Millers Merry Manor wants engaged workers.
So the Warsaw-based nursing home and rehabilitation care company encourages employees to approach everyday decisions with the same thoughtful consideration an owner would use.
The effort works because Millers 3,000 employees jointly own the company. Millers is tied for 46th on a list of the 100 largest U.S. companies primarily owned by employees.
The trend is growing, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership. More than 10 million people work at companies where employees have a majority ownership stake.
Millers officials believe it makes all the difference in the level of care its 32 nursing homes provide to residents and to short-term rehabilitation patients. And better care leads to a healthier bottom line.
Profits are strong enough to allow Millers officials to plan more than $20 million in building upgrades over the next three years.
Brad Harris, Millers vice president of health care development, said the improvements will include creating private suites, café areas, therapy pools and wireless Internet access.
We dont have the newest and prettiest buildings, he said. We put most of our resources in the care.
The décor is fine with Lisa Pressler-Clark, who works in the Fort Wayne location.
Unlike some competitors, the company doesnt decorate its entrance with glittery chandeliers, she said. Instead, Pressler-Clark said, Millers nursing homes feel like real homes.
Millers has 18 five-star nursing homes, the highest possible rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The companys average rating is 4.2 stars.
Sarah Knight, the in-service director for Millers local nursing home, keeps staff up-to-date on nursing skills.
The Pierceton woman also teaches certified nursing assistant classes quarterly to 10 applicants in the community. All costs are covered by Millers – including the fee to take a state certification test.
Were putting these people back in the community, Knight said. Its a great service, I think.
Many of the graduates will be hired by Millers.
I feel I invest in it a little more, knowing these people will be on my team, she said.
Knight hired on 16 years ago when she was just 18. She cited the staffs integrity and honesty for making her stay.
I love what we stand for and how we take care of our residents, she said.
Some residents love the staff right back.
Cordelia Hauff, 88, has lived at the Huntington Millers nursing home for about one year.
Its just like a big family, she said.
Ashley Harmeyer, activity director, organizes outings for residents in the Fort Wayne facility.
Millers residents attend Komets hockey games, tour DeBrand Fine Chocolates and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn. A group of men eats out once a month at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill.
Theyre busy bees over here, Harmeyer said.
On a daily basis, the activity director organizes exercise sessions, newspaper reading and pizza parties. Harmeyer also brings bands in for musical performances.
We try to give them a normal life, things that theyre used to doing at home, she said.
Harmeyer organizes varied activities with the hope that every resident will find something to enjoy.
Playing bingo and Lets Make a Deal are Bonnie Links favorite activities.
The 77-year-old woman lives at the Columbia City facility. Link couldnt take care of herself after she broke her hip and leg more than three years ago.
Everybodys really nice, and I dont have any complaints, she said.
Link, a former nurse, participates in as many activities as she can. Shes also the self-appointed cheer committee, giving pep talks to staff and new residents.
I always tell them it takes a little bit of time, she said, but you adjust quickly.
Satisfied staff creates an atmosphere that leads to contented residents, Millers officials said. One way to satisfy employees is to challenge and reward them.
Harris, the vice president of health care development, has been with the company for 27 years. In that time, he has made three career changes, shifting from one department to another while moving up in the company.
Harris, a certified public accountant, joined the companys auditing department straight out of college. He has also worked in billing, information technology and now does marketing and building partnerships with hospitals.
The opportunity is there, if you want it, he said, adding that most of the top executives started with the company on the front lines, working directly with patients.
Harmeyer, 30, has worked for Millers almost nine years. She started as a nursing assistant and moved up to passing out medication and then to assistant activity director.
I like the chance to grow within this company, she said. This is where I will retire from.
The Miller family credited employees hard work and dedication for the long-term care providers success. In 2006, the companys directors formed an employee stock ownership plan or ESOP.
Employees own 100 percent of their shares after six years.
Jay Kroft, administrator of the Fort Wayne location, said the retirement benefit can provide strong motivation.
Kroft was a high school teacher, coach and athletic director for 24 years. A friend who worked for Millers tried repeatedly to recruit him to join the company. After Kroft learned more, he decided it was an opportunity he couldnt pass up.
The administrator routinely turns off the lights when he leaves his office or any empty room in the nursing home. That habit is one of many reminders to staff to watch expenses as closely as they would at home.
If we succeed as a company, theyre going to succeed, he said. Its not going to make somebody rich, but its an extra little (retirement income) without any money out of their pocket.
Harmeyer, the local activity director, is excited to be part owner of the company but said she wouldnt do anything differently if she didnt have an equity stake.
That might be true, but some other Millers employees say the structure affects job performance.
Nancy Czuk oversees housekeeping and laundry at the Millers on East State Boulevard. She formerly managed American Health Fitness Centers of Fort Wayne with her husband.
After only three months on Millers staff, Czuk has noticed significant differences between her co-workers and the employees she managed for 25 years. People here help each other get the job done.
Its not like, Sorry. Thats your department, Czuk said.
Pressler-Clark, a registered nurse and the minimal data set coordinator, has worked at Millers for eight years.
She assesses residents every 90 days and tracks various data, including their ability to remember and make decisions. That information is reported to the state and factors into how much the nursing home is reimbursed for patient care.
Pressler-Clark has worked for various employers during her career. But the employee-ownership model allows her to feel more connected to the companys goals.
Its not just the companys budget, its our budget, she said. It makes you more responsible for everything in the building – using extra paper or people walking off with pens.
The 56-year-old former psychiatric nurse prefers the company even though she earns less than at some previous jobs.
I have always admired Millers for their ethics and their values, she said. I would have a family member in here in a heartbeat. I would (live) here. Id bring my husband here.