Career Advice, Interviews

Exclusive Interview: Anne Royse, VP of Talent Acquisition at Aegis Living

Senior citizens home. Assisted living care facility. Nursing home.

Whatever term you use to describe them, senior communities have typically become synonymous with loneliness and overall discomfort. Often people say they hate to visit nursing homes because “they smell.” Or it’s depressing to see all of those old people sitting in their wheelchairs. Until now.

Through beautiful design, gourmet food, and one-of-a-kind offerings, Aegis Living defies the stereotype. Aegis is a national leader in assisted living and memory care, providing the finest in senior lifestyle and living options available. A major component in providing high-quality care is a top-notch team. For that, Aegis turns to Anne Royse, the vice president of talent acquisition, to attract compassionate and more than capable team members as general managers, nurses, concierges, and caregivers.

Glassdoor caught up with Royse to talk about recruiting, her career journey and how she handles reviews.

GLASSDOOR: As Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Aegis Living, what are your day to day responsibilities and how do you make your work meaningful?

ANNE ROYSE: My primary focus is recruiting top talent with caring hearts out of luxury hotels, senior living, and other luxury brands that offer the best in building customer experiences to run our communities in Washington, California, and Nevada. I don’t have to make my work meaningful. It is, by definition, meaningful. We are taking care of our nation’s most valuable treasure: Our seniors. Imagine the opportunity to help orchestrate the grand crescendo of people’s lives! To make their last days some of their best days! What a wonderful thing it is that we get to do! I recruit the leaders of each community, and they set the tone within their community.
Additionally, I work on special projects to support the overall talent acquisition companywide. Recently I led the implementation of a new software program that has so far tripled our applicant flow and doubled our hires. It’s nice to be able to make that kind of impact.

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GLASSDOOR: What is one anecdote you can share that encapsulates the company culture at Aegis? Is there a moment or an exchange with a resident or staffer that captures the values of Aegis Living?

AR: Our VP of Operations and New Development in Washington often tells the story of when he first made the switch from luxury food and beverage to this industry. He was the newly appointed General Manager of one of our Seattle communities, and they were throwing a Christmas party. He was dressed as Santa. He got a call that there was a disaster in the main bathroom. What he found was a huge mess.

“I was literally up to my elbows in crap,” he said. He peeked out the door and could see that the staff was all engaged with our residents and their families at the party. He had a brief moment looking back on the fabulous fine restaurants he opened over the years. He peeked out again, and a switch was flipped. This could be Mr. Smith’s last Christmas. And he was going to do his best to make it the best Christmas party ever! In one of the messiest days, he cleaned up the bathroom, then cleaned up himself, and got back out there as the most jovial Santa you’ve ever seen!

We do whatever needs to be done to bring joy to the lives of seniors. Daily. And that, in turn, brings us joy.

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GLASSDOOR: What do you look for in applicants who are interested in working at Aegis Living? Are there particular skills or characteristics that signal success to you?
AR: We are looking for seasoned leaders who are top performers with a consistent track record of moving the needle to create a positive impact on their operations. We want to see where and how someone has made a tangible/measurable difference with their work. We look for people who inspire and lead by example. People who are authentic, humble, and compassionate. And here’s another big one: People who understand how to create great customer experiences. There are plenty of compassionate people in the care industry. But it takes someone with that little extra something special to take us from good to great! We hired a VP of Entertainment from a luxury cruise line to dream up amazing Life Enrichment programming for our communities. Our GMs need to share that vision to create communities that are vibrant and full of life! One of the big questions I always ask myself: Would I entrust my grandpa to this person… not just to care for him, but to make sure he’s happy and enjoying life? I adored my grandpa. This is a high bar.

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GLASSDOOR: Several of the reviews on Glassdoor reveal that Aegis Living does not ask tricky interview questions. However, oddball questions can be so popular these days with hiring managers and recruiters. Why do you avoid those?

AR: We don’t have any hard and fast rule that says “avoid oddball questions.” But at the end of the day, we’re authentic people trying to hire authentic people. We’re not psych professors trying to trip you up. Five different people could look at the same thing and see it five different ways.

We will observe how you interact with us and with others. We will be very honest about the good, the bad, and the gritty of this job, and invite you to dive deeper with us to be sure this is something that’s for you. Rather than interpreting a Rorshach ink test, or deciding that your answer was “wrong” when you said your favorite animal is a unicorn, we want to hear real life examples of how you’ve handled various situations in your career. We try to come away with an understanding of a person’s capabilities and emotional intelligence to determine whether they can do the job.

It seems to be working. We have a knack for hiring people who are sharp, successful, genuine, caring leaders. Which is why we’re known for such an amazing culture and “best place to work.”

GLASSDOOR: As your site says, many people consider senior communities to be “old folks’ homes.” How do you dispel that myth for your employees, not just for the residents?

AR: The best way to dispel the “old folks home myth” is to invite them into one of our buildings to see for themselves. Our Aegis on Madison community recently won a national architecture and design award. One of the articles I read about it talked about a Fedex delivery person who walked in, looked around and left… only to walk in a moment later and ask, “Is this Aegis Living?” He couldn’t believe what appeared to be a five-star hotel was actually an Assisted Living Community! And it’s not just the beautiful design and attention to detail or the gourmet food from some of the best chefs around, it’s the amazing staff and the tremendous life enrichment programming! When you walk into any of our communities, there is always so much going on! I’m saving my pennies to retire here one day.

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GLASSDOOR: What are one or two of the biggest professional obstacles you’ve faced this year? How have you handled them?

AR: I started here in April of 2015. I took some time to get a lay of the land and it became quickly apparent that our community leaders were struggling with recruiting their line staff. They had no real recruiting tools other than outlook and maybe some job boards to manage their recruiting. What’s more, our careers pages on our website were not mobile friendly. I formed a team of hiring managers, recruiters, and administrative people to go through a software selection and implementation process. I have done a number of these over the years, and there are always many obstacles one expects along the way. I have never had one go as smoothly as this! With a lot of due diligence, we selected one that is truly user-friendly to the applicants and to our staff, and the results are impressive! Just three months into it, we’ve tripled our applicant flow and doubled our hires!

GLASSDOOR: What role has Glassdoor played in conveying your employer brand and attracting talent? Any fun anecdotes?

AR: Glassdoor has been a great platform for our employees to convey our brand. It’s unvarnished, uncensored, and incredibly positive! We have some of the highest ratings out there. I love reading the pride and joy in the reviews as employees write about working here. This really is a very special place to work! One of my favorite anecdotes was reading a review by one of our admin people who noticed our Chief Operations Officer giving a resident a taste of ice cream, and then dabbing at her chin with a napkin. This staff member was so moved by his genuine care. Up and down the line, I hear stories like that daily. From the housekeeper who greets everyone with a smile, to the concierge who leads the dancing in music videos with our residents… we have fun… we love what we do… and it shows!

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GLASSDOOR: How do you treat reviews and feedback that you receive through Glassdoor?

AR: We monitor all the reviews daily. If we have a negative review, the appropriate leaders are notified and we discuss an appropriate response. We use all of our reviews as data when we’re reviewing our benefits plans. Our CEO is passionate about doing what’s best for our employees and if anyone ever feels slighted, he genuinely invites them in to talk about it and try to work through the situation.

GLASSDOOR: What keeps you motivated as an executive at Aegis Living? Future goals?

AR: I have pictures of my beloved grandpa that adorn my desk. I’m so grateful to those who cared for him in his final years. I am motivated every day to find the special people who will care for someone else’s parents and grandparents. And I get paid well to do it! I thank my lucky stars for such a great gig! All that, and I get to work alongside some of the sharpest people in the industry, who happen to be genuinely good, kind people.

Future goals: Continuous improvement. Always. We are a company that continues to innovate and stay on the leading edge of this industry. I will be right there with it, working on innovation in our recruitment efforts.

DISCOVER: Check Out Open Jobs at Aegis Living Hiring Now!