You and Your Health
Senior Living Provider Bridges Cultural Gaps With Hospitality English Series for HIspanic Employees
Photo: Program Assists Spanish-Speaking Employees
Program Assists Spanish-Speaking Employees
Brookdale Senior Living, a leading owner and operator of senior living communities throughout the United States, offers Growing Together, a hospitality English series designed to help Spanish-speaking employees feel comfortable and confident within their job duties and interactions with residents.
For some employees, particularly those in Dining Services at Brookdale, English is their second language. A common issue in the food service industry, this language barrier can limit employees in their interactions with residents and fellow employees, including their leaders. Growing Together offers a safe learning environment while simulating work situations for employees to learn basic hospitality English and vocabulary, opening the door for new opportunities for Spanish-speaking employees to connect with residents.
“The purpose of the program is to have employees feel more confident while interacting with residents, guests and one another,” said Joska Hajdu, senior vice president of dining services for Brookdale Senior Living. “Giving employees the tools to communicate with residents has been beneficial for the employees, the residents, and the community overall.”
Students are taught by Spanish-speaking instructors via WebEx online weekly. To provide additional support and encourage employees emotionally, resident mentors assist individual students. The student and mentor teams reinforce the lessons learned each week through conversation, workbook activities and CD/DVD tutorials.
Together, employees and residents grow within a platform exclusive to Brookdale employees and residents that encourages whole-person wellness.
Residents develop a sense of purpose by adopting the responsibility of a being a mentor while employees feel more socially and emotionally connected to residents and to one another within the Brookdale community.
“It’s not just through teaching Spanish or English that I connect with my students on a daily basis, but in listening to their personal and professional stories,” said Francisco Chavez, resident mentor at Chambrel Roswell, a Brookdale Senior Living retirement community in Roswell, Ga. “I have been blessed to call many my friends.”
As students, mentors and teachers bond, cultural barriers are abolished between different ethnic backgrounds. This learning initiative encourages self-improvement and fosters new relationships within Brookdale communities across the country.
“In our meetings, our supervisor would tell us the importance of knowing English to better serve our residents,” said Manuela Castro, employee at Chambrel Roswell. “It makes me feel good that I am working for a company that cares enough to teach me what I need to do my job better.”
“As I got to know each student as an individual, I became aware of the large number of individuals who have been both legal immigrants and employees at Brookdale and have worked for years without command of the English language,” said Joao De Abreu, an employee and Growing Together teacher at Grand Court Albuquerque. “We as a company have to care for our employees as much as we want our employees to care for our residents.”
Growing Together began in select Brookdale communities in February 2010 with 47 employees participating. Brookdale plans to expand the program each year, with a goal of 100 employee participants by the end of 2011.