Maintenance Staff Become More Crucial for Senior Living Success

The senior housing resident is changing—and the way communities operate will have to follow suit. For instance, it might be time to rethink the relationship between a senior housing community’s upper management and its maintenance staff.

Traditionally, the primary job of a senior housing community’s facilities department has been to respond to orders; when upper management requests that the maintenance team fixes the broiler, renovates an apartment or unclogs a sink, the maintenance staff does so.

However, to best prepare for a property’s continued success, the maintenance team should develop and nurture a strategic partnership with upper management, including executive directors, according to a white paper from software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions provider Dude Solutions, which includes a survey of senior housing professionals.

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This strategy is already being employed by some senior housing maintenance departments, including at Southminster, a nonprofit North Carolina continuing care retirement community (CCRC). The approach is helping the provider better prepare for the future, both financially and in terms of residents’ heightened expectations.

A communication disconnect

Senior housing facilities departments may have more reasons than ever to communicate regularly with upper management, the white paper points out. After all, properties are taking on more capital projects and the expectations of current and future residents are steadily rising—and it’s up to everyone working at a senior housing community to keep that community relevant.

As a result, maintenance directors should be having regular meetings with executive directors to discuss their community’s current and future goals, and how the maintenance team can help achieve them.

Right now, though, this practice isn’t very widespread.

Just 50% of operations professionals are having weekly or monthly discussions about key performance indicators (KPIs) for their maintenance departments, like staff productivity, response times and resident satisfaction, according to a poll conducted by Dude Solutions during a May webinar.

Seat at the table

For maintenance teams, strategizing with executive directors can benefit their workplace in the long-term. James Dixson, the director of environmental services at Southminster, knows this firsthand.

Dixson, who has held the position for roughly five years, has weekly sit-down meetings with Southminster’s executive director.

“Sometimes we’re addressing a maintenance plan, sometimes we’re discussing what we’re going to be doing with capital dollars,” he tells Senior Housing News. “We’re also doing an expansion on our campus, so we talk about campus planning.”

As the head of Southminster’s maintenance team, housekeeping department, grounds crew, and various other facets of the business, Dixson has “always had a seat at the table,” he explains. In fact, he can’t imagine not being in regular communication with Southminster’s executive director.

“For the organization to be successful, things have to work, rooms have to be clean,” Dixson says. “So I think the environmental service department needs to work in concert [with upper management].”

All of the preventative maintenance done by Dixson and his team helps guarantee that Southminster will remain operational well into the future—and Dixson’s weekly conversations with Southminster’s executive director help determine what tasks get done and when.

In fact, the strategic partnership has enabled Southminster’s maintenance team to feel organized and on top of its responsibilities.

“We’re now at a place where we’re planning our work instead of our work planning us,” Dixson says.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

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