Published On: September 22, 2021By


Chris Carr Head of Learning at Five Star Senior Living - Compliance Training in the Covid Era - Talented Learning Show Podcast with learning tech analyst John LehImagine being responsible for compliance training at hundreds of senior communities during the height of the pandemic. How would you navigate nonstop uncertainty, while keeping thousands of staff and residents safe?

Today, we discuss that and more with Chris Carr, Head of Learning and Development at Five Star Senior Living Centers – a nationwide network of premier independent and assisted living facilities.

Formerly a learning leader in the banking industry, Chris brings years of expertise in compliance training to his role at Five Star. But, as he explains, the past few years have taught him multiple unexpected lessons.



  • Managing compliance training in a highly regulated industry is tough. But making it work in a complex, decentralized organization is much more challenging.
  • Training transformation isn’t easy. That’s why planning matters. But even the best-laid plans can be disrupted. That’s when flexible thinking and technology can make a massive difference.
  • It’s tempting to assume that technology is the answer to every question. But core business needs should shape your technology choices – not the other way around.



Welcome, Chris. Could you start by telling us about Five Star?

Absolutely. Five Star Senior Living has been a leader in the industry for more than 20 years. Our core competency is in independent living and assisted living, with a strong focus on memory care.

We have over 140 communities in over 30 states. And across those 140 communities, we have about 15,000 team members.

Wow, that’s a lot! How do you train these 15,000 employees? I imagine it’s fairly regulated and formalized…

Our organization’s mission is to honor and enrich the journey of life, one experience at a time. And of course, that mission applies to our residents. But it extends to our team members, as well.

We’re constantly looking to evolve the experience of working at Five Star through professional development and career paths.

How so?

When I started with Five Star just over four years ago, there was no true infrastructure for learning. So first, we established a learning mission. And then we built the learning infrastructure as a shared service for all of our team members.

Our mission is to continually enhance the knowledge, skills and careers of our team members in the relentless pursuit of outstanding service to our residents.

And of course, all of this is closely connected with the organization’s mission.


We want to attract and retain great talent. We want to enable our team members to learn quickly and efficiently. And we want to provide them with timely access to appropriate resources.

This enhances their work experience and their careers. And we measure success through employee engagement, as well as through resident survey responses.

Outstanding. Are team members employees? Or does this include other audiences like contractors or visiting nurses?

Mainly, our learning and development customers are employees. But some contractors also leverage our training resources, as well as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and others who serve in our communities for a short period of time.

Makes sense…

You know, when I was in financial services, our audience was always fairly simple. Right? It was new employees with some sort of career track in financial services.

But when I joined Five Star, I realized what a vast array of training audiences we serve. Our customers are dishwashers, servers, chefs, maintenance staff. There are also chief executives of their own communities who each have a tremendous amount of responsibility.

Plus, we have a corporate office with about 150-160 employees. And we support all of those corporate functions – human resources, finance, sales, marketing, compliance and legal.

Our domain includes all the people in those functions, as well as the various initiatives that are rolled out to team members of all types in our various communities.

So our scope has tremendous breadth and depth. That was something we really needed to get our arms around as we were building the learning infrastructure.

Is medical staff also included in your audience mix?

When we started evolving our learning strategy, our overall health and wellness team included about 5000 clinical staff – registered nurses, CNAs and others. Originally, they were our top priority in driving the learning strategy.

With so many variables, I imagine that translates into some compliance training nightmares. How do you standardize learning in that environment?

You know, one of my biggest surprises was recognizing the true compliance training requirements for a large-scale senior living company. It’s not simply about federal regulatory compliance. Individual state requirements also drive the need for clinical team compliance training.

So you can imagine the complexity of our compliance training blueprint, with communities in 32 states. We had to develop 32 sets of training plans for all of those team members in all those states.

How did we successfully train our team members without a more centralized approach? We relied heavily on each community to clarify state requirements, and build training to support their team members, and ensure that everyone is compliant with those regulations.


Initially, when I came on board, my goal was to centralize the training function. But how do I centralize a training function with more than 140 communities that are running not homogeneously at all, but actually quite differently?

That’s when we started realizing that we needed technology to help us to drive our learning mission forward. And that’s when we started putting our plan together.

So we started doing deeper research to understand the compliance requirements of our clinical team members. And that’s not just about compliance training to meet state regulations. It’s also about the training needed for certifications – CEU credits – so we’re maintaining their certifications.

Licensure of each facility was also another driving factor for pulling together a more centralized approach.

So what came first? Did you identify all the variables in your compliance training mix before you started looking for technology to support it? Or…?

That’s an easy question for me, because my approach is always inside-out. I start by understanding our requirements. I talk with leadership teams and others in each of the functions to truly understand their roles.

I learn what they’re tasked to do on a daily basis, and really get into the weeds. There’s just no way around that.

So it’s an inside-out approach.


And in this case, thinking that my first customer would be the head of health and wellness across our communities, I focused on understanding that team’s perspective. What are the particular challenges of those in clinical roles? What specifically are their needs?

Next, I sort of spread my wings, working with other leaders. The head of sales, head of marketing, head of finance, head of HR and so forth. I dug deeply into their training requirements.

And it wasn’t only about the clinical teams in our communities. It also involved reaching out to the head of operations in each unit to understand the training requirements for all the rest of the team members at that location.

Sounds like a massive effort…

There was a tremendous amount of upfront legwork just to identify the proper people to have these conversations with.

What’s the right process? What’s the right information I needed to gather, so I could build the business case to move our strategy forward?

It took a good 6, 7, 8 months to work through that phase. And in hindsight, it was the right place to start. Because it gave us a list of requirements that helped us find the right technology for our organization.

Without that approach, we could not have identified a solution to answer problems that we didn’t yet know that we had.

That makes sense. So where did you land?

It didn’t take me long to figure out that we were really looking at a content-driven strategy. It wasn’t a platform-driven strategy. It was about finding the right provider, the right partner.

We needed someone who could give us content that would immediately satisfy state regulatory requirements. And at the time, there was a stronger emphasis on CMS, which is the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

CMS was tightening compliance training requirements for senior living staff. So that provided us a much clearer focus on where we needed to land.

I see. So then in early 2020, the pandemic caught us all off-guard. Suddenly, senior facilities became headline news. How did that affect your compliance training strategy?…


About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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