“Put people first.”

Karen Sheean, Chief Human Resources Officer at Atria, shares her thoughts for the future and reflects on the McKnight’s Senior Living 2022 Women of Distinction event. 

A culture of celebrating each other

I was thrilled to celebrate Atria’s Karen Devaney, National Director of Care Management, at the recent McKnight’s Senior Living 2022 Women of Distinction event. The excitement in the room was palpable, not only for Karen but for all the distinguished honorees. The feeling of comradery mirrored how at Atria we work smarter to deliver results as a team.

As I sat in the venue surrounded by other senior living industry leaders, I took the time to also pause and reflect. We move fast to deliver quality service and to put our employees first. When I pause and take a quick break from our fast-moving schedules, what comes to mind is the advice of my mentors.

People first.

Both mentors have meant the world to me, both personally and professionally. Our relationships are a testament to the fact that people make a difference for other people at work. I consider both mentors former colleagues and a friend. The average person spends one third of their life at work. How and who we spend this time with at work is vital to our professional success and personal happiness.

My first mentor’s advice was to pay attention to the details. Her advice was that if I had five minutes to present a project to a room, make every minute count with the important details only.

The advice of my second mentor sums up my career. She said to put people first. She meant that by putting our employees first, quality service and results follow. I remember her advice when considering processes and decisions that will affect our employees.

The best ideas start with the best people.

Her advice also comes to mind when thinking about the mission of HR at Atria’s family of brands. Our mission is to be a workplace where employees are engaged and show up with their whole self. This mission is summed up with three sentences.

I can be myself at work.
I can speak up and raise new ideas.
I feel that I belong here.

When our employees believe each of those statements, they bring the best ideas, A-game talent, and smarts to the workplace. The communities, dining venues, Engage Life spaces and conference rooms with the best ideas have the best people in the room, regardless of gender, race, age, orientation, or identity.

I often say to my family or to others outside of the senior living industry how “I can’t imagine not working with this group of people.” The sentiment was true sitting at the Women of Distinction event with these people: Karen Devaney, National Director of Care Management; Joanna Mansfield, SVP and General Manager at Coterie; Jen Johnson, National Director of Care Management; Jennifer Kuzmech, Regional Vice President; Michael Bolling, Regional Vice President; Michelle Yeneic, Human Resources Director; Kathleen Dixon, Regional Vice President; and Andy Dytrich, New Product Development Director. I am grateful to call them and all of our employees my colleagues.

The best ideas are with the people in the room.

My commitment to the more than 15,000 people who work at Atria is to put you first and to continue building a workplace where each individual shows up as their genuine self. In the next 30-50 years, the best ideas defining our company will still be in the rooms where people are themselves, feel belonging and speak up. I am excited for the decades to come.