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Is your village information safe?

Last month when I was in New Zealand, the news of the day was how three public hospitals had their digital systems and patient information hacked, staff were effectively locked out of their digital systems and the Government were potentially being held to ransom.

This got me to thinking about the various digital solutions I have seen around the country in villages and what would the impact be to a village if suddenly their digital system was hacked, they were locked out, the resident information shared publicly or even worse held to ransom.

Only two laptops safe

It also reminded me of an experience I had at the LEADERS SUMMIT in Adelaide in March where the ComwireIT General Manager, Nathan showed us on his laptop that there were about 140 devices in the conference room but only TWO of them were secure, the rest leaving themselves open to a potential cyber threat.  

Cyber attacks can:

  • Cause significant downtime for your business
  • Expose your intellectual property to the public or your competitors
https://www.thedcminstitute.com.au/
  • Expose your client’s private information to the public
  • Require submission of a Notifiable Data Breach to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

All these things can have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day operations, your brand and depending upon your internal support systems can cost serious money to rectify.

Simple questions

Nathan also asked us a few questions:

  • Where is your data stored? If on a local server, do you complete regular backups?
  • Do you have a Disaster Recovery plan?
  • If it’s stored in the cloud, is it based in Australia or offshore?
  • Who has access to your data?
  • What type of authentication do you have to access your systems?
  • Does your IT roadmap address all these variables?

Nathan clearly saw the shock on our faces and shared with me a few weeks later the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) Essential Eight mitigation strategies to reduce exposure to a cyber-attack:

  • 3rd Party Application Patches need to be managed to reduce the risk of security vulnerabilities
  • Operating System Patches need to be managed
  • Daily backups are a must
  • Application Whitelisting/Anti-Virus management
  • Configuration of Microsoft Office macro settings
  • Review user application hardening
  • Restriction of administrative privileges
  • Implementation of Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Now if you are like me and would like to know some simple solutions for your workplace, click here to download ComwireIT Cyber Security ‘Keep your workplace safe’ checklist

Alternatively, if you would like to take it a step further to obtain an audit of your digital environment or add to your IT Roadmap, contact ComwireIT.

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Carers in your village: understanding, support and a policy

While many of our residents move to a village to continue living a full and independent life, their needs and capacity often change as they get older.

For some, the changes occur slowly, and for others, their health and wellbeing deteriorate more rapidly.

Regardless of when they happen, these changes are usually unplanned and result in the need for initial support until formal assistance or services are established. 

Delays in accessing services, reluctance to address needs and the long wait times for Home Care Packages, all contribute to the increasing reliance on informal carers.

Carers and complexities

In our communities, we see the benefits of the vital role that carers play in the lives of our residents, but we also see (and may need to manage) the complexities when the carer is a spouse, family member, friend or even another resident!

We see couples where one person cares for their spouse, and then the carer becomes exhausted or unwell.

Residents become reliant and often a burden on good-hearted neighbours or residents, with the best intent, take up the role of carer for a neighbour and then withdraw their support as they are unable to manage.

Then we have family members who become full-time carers and want to be a live-in carer or, alternately, those who don’t see the need for support or care and are happy to let the Village Manager pick up and do what they can for the resident.

Yes, as Village Professionals, we see it all, and it can be overwhelming for us too.

So, what can we do?

The best strategy is to have some established policies or guides that your Management Team endorses.

Develop a policy for carers to live in the village should the need arise considering:

  • Approval on a case-by-case basis
  • Evidence of medical / GP support
  • Rights of residency, voting, parking
  • The obligation of the carer to abide by the Village Rules
  • Residency ceases upon vacation of resident and consider the termination obligations of the contract and legislation
  • Documented approval rather than a contract addendum

You can also refer to agencies who specialise in carer support:

Carers Australia – https://www.carersaustralia.com.au

Promote services available for older people and their carers:

MyAgedCare – https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/caring-someone

Act now; don’t wait

It is always best to develop a policy when you are not under time pressure or you already ‘have a situation’, when raising new policy guidelines can be misconstrued to being in response to one case.

Preparation of a simple document to start the discussion with your Management Team and possible the Residents Committee is a great first step.

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Welcome to Year Three for the DCMI Village Management Professional Development Program

Thank you for supporting us!

What a huge achievement by the DCM Institute team to be moving into our third year with consistent and growing participation in the Village Management Professional Development program.

We are all very proud – and appreciative – especially with the significant impact of COVID on DCMI participants and the need to restructure the program to deliver workshop days online.

We had to ensure you continued to receive great value, professional development and new opportunities to feel connected to the wider industry.

Sally boosts participant support

Six months ago, we introduced a participant care service to our program to ensure that participants continue to be well supported.

Sally Middleton joined our team to fulfil this role and she has conducted over 250 individual participant check-ins to support our participants achieve their learning goals.

Sally has also onboarded or provided portal refresher sessions to over 140 participants, and supported over 20% of participants to find the information they are looking for either in our online portal or on industry-specific websites. 

Jacqui boosts sales and leadership

Whilst COVID put a temporary hold on the face-to-face workshop days, the DCMI team continued to innovate. We engaged Jacqui Perkins to lead Retirement Village specific Sales & Leadership interactive masterclasses. 

Jacqui brings fresh concepts – always important with sales. The feedback on these masterclass sessions has been great and we have seen a number of sales consultants join the program to access these masterclasses and the valuable information available on the online Knowledge Centre portal.  

Face to face networking is back

However, what we are most excited about is we are heading back to Face-to-Face activities! Village network meetings have already been held in SA, NSW, Vic and soon to be ACT, WA, QLD & TAS.

Even better, we return to Face-to-Face workshop days in June. 

The DCMI team will return to the capital cities to conduct these valuable Professional Development workshop days. We are so looking forward to getting back to these sessions and the added value of the shared learning we get to share together. 

Please join us; please invest in yourself

If you are interested in joining the VMPD program, please register here.

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Does your role include marketing? Is this your skillset?​

Village professionals wear many hats and require both the left and right side of the brain. But is marketing one skill you bring to the job or should it be outsourced?

Marketing, and especially ‘communication’ – using words to take your audience on a journey – requires writing skills. This is especially so now in this digital world where the reader is bombarded with messages and it is so easy to just flick past.

Meaningful connection with meaningful content

The best way to create meaningful connections with your customer/residents at every stage of their journey is to deliver well written, consistent and valuable information. In marketing terms, you may refer to this as content!

But when I browse the branding and advertising content of retirement villages, the information is repeatedly one-sided. 

It is very specific information about the village, about the offering, a house for sale or communal facilities. But as the reader, how do I interpret this as valuable information to me. WIFM – What’s in it for me?

People are not looking for a house that is apparently for sale. They are looking for the warmth and security of a home in a secure neighbourhood. It is expected that it will be provided in a house – that is a given.

A marketer will identify that a prospective resident is looking for companionship with other human beings, not the fact that the village has a community centre.

Is outsourcing a better idea financially?

Creating the words that create pictures in the mind of the reader is a skill, and we don’t all have that skill. If this is you, why not outsource the task to a Content Professional?

It costs money but so does your time and effort if you are not going to get the same results.

For the purpose of this article, we point to a service we know – Content Republic – to give an idea of the investment required.

They will write an email for you from $300. This may sound like a lot, but compare it to the time it may take you, and how important it is to get a good result. If it has cost $5,000 to create five sales leads, $300 is suddenly very economical to keep them alive and bring them closer to purchasing.

Over three months you may send out 3 emails which is $900 and you can be confident you have done your best.

The alternative is to create the emails yourself and you can be confident that perhaps you will not achieve the best result, and you will not know.

You can talk to Content Republic by clicking HERE. Alternatively use Google to search ‘Marketing Content Writers’ for a range of writers.

Test one or two emails and be freed to apply your real skillsets where they are best utilised.

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Retirement Living touches 14% of all people aged over 40 – this is big business​

At times we need to take a step back and think of the sector we work in and the impact it makes on our community.

Our sister publication The SOURCE has been publishing some interesting analysis lately on how many people retirement living actually touches, and also how many new customers we need to bring on board each year.

See the chart above. You can see that across land lease communities and retirement villages we have 300,000 residents across Australia.

Our residents have placed their faith and wealth in our hands, so to speak, a great vote of trust.

At the same time, each resident has about three people that they are closely involved with, as friends, carers and supporters. Many of them will also be a beneficiary of the transition of wealth in the village home at some stage. So there is a financial ‘touch’ as well as an emotional touch.

This adds 900,000 people to a total of 1.2 million Australians that we have a touch point. Given all these ‘direct touch’ people will be aged over 40 years of age, we reach 14% of all people over 40, which is very powerful.

35,500 new sales a year required

In our own bubble, we don’t think of the big picture sales effort that is required to keep our sector humming.

From the chart below you can see that with rollovers and new builds, we need 35,500 new customers to sign up each year, or if you like, 97 every day of the year, including Christmas Day.

With an average village and LLC home now valued around $450,000 to buy in, we need to generate $16 billion in sales a year or $44 million every day.

We are BIG business! If each family home sold to buy into our sector is valued at say $600,000, then $21.3 billion in family home sales have to take place. Imagine all those young families upgrading – it is exciting we think.

As village professionals, we are vital to this ongoing sales process. We are the face and the brand of our community within our local community. It’s a big job.

(If you do not receive The SOURCE newsletter on a Tuesday, you can ask for a free subscription HERE – it’s the best news source on retirement living).

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More villages going vertical – what does this mean for village managers?​

Apartments are the new normal for retirement villages.

While many big operators have been building apartments for about five years now in capital city locations, we are now seeing the traditional ‘horizontal village’ operators branch out to apartments.

Expanding village operator Oak Tree has announced the opening of its Pelican Waters on the Sunshine Coast village. It is a $15 million development of 60 units over four storeys.

Oak Tree now owns and operates 31 retirement villages across Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, mostly horizontal villages around 80 homes.

Managing this type of development is vastly different to a traditional village. For instance, residents don’t have their own outdoor space so the focus on activities is different.

Building management is also very different, but the skills will expand your professional credentials across areas such as building and strata management. All good news.

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Your website is often your first impression

Our favourite marketing support is Joshua Hanchett. We asked him to write this piece on the very important subject of websites.

You only get one chance to make an excellent first impression.

In 2021, the website is usually the first introduction to prospective residents and employees so providing a consistent experience online that represents the organisation well is paramount. 

An excellent online experience starts with the following: 

  1. Keep your resident, not the organisation, in mind. Each page should keep them central in the written and visual content. 
  2. Make it easy to contact the right person in the organisation. If your organisation provides multiple services, have a direct line or email to the relevant person. 
  3. Be a guide to your website visitor on their retirement journey. Inform them to make a great decision. Don’t sell. 

With this in mind, what can you do every year to keep your website relevant and visitors coming back time and time again? Below is a short list, but if you don’t have the time, reach out to us. We are happy to help your organisation reach their customer online.

1. Safety and Security – Is your website safe and your organisation’s privacy policy relevant and accessible? Visitors are encouraged to take action on websites by filling in forms, and it’s reassuring to know data isn’t going to be stolen or shared. Security Certificates and Firewall software are easy to install and automate these days.

Tip: Make it a priority at the beginning of each year to ensure your certificates and software are installed, activated, and working.

2. Responsive experience – Does your website provide a wonderful experience on a desktop and a mobile device? With mobile overtaking desktop in multiple demographics, it’s important the user experience is consistent across devices.

Tip: Open the website on a desktop and your mobile device at the same time. How does it load? Is the experience consistent? Is it easy to read and take action?

3. Read and refresh pertinent information. Set reminders in your calendar to read through your website and other sites making up your digital presence, including Google my Business, Facebook, LinkedIn, and listing sites like Villages.com.au. Start simple. Are your Name, Address, Phone Number, and Email details correct? Is your pricing accurate on listing websites? 

Tip: Open an incognito window in your browser and do a Google search of your organisation’s name. What’s on display? 

4. Track search, time, and behaviour on your site. Use tools like Google Analytics and SEMrush. Answer these questions. 

Where are your site visitors coming from? Direct, organic, social, or paid? 

Are they leaving quickly or sticking around for a while? 

Where are they spending time on your site?

Tip: Allow this data to inform how you change your website. A better site experience will increase time on site and reduce bounce rate.

5. Focus on Quality content rather than Quantity. Organisations that know their customers well serve their customers well. Speak to their problems and display authentic images of your residents enjoying their newfound freedoms in the community. Quality content will rank well on search engines, keep customers on your site longer, and even keep them returning for more.

Tip:  Treat your website as a living, breathing asset to your organisation. Let your users search online for solutions to their problem. Focus your creative energy on providing answers in a meaningful way. Once on your website, share to your social channels and email list with links back to your website.

6. Ask website visitors to take action – a phone call, a form filled, a downloadable pdf guide.

Tip: Pop ups have their place, but they can often be overused and deter a prospect. Be creative and strategic with your placements of all buttons, forms, pop ups and pdfs. Remain customer centric.

With more and more people online and so many simple free tools available online, there’s never been a better time to pay attention to your organisation’s website – it’s so much more than a brochure.

Set a time to implement these things in your busy schedule. It will pay dividends and speak to your professionalism, credibility, and ability to provide solutions to the evolving needs of your customer.

If you need help reaching your customer online, please reach out to us.

Joshua Hanchett – Your Digital Partner

josh@myheartstudio.com.au

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Your Circle of Influence – it may be smaller and better than you think​

Many of don’t think about who we influence, but we all spend time doing stuff that we think, well, that we are influencing people.

At the recent Leadership Masterclass, our DCMI Leadership Coach, Jacqui Perkins, explored a Stephen Covey tool from his bestseller ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

Jacqui explained the ‘Circle of Influence’. This tool is a simple concept which helps define and direct our efforts and energies into the areas that are important to us and where we can achieve optimum influence.

Circle of Concern: Areas that concern us but in which we generally have little or no control, such as the weather. While we might like to make the sun shine we can’t actually make it happen.

Circle of Influence: Things we have indirect control over, such as other peoples’ reactions, their thoughts. But, unlike the Circle of Concern, you can still influence action or change. For example, you may influence how an employee or team member works or acts, but you can’t directly control them.

Circle of Control: Are things we have direct control over, such as our own actions and responses to opportunities and challenges.

Jacqui explained successful leaders focus in on ‘the what’ they can influence.

The Circle of Influence is proactive…I proactively try to influence the situation.

The Circle of Concern is reactive…I’m just a passive recipient of what comes my way and react instead of thinking ahead and trying to proactively influence a different outcome.

So how can you determine if you are proactive or reactive?

Draw the three circles and identify a couple of points in each circle such as those below:

  • ‘Concern’: no direct influence on global warming, COVID-19, weather or the price of milk.
  • ‘Control’: we have control of own actions, our leadership style and workplace conduct and can us them for positive influence.
  • ‘Influence’: we can influence team culture, resident satisfaction and community engagement.

When we focus on our Circle of Influence, we are able to create long lasting and effective change in both ourselves, our team and our community.

And maybe take a tip and “Let it go….”

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Possible Royal Commission considerations and ‘wins’ for every Village operator…

If you do one thing in the lead up to the May Federal Budget – grab yourself a coffee and watch this 15-minute thought provoking discussion from Tammy Berghofer, Partner at MinterEllison, about the potential impact of the Royal Commission recommendations on retirement village operations.

There is a very real opportunity for villages to be the major winner from the Royal Commission.

Tammy outlines the opportunities and important considerations for both operators and front-line village professionals.  She highlights the future expectations of residents and the questions village professionals will need to consider.

In this video Tammy has simplified the Royal Commission impacts to village operations into 3 key areas:

  • Impact of a new Aged Care program
    • Instead of three different ‘aged care programs’ (CHSP, Home Care and Aged Care), it is likely they will all converge into one, with people entering the system and then carrying through to high care 
    • Universal entitlement to care – everyone gets to care for free
    • Increased choice, control and flexibility
  • Expansion of Care at Home
    • This is what the Government wants / long term care strategy requirements
    • Need for expanded termination processes
    • Village and care residents will be older and have higher health and acuity needs
    • Increase skills and knowledge for village professionals 
  • Influence on village built environments 
    • Ageing in place considerations will increase in importance 
    • Assistive technology use will increase in importance
    • Possible grant funding options for operators
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Grants are great! And easier than you think for villages

Are your residents wanting a new indoor bowls mat or would they like to learn how to use their smartphone or tablet?

What about an art exhibition or a programmed walking group?

Why not apply for a grant to help fund or subsidise an activity for your village community?

Grants are largely offered to fund an initiative which targets and benefits a particular cohort, like older community members.

They will generally have a required outcome or specific need to be met, as defined in the key purpose of the funding. The good news for our communities, is that services and activities for older people are a key objective for many Government agencies and other grant providers.

Discuss the idea of grants and how they can used with residents; perhaps a member of your village community might like the job of monitoring available grants.

Applications for grants might be for a major initiative, or small events such as:

  • Art classes and exhibitions in senior’s week
  • Visitor programs
  • Intergenerational activities with local schools
  • Community garden
  • Cultural performances
  • Events with guest speakers
  • Fitness / walking groups
  • Volunteer training
  • Village bus trips
  • Healthy eating promotion
  • Dances, Balls and Cabarets
  • Art, sport, activity equipment and supplies

Where to look for Grants?

  • Local Council
  • State Government
  • Festivals and community events.
  • Sporting codes
  • Service clubs

Some links to help get you started.

Grant Finder: helps you locate the grants and assistance programmes most relevant to you.

Grant Connect: Government grant opportunities and grants awarded.

Funding Centre: Resources and guides on how to apply for grants

Community Grants:lists Government grants for a range of grants offered by various departments

National Shed Development Programme: focus on improved social connections of shed members

Accessing grant funding can take some time but the effort will be worth it.