trained?
Yes, we hire college and high school students for the summer at each campus, helping to supplement a busy time of co-worker family vacations. However many of these students work for us throughout the year. It’s a great opportunity because we help them develop skills and work experience while being flexible to accommodate their school commitments. Per state regulations, high school students can work only in dining services, but we train those who are 18 or out of high school for PCA positions.
Tell me about Country Meadows’ internship program.
We’re quite proud of our program. Over the last two years, we have really done a lot to further develop our internship program based on great input from participants. This program has brought fresh talent into the senior services field and often to Country Meadows. Our interns come from colleges, career technology centers and high schools. They work in many areas—mainly HR, facilities management, culinary, housekeeping, maintenance and health care. We try to rotate them through different departments to give them a well-rounded experience.
In addition, my team works with our school contacts to provide HR their students with soft-skills training, resume reviews, mock interviews and even a recruiting contest with an area university.
We also talk with students at nursing schools throughout the year. Many of them haven’t thought about working in personal care, assisted living or skilled nursing. But once they experience Country Meadows and see how different our environment is from a hospital or clinic setting, they see what’s possible in nursing here. Some decide that it would be a great place to work and use their nursing education and skills. We love when that happens!
How do you oversee HR co-workers at all of the Country Meadows campuses?
I frequently visit each campus, along with my Employee Relations Manager, Employment Manager and Benefits Manager. Together, we provide training to our full team of HR co-workers. When onsite, we make ourselves available to answer questions and build relationships. These relationships are the foundation as they empower colleagues to feel more comfortable with picking up the phone and calling us when needed.
What skills or qualities are most important for co-workers who interact with seniors?
Besides compassion and dependability, we seek co-workers with a passion for what they do—individuals who look forward to coming to work, love being with our residents and enjoy being part of the Country Meadows family.
For some, our residents are surrogate grandparents. They enjoy receiving life advice and sharing special milestones with each other—weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and more. Here, it’s truly about family—that’s why I love my job!