Here is something to put in the back of your mind. Our DCM group colleague Chris Baynes is giving a webinar presentation today for 200 IT executives in the aged care space about the reforms from the Royal Commission and the impact it will have on home care and residential care.
He is proposing that the number of home care providers will collapse over the next three years. Some commentators are saying that over 700 providers could be reduced to as few as 50.
The implications for village operators is that the remaining big suppliers will be far more powerful in negotiating to what level they will support village operators in marketing home care as a given support service in a village.
From the chart above, you can see that the 16 largest home care providers have 47% of the Home Care Packages while the 562 small home care providers have just 15% of the Packages.
The Royal Commission reforms require operators to have significantly stronger back office IT and workforce training and oversight. The smaller operators are unlikely to have the cash to make these investments.
At the same time, the home care workforce is likely to be attracted to the higher wages and culture that big operators will be able to offer with the efficiencies and easy technology they will be introducing.
Chris’ advice: keep an eye on your local home care providers and build relationships with the operators that you feel most comfortable with the quality of service but also are most likely to survive.
Our sister company DCM Research has just completed the DCM Prospect Profile survey of 2,207 people aged 60+, and we’ve had a sneak peak at the results.
What we’re seeing is a serious retirement village perception problem.
Look at the figure above.
Just 14% of respondents perceive retirement villages to be an affordable option, and over half (51%) think exactly the opposite.
On top of this, 42% of respondents think they’re small, with little storage space.
Not great conversation starters.
Digging a little deeper
DCM’s research partner, Australian Online Research (AOR), wanted to know why people felt this way, so they compared the perceptions of non-residents to people who had just moved in to a Village.
And the difference couldn’t be starker:
More often than not, many of the Potentials had been to a village many years ago and had a dim memory, or simply had a rough opinion that has over time become a firm opinion.
AOR found visiting one or more villages turned most people around.
The hard part is getting them to the village.
First impressions are so important
I’ve often said in the retirement living industry it’s the one-percenters that count.
Retirees are increasingly using digital platforms and your website may be one of the first points of interaction with potential residents.
So, it pays to look at your website with a fresh pair of eyes.
Rather than ticking off the list of all the information we as operators feel like we need on our websites, consider “how you build connection” as part of the impression.
Two easy solutions:
Invest in photography and video that highlight the personality of the village and the people. Ensure it has an element of authenticity, that represents what they will find. Do not try to be all things to all people.
Present the village homes as real homes, that people can see themselves living in. Show the village as an optimistic, vibrant place where real people enjoy living. Consider virtual tours with real residents and staff showcasing the style of living and how it caters for individual taste.
While these strategies are not particularly ground-breaking, they require investment and creativity.
But in my experience, the return on investment is great.
And in these uncertain times focusing on foundational activities such as these will be vital.
It’s open to all Australian retirement village operators and there is no cost to participate.
The Retirement Census profiles the physical characteristics of villages, ownership details, business attributes (e.g. tenure, financial structure, operating overheads), sales, resident profiles (e.g. demographics, length of stay), and future development.
We’d encourage all villages to participate, as the census is vital for:
Tracking the state of the sector
Comparison with international markets
Providing data and facts for operators
Operators who participate in the survey get a free 60+ page report to helps them benchmark their business and keep up with sector trends.
Our sister company DCM Research has been undertaking a project to understand the attitudes and motivations for people moving into retirement communities in 2020.
We asked potential residents about their main reason for moving into a retirement community and compared this to our results from 2018.
Take a look at this chart below:
Now look at our results from 2018.
37% of buyers would now choose a retirement village for a sense of community, compared to just 14% before the pandemic.
Participants of the Village Manager PD program have shared anecdotal evidence that supports this.
This is also true for existing residents.
Throughout the COVID crisis, the importance of community has escalated, with many residents that had previously not engaged in resident activity coming forward and being a part of the community.
Be it driveway bingo, plaza karaoke, balcony exercise or even quiz competitions, residents around the country have continued to express their appreciation for the community in which they live.
Community offers boundless mental and physical benefits.
Residents get a sense of belonging, an opportunity to try something new, be entertained, stay fit and health, have social connection, purpose and so much more.
As an industry, it is vital we acknowledge the importance of community, as we seek to educate the wider population and government of the significant role we play in providing happy, healthy communities for older Australians.
Over the past three months we have been working with operators and peak bodies to design the optimum market research program for these challenging times.
We have identified we must do deep research into who is today’s customer and what drives them in this COVID world. We need to capture the satisfaction of our residents and maximise our relationship with them, and market the strengths. And we need to ensure we are recognised as responsible corporate citizens.
The three research programs will deliver on these ideals.
Unique and accessible research program
Looking forward, sales will be challenging, and the knock on effect for every operator will be great.
Maintaining services for residents, settling departing resident obligations, retaining and supporting staff, securing the value of the physical community itself, will all be impacted.
New potential customers must be identified and engaged. Existing services must be reviewed and promoted. Regular business requirements must be executed.
As importantly, the sector must get on the front foot of community discussion on the benefits of retirement communities.
Each of these challenges and opportunities require sound data to take proactive actions.
We have designed the three research programs to deliver operators this data. As we have done in previous years, by building volume engagement, we have achieved an extraordinary pricing structure for all operators.
Collectively, I believe as a sector we need to use this unique opportunity that has been presented to us by the pandemic outcomes. People are spending more time thinking about their future, reading the paper, consuming digital media and researching life options.
It is the ideal time to promote what our sector offers and our individual communities.
Our sister group, DCM Research, has just got back the first exploratory stage of their survey of the general public aged 60+, and there are some real surprises.
They did this research in 2018 across 1,109 people and found just 2% felt lonely and isolated.
In the first few weeks of June this year, 2020, they found 27% felt lonely and isolated. That is a huge difference with COVID-19 the obvious trigger.
Across a range of two-hour interviews, the researchers learnt that people now recognise that if even their children live in another part of the same city, let alone in another city, they won’t always be able to come to their aid.
They also discovered the meaning of isolation – what happens with grocery shopping when they have to stay in their home and they’re not comfortable on the Internet.
Now think of your residents locked down and isolated, with you and your staff simply being there and available, giving reassurance. On top of that is the wide range of activities and support services village management give across the country.
Now isn’t a time when we should be shying away and slowing down our marketing activities. With the expectation that the market is slowing and enquiry is reducing, reduced spending in marketing is seen as the easiest way to save some budget.
With this new market of customers who are thinking about their long-term living situation, quite the opposite is needed.
Similarly, I do not think we should be resting on our laurels using the same old same old marketing messages: “great lifestyle, location and stone bench tops”. These are ‘givens’ today.
We need the language that the DCM Research is discovering. (You can learn more about the research projects HERE).
One really interesting point that they have discovered is the emotion of control and independence.
We all talk about living independently in a retirement village, generally meaning the resident can look after themselves, prepare their own meals and so on without support.
What the researchers are saying is slightly different; they are saying residents see joining a retirement village as taking control of their life and achieving independence. This is what they said:
A sense of control and staying independent into old age are key motivators
The decision to move from the family home is a highly emotional one, with many emotions present simultaneously – both positive and negative. However, underlying all potential reasons to make the move is the desire for control – control over one’s life, control over the decision-making process, and most importantly control over how long one can remain independent before needing external support or moving to a nursing home.
This is something we can celebrate in our sales discussions with potential residents and our marketing.
As a sector we provide unique and positive benefits and services to our residents. Let’s tell the world!
On a weekly basis, I am delighted to receive emails from participants in the Village Management Professional Development program about the many wonderful initiatives that are being undertaken to support retirement living residents in their villages.
Tracey Palser, the Village Manager at Catalina Village on the NSW North Coast, shared with me a simple but yet very much appreciated strategy she has put in place for the dual benefit of residents and local food suppliers.
On a Friday afternoon, the local seafood truck, a local Fruit & Veg truck and now a coffee van visit the village. This activity has created for the residents the opportunity to gather socially (social distanced of course), support local business and maintain their sense of community.
They have also run a Better Together campaign where residents are able to request or identify other residents in the community that may benefit from some help or just a kind thought.
It really showcases the benefits of living in small communities where neighbours still help neighbours.
See the picture – a resident had been away nine weeks having medical treatment and upon return, one of their amazingly talented residents created the beautiful Welcome Home card, taking it around to be signed by sanitised hands across the village and delivered to her door along with these cheery balloons.
This time in suburban Queensland, the team at Wesley Missions’ Wheller on the Park have been putting in place many activities to keep their community engaged.
Balcony exercises, pavement line dancing, a roaming poet, ladies’ choir sing-a-long, a musical duo – these all perform at various locations around the village. They also had a special appearance from Brisbane Jazz Club and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Watch the video here.
The effort and creativity that is being displayed around the country is absolutely heart-warming – there is certainly no shortage of ideas.
Much time is spent during the annual budget review period on the physical assets of the village – quantity surveyor reports, valuations, building inspections – are all actioned diligently in accordance with legislation or company policy.
However so often the very important PERSON ASSETS of the village – the people who make up your team – get overlooked.
This budget review phase is a great time to conduct Performance appraisals with Village team members.
You can be looking at any increase provisions, training or professional development actions, and that team entitlements are allocated effectively.
A common mistake when conducting performance appraisals is to make the review one-way, top down, which sees the leader as the judge, jury and decision maker of the employee’s behaviours and achievements.
It is really important to ensure that the process is two-way, and if you really want to look at effective reviews then consider using the 360-degree system. It allows for a peer and stakeholder review as well as self-review.
There are many online solutions to conduct this review – SurveyMonkey even has a template you can use.
Another common mistake when conducting performance appraisals is that there is no investigation of what might be causing an employee not to reach their performance targets.
In my experience, people don’t under-perform for no reason.
Sometimes it can be a case of a simple misunderstanding, a lack of upfront or ongoing training, boredom, lack of support or regular two-way dialogue. Sound familiar?
So often employees come away from performance appraisals going “so what?” “What a waste of time…” as there is no follow-up action put in place, no ‘What’s Next’! for the employee.
It is vital if we want to keep people engaged in our sector and communities that we formalise the support we are prepared to provide and invest in their future careers.
For me keeping it simple is important – a simple action plan outlining 2-3 actions for the next quarter/half year, (a special project, a learning activity, increased responsibility) with a commitment of a regular follow up and support meetings is imperative to keep our team engaged and energised.
Recently I had the good fortune to catch up with my good comrade Michael Jones, Chair, Resident’s Finance Committee.
I was keen to talk to him, as an accountant, about what does good financial management look like for residents? And thankfully Michael was obliging to share with me his thoughts from a resident’s perspective….
There was no surprise that the top of his list was regular and transparent consultation with residents DURING the budgeting review process, including them as part of the journey in the development of the new budget.
Don’t just preach the outcome and expect it to be accepted.
He suggested that the Village Manager can play a vital role in supporting the Finance Committee to identify those people in the village with relevant experience or past financial acumen that could benefit the Committee.
He also offered the following tips:
That operators and Village Managers, together, should undertake sound consideration for both the long and short term requirements of the village and share this review with the Finance Committee so as to provide long-term peace of mind about future financial provisions.
The operator should establish sound financial management systems – not just to meet compliance matters but to also work towards best practice finance processes and systems.
The operator as part of their financial management system should consider regular update meetings with their Finance Committee, this could be a short monthly meeting (catch up on recent changes, raise issues as they arise etc) and then a more comprehensive meeting quarterly to go through the financial statements together.
Providing transparent financial statements on a regular basis helps to build trust between residents and the operator and reduce the unproductive time that it can take to locate answers to questions the Village Manager is not aware of.
Finally, the operator, particularly those where decisions are mostly made remotely, must include the Village Manager in all decisions that may impact a resident’s finances or the assets of the village. It is also a great idea that from time to time the remote accounting support team are invited to attend a meeting with the Finance Committee to ensure that an open dialogue and mutual understanding is maintained.
Whilst these may seem logical tips and actions, the resident association representatives and regulators continue to share with me that the majority of concerns raised with them relate directly to inadequate financial transparency or poor financial management systems.
With time on your side, start the process early and consider reviewing your current process to include some of Michael’s suggestions.