Efficiency, engagement, and attention to supplies and costs are three big factors that are part of the quality equation. Here's guidance from experts
on keeping your balance in challenging times.
Ultimately, efficiency is not about saving time or money. It’s about continually and effectively improving resident experience.
In senior living, saving time or money isn’t sufficient for a program or process to prove itself. The ROI must include mission. The bottom line is quality.
Attention to finances and resource use prepares a community to operate safely and well, every day and during occasional emergencies. Efficient and effective practices keep workers engaged—feeling like they’re truly making a difference through everything they do magnifies the effect that brings people into senior living in the first place.
Smart practices give everyone on staff the resources they need to say yes, to slow down, to take time to listen and enjoy time with residents. Having enough resources and a strategy that aligns both with mission and everyday activities provide the foundation needed to provide the moments that make community life extraordinary.
The tips shared here recognize this reality. They’re shaped from experience in mission-driven business, servant leadership, and dedication.
30 Ways to Make a Difference
Leaders from senior living and other industries share tips for efficiency, engagement, and quality improvement in challenging areas.
Estimate your ROI.
Periodically look at your largest expenses and calculate their ROI, says Forbes Council member Aaron Spool, partner at FinTech firm Eventus Advisory Group. Put a measurement on all kinds of returns that come to mind—not only monetary ones, but also increases in quality, industry goodwill, increased engagement, or the value of community or vendor relationships. The point isn’t to get a score. It’s an exercise in raising awareness and understanding all the different kinds of returns you’re getting (or not getting) from what you do. Track these over time and look for ways to increase returns or diversify types of returns for expenses that consistently come in with high resource use and low ROI.
Make inter-community connections and commitments.
If a crisis hits, having connections within the immediate geographic area or region or those within different departments in senior living such as culinary or maintenance, can make a big difference in your options and resources. More formal agreements, such as setting up another location residents can go to in a natural disaster, can lower risk and end up saving on spending. Scarcity and prices go up during a crisis, so advance planning can seal in a better arrangement.
Every vendor is also an expert consultant.
The people providing services and products you use or are exploring using are some of your greatest resources. Risk management, software developers, pharmacy, culinary, pool maintenance—they know their stuff and they know your industry. Contracts with communities often include a consulting commitment. Take advantage of their webinars, resource libraries, and blogs. If your communities are part of a REIT, for instance, they’re literally invested in your success—tap into their advice and support.
Test your traditions.
Make a list of a few tasks or programs the organization has determined can or should never change or be eliminated. Then take a few hours every few months to imagine how they could be changed or eliminated. This technique inspires creative thinking. But it also addresses the way the value of programs we assume to be essential can become inefficient or ineffective under growth, contraction, or changes in the environment. If they really are essential, a few tweaks in resources or strategy may be needed to keep them relevant. This tip comes from Forbes Council member Brian Henderson, senior vice president at Whitnell wealth management.
Watch out for the “belt-and-suspenders mindset.”
This is what The Coyne Group business consultants caution in an article in the Harvard Business Review. Overpreparation for low-probability, low-consequence events can soak up needed resources. How much data can you move offline and into storage? What data or materials are you stockpiling? Are you keeping old equipment, extra copies of training materials, or backup for programs and plans that have long since moved on? Examine what would happen if the event you’re concerned about came to pass. Would your “just in case” resources help, or get in the way?
Open with empathy.
That’s advice from Craig Wortmann, executive director of the Kellogg Sales Institute, in an article in Kellogg Insight, “How to Coach Your Sales Team through the Pandemic (and Beyond)” (insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu). Communication is hard when people’s minds are on how they’re going to make it through the day. “Right now, we need to show up for each other,” Wortmann says. “I make it a practice to first say, ‘Hey, how are you? Before I give you feedback, is everything okay?’” This simple check-in opens the conversation to the possibility of real feedback. Opening with empathy also means acknowledging the uncertainty and stress that your team may be experiencing. If your team members are worried about job security, it is important to both address their fears and clarify the focus of your feedback. “I let them know that the conversation is happening at a tough time for the company—and for all of us in general,” Wortmann says. “I want to make sure that we are clear that the feedback I am giving is specific to their performance on that webinar just now, for example.”
“Work while your disinfectant works,”
recommends Kaycee Strewler, MS, senior technical account specialist (R&D) at Ecolab. “To achieve proper disinfection, surfaces must remain wet for the amount of time indicated on the product label. You can maximize productivity and promote healthy environments by first applying disinfectant and then leveraging dwell time to complete additional tasks.”
Give cleaning staff visibility and recognition.
“Let residents, staff and visitors see that you are making cleaning and disinfection a priority, and remember to focus on high-touch points,” recommends Caleb Schmidt, marketing manager of long-term care segment at Ecolab. Schmidt points out that a recent survey of potential residents by American Seniors Housing Association and research firm ProMatura showed that an identifiable cleaning and disinfecting program at a community was a top priority to prospective residents: “This not only serves to attract residents, but will also help to create healthy environments and peace of mind for existing residents and staff, building trust throughout your organization.”
Calculate the value of meetings.
“The next time you’re in a meeting, do some rough napkin calculations based on the number of people in the room, and their average hourly salary,” recommends an article on the BPlans business plan software site. “Sometimes the results can be staggering.” What kinds of meetings can be cut? Some ideas: Replace information-sharing or check-in meetings with a document or update with links to more information. Get quick opinions or do scheduling with pulse surveys and Doodle polls. Make “tickets” with planning platforms to let people know what paperwork or decisions you need from them and when. Save face-to-face (or online) meetings for brainstorming, sensitive issues, teambuilding, or recognition.
Several providers say they’re more often doing standups and huddles than formal meetings since the start of the pandemic. The rapid changes in protocols and updates on practices and news and other crisis circumstances made huddles the best way to handle information. If you can relay the information in a huddle, then reinforce it with an easy-to-understand post, poster, message, or even a 30-second video, it helps solidify the information.