United Church Homes LUV Awards Program Fosters Employees’ Increased Sense of Call

Shelley Sheets, LPN, receives her LUV Award from Chuck Mooney (left), senior vice president of senior living services and chief operating officer, and the Rev. Kenneth Daniel, United Church Homes president and CEO.

For United Church Homes employees, it’s all about LUV.

In early 2017, United Church Homes rolled out a new awards program — the Living UCH Values Award (LUV) — to recognize and honor employees’ whose daily work and attitude exemplify UCH’s core values of compassion, hospitality, respect, integrity, stewardship, and transparency. Now in its second year, the program has increased employee involvement and helped identify new servant leaders among staff.

The program was started thanks to the juxtaposition of two parallel tracks that came together. UCH Four Winds Community in Jackson, Ohio, already had developed a mission-based internal recognition program. At the same time, Alissa Clouse, director of major gifts and grants at United Church Homes, was developing an action learning project for the LeadingAge Ohio Leadership Academy.

“Alissa created this idea to match an employee recognition program with the company’s newly stated mission, vision and core values. We wanted to make the core values have greater impact in the daily lives of our employees,” says the Rev. Ken Daniel, United Church Homes’ president and CEO. “We are a values-driven organization. This program provides ways to bring those values to life through the work practices that sustain a servant leadership culture.”

Clouse says that one of the reasons she chose the UCH LUV awards as her project was because the program implemented a new level of employee recognition that had not previously existed.

There is value in empowering unrecognized leaders, Clouse says. “By recognizing and engaging these individuals, we enable their growth and nurture potential. The Living UCH Values Awards empower(s) these individuals invested in UCH’s values.”

The awards program has two parts. The first is local community recognition, in which anyone connected to a UCH community can nominate someone for behaviors consistent with UCH core values. The employees are recognized on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on the community.

“There is not the need for specific behaviors to be ‘above and beyond’ the norm,” says Scott Slutz, United Church Homes’ vice president of human resources, “just that they are examples of behaviors that we want to reinforce, and that are good examples of our values.”

The second part is an annual recognition of the “best of the best.” Each community reviews its recognized employees annually and submits the “above and beyond” nominations to a UCH LUVS award committee.

“The committee is charged with the difficult task of narrowing down the submissions to a handful of specific nominations that best represent the actions and behaviors exemplifying the UCH core values,” Slutz says. These recipients and a guest are invited to a special annual event, where the recipients are recognized and honored with an award presented by Daniel.

Nominees are submitted by supervisors, peers, families, vendors, and residents, and can include both full-time staff and contracted employees.

Tauna Goble and her mother, Jean Walters, at the surprise baby shower.

One recent LUV Award recipient is Shelly Sheets, an LPN in the Memory Care section of Four Winds Community. Sheets knew that Tauna Goble, the daughter of resident Jean Walters, was celebrating the upcoming birth of a child. Since Walters wasn’t able to host a baby shower due to her advanced illness, Sheets (with the support of her colleagues) stepped in and threw a surprise shower at Four Winds for Goble.

“I was in shock initially,” Goble says, who arrived the day of the shower thinking she was going to have an annual discussion about her mother’s care. “I was emotional. It meant a lot to me because my mom is not able to be a part of my life. The fact that they even thought of that meant a lot.”

Such stories highlight how the LUV awards program encourages employee leadership that helps residents feel welcome, safe, and comfortable in their homes. But the program also helps the employees feel positive about their work. In the end, it’s all about vocation and call.

“Employees’ shared commitment to excellence through teamwork, positive outcomes, and passion for caregiving and healing is worth recognizing,” Clouse says. “It is important to recognize employees who are performing values-based work: it leads to a higher calling of care.”

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