Select Page

According to Nick Lensch of Courtyard Estates, his greatest hiring success story involves an individual who joined the team with absolutely no experience providing care. Having done some volunteer work in the past, she found herself at a point in her life where she knew her purpose was to help others, but was unsure of how, specifically, she wanted to incorporate that into her career.

Despite this prospect’s lack of experience, Lensch hired her with the intent of assigning her to what he described as a “catch-all” position. She started off doing a little bit of everything for the company; she worked in the kitchen, did housekeeping, and even performed hands-on client care. To the surprise of Lensch and the rest of the staff, she was effectively able to take on a variety of tasks and grow into a leadership role, ultimately gaining respect from management and employees that had been with the company for more than a decade. Co-workers appreciated her determination and she was quickly able to head up shifts.

It is successful hires such as her that make Lensch’s job satisfying.


Like many young professionals, Nick Lensch quickly determined what field he wanted to work in upon graduation, he just didn’t know where exactly he wanted to do it. After graduating from Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines, IA with a health care administration concentration in 2011, Lensch worked as a Resident Director at an assisted living community. About a year and a half later, he joined the Courtyard Estates team, for whom he has been a Manager for over a year.

While perusing job openings in the Des Moines market, Lensch found himself drawn to assisted living facilities due to their intimacy. The idea of a managerial role in a setting that presented the opportunity to develop relationships with both residents and their family members was attractive and offered the feel-good factor.

“You can really build and derive a great service for people; give them a safe place for their loved one to live while working in a community setting. I was really drawn to the idea of that.” Not only was he interested in being able to personally interact and care for clients in need, but he was also looking forward to nurturing and developing relationships with the staff in such a tight-knit environment. Finding great work in a rather populated and competitive part of Iowa didn’t hurt either.

According to Lensch, the biggest core value that the Courtyard Estates team is built upon is honesty. Working with a variety of ages and backgrounds, the company knows that in order to achieve the best possible experience for all, it is important to be honest and clear about the expectations of all parties. Management’s awareness of employees’ values and goals (and vice versa) is vital in the caregiving field; not being on the same page when your mission is to care for others can break a team and hinder the effectiveness of the services provided.

A caregiving community is not simply comprised of its residents, but also its caregivers, management, and family members. This creates an atmosphere like no other, with a comfortable and appropriate balance of attention given to both clients and their families. “We really strive for a family-like culture. We are a smaller community, so there is a lot of opportunity to know and learn about our residents, their family members and their backgrounds as we work together. We go through a lot of the same roller coasters together.”


Heading up Human Resources, Lensch ensures that new employees join the team with a clear understanding of what is expected of them. “I don’t think it does anybody justice when someone is starting a new position and things are sugarcoated or details are grayed out. If you aren’t honest and clear about your expectations upfront, then you’re sending your employees up to sale. In the healthcare industry, you can’t send anybody up to sale because in the end, it directly affects those that you are trying to provide care for.”

Working in this particular field, you must be selective and get the right people in the right positions. If an employee knows what is expected of them and is not reaching those predetermined guidelines, then management will know that things may need to be readdressed. Honesty and clarity from the beginning shows staff that management can be trusted, ultimately resulting in positive relationships and communication throughout the business.

Hiring for Courtyard Estates is a team effort, performed by both Lensch and the nurses, as the mission is to recruit people that are a good fit overall. Throughout the interview, they assess the potential employee’s core behaviors. The key characteristic that they look for in a person is compassion. If an interviewee is able to exude that quality, it’s a good sign that they would fit in well. Additionally, while one would think that experience would play a huge role in whether or not someone is hired, Lensch explains that it may not always be a good thing “because they may have developed bad habits or assumptions about working in the industry.” So, rather than relying on the amount of experience a resume illustrates, they examine his or her personality; Are they compassionate? Are they excited about they work we do? Are they personable, communicative, and easy to talk to?

To Lensch, it’s important to get to know potential employees as individuals and as workers. To truly understand them, their attitude in the workplace and whether or not they bear the central beliefs of the business, he talks to them one-on-one in addition to researching their references/former employers. “Finding the right fit might not always mean the person who looks best on paper.” It might be defined by what are they like as a person, how that can be integrated into the existing work environment, and whether they are going to hop on board and help the team move forward, or, if they would be the one to hold others back.

New employees of Courtyard Estates come from a combination of referrals from current employees and job postings. Lensch believes that when management shows their appreciation of hard working staff, words gets out. People tend to talk when they are satisfied – or unhappy – with their job. Keeping staff happy can only work to an employer’s benefit. When the company has to put ads out for job postings, they get enough responses that they have to be patient and spend time sifting through the options in order to land the right candidate.


According to Lensch, the hiring process is a combination of a science and an art, each playing an important role while working hand-in-hand. The science plays its part when the company receives a flooding of applications and resumes and has to sift through and determine which few have the right “building blocks” to help the team grow and excel. The art has everything to do with the conversations during the interview.

Lensch defines his biggest “aha” moment as learning to let his potential hires control the interview, even if they hadn’t intended it. “People like to talk about themselves. When you ask somebody to spill about the type of person they are, they’re going to try to mold themselves into being that type of person throughout the interview, even if they are not.”

Going into interviews prepared, he already knows who the company is looking for and what the expectations are going to be. Rather than taking the floor himself, he and the other HR representatives use key questions to steer prospects through a “journey” of describing who they are, allowing them to assess the type of employee they would be. The key to figuring a person out and securing the best staff members is simply sitting back and listening to what they have to say. You’ll learn plenty.

From his experience hiring, Lensch has learned to have more patience. “There are some great people out there that are just looking and trying to do the wrong thing; something that’s just not right for them.” Rather than hiring individuals who simply don’t fit the Courtyard Estates mold, the company does a lot of cross training in order to make sure employees are better trained and capable of performing in multiple realms, sharing responsibilities when the need arises. They will also often take on new employees as part-time members of the team and eventually transfer them into full-time roles. “Sometimes you do make a bad hire and you might need to hold on to that person a little bit longer until you find that right fit. It doesn’t do you any good to rush an interview process and bring in the wrong person just because you need to fill up a shift.”


One of Courtyard Estate’s biggest priorities is staff retention, a goal that has proven to be somewhat of a challenge due to the heavy competition in Des Moines. In order to keep his great staff around, the company works hard to show them that management recognizes the little things that they do for the business and its residents. Acknowledgement speaks volumes and is a motivating force to continue performing well.

Like many other employers offering caregiving services, Lensch has discovered the importance of building great relationships with his staff. “You always want to work hard to make sure the staff you have now feels appreciated; that you recognize all of the hard work they’re putting in. If you do that, the hiring process doesn’t really have to happen very often. I would say the biggest factor in maintaining a quality staff is making sure you’re empowering, encouraging, and being thankful for what you have.”

In addition to recognizing their value, Lensch also goes to extraordinary measures to help them grow as people and workers. In order to improve the quality and reward of work life, he goes out of his way to observe how other successful companies operate and maintain their high quality employees. He notes that many of the greats do a good job of recruiting new staff and turning them into better people that are even better at what they do. His philosophy is that if he can hire people that are already seasoned caregivers and help transform them into first-rate workers while at Courtyard Estates, retention should be much easier to accomplish. “It’s going to drive people to want to come in and work for you as well.”

This method has proven to increase the amount of quality resumes that come in, as great prospects detect that it is a good place to be employed. “You want to train them to be good enough to move forward and leave, but at the same time, treat them well enough that they don’t want to go anywhere. You want to enrich them and make them grow in terms of who they are and what they are doing, so that if they do leave, they were very well trained and remember where they got it.”

It’s also important to both Lensch and other members of the staff that they take an interest in who their staff/co-workers are, making sure that they are aware that their well-being is cared about. Something as simple a thank-you note, asking how an employee is doing, or whether there is anything that management can do to make things better for them can go a long way.


Lensch describes his staff as hard working and being passionate about their work, stating that he would be surprised to hear if one of his employees didn’t appreciate what they do or that they dreaded coming in each morning. “I want them to love coming to work and be able to leave their personal lives at the door because they enjoy their time here – kind of a getaway from whatever they may have going on outside of work.”

When asked what primary message he would like to send to potential employees, prospective clients and readers, Lensch quickly and confidently said, “Family first. We’re a big family here. Whether it’s your own blood or the family you’ve grown to develop here at Courtyard Estates, you want to put each other first before yourself. Selflessness is the biggest thing.”

For more information: