How Internal Marketing Can Help Pandemic-Proof Senior Living Communities

Recruitment Marketing|Senior Living|Thought Leadership|

Last week Barb shared paradigm-shifting insights for branding the senior living space. This week, our series takes a deep dive into the importance of internal marketing for senior living communities, as outlined by the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA).  

The ICAA is on a mission to change society’s perceptions of aging and advocating a change of lifestyle for older adults based on seven dimensions of wellness: emotional, vocational, physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, and environmental. In response to the unique challenges that senior communities are facing due to the 2020 coronavirus outbreak, ICAA created the COVID-19 Senior Living Task Force. In August, the group released their recommendations on “strategies and tactics to […]  seize the opportunity to reinvent culture and services.” One major angle was to refocus the conversation of wellness — and it starts with staff.

Here are our top tips on using internal marketing to better prepare senior living communities for times of crisis:

1) Host a Culture Academy

COVID brought a surge of new hires in communities across the country — and with it, truncated onboarding. Now that new routines are established, it’s time to revisit your brand fundamentals. Take a look at how staff/resident (and staff/staff) interaction has changed due to social-distancing. Has it affected feelings of being close to one another? Have limitations on daily activities shifted your community away from a “Say Yes” mindset? Has stress management and risk fatigue eroded the “Attitude of Gratitude” for your teams? 

Ask them.

Pivoting from a needs-based model of care to one that recognizes and supports the whole person will depend on shifting the mindset of your entire community. An article from Harvard Business Review archive notes, “Turning points are […] ideal opportunities for an internal campaign; managers can direct people’s energy in a positive direction by clearly and vividly articulating what makes the company special.”

This exercise is essential for new and seasoned employees. Make time to sit down in groups and discuss. Create digital brand assets for your staff and workshop the changes. An animated video of your core values, your vision statement incorporated into a well-designed phone or computer background, and an overhaul on the language of your services and amenities content are easy ways to make sure everyone is on the same page for the future. You can also develop a “morning mantra” group chant to build camaraderie at the start of each shift. However you engage employees, encourage them to describe how they define wellness, purpose, independence, and meaningful work.

2) Integrate Wellness into the Workday

Ensuring your staff knows the values of your organization is critical to changing the conversation around wellbeing. Workers in the senior living industry have an innate desire to put others first. That trait is mandatory for high-touch, intimate relationships but also puts them at risk of neglecting their own health needs. Mental and physical wellness are cornerstones of active aging and the ICAA recommends that properties prioritize “health promotion and wellness education for staff, including caregivers, that focuses on real needs, such as health, finances, and stress management.” 

The last thing your senior living staff needs is one more thing on their to-do list. Rather than extending stand-up meetings or sending them home with a pamphlet, consider how you can integrate wellness into their days. By treating them to small, repeatable activities, it’s easy for your caregivers to identify the habits that work best for their needs. Some ideas include:

  • 10-minute chair massages scheduled during coffee breaks
  • 20-minute lunch and learn sessions on lifestyle subjects like art, journaling, gardening and social media basics
  • 15-minute private conversations with financial advisors and mental health counselors

It’s important to note that these activities aren’t one-off solutions. These on-property activations are the payoff to a larger communication plan that builds loyalty and industry recognition. Need a jumpstart? Remind your staff that the work they do makes a difference in the lives of their residents.

3) Identify Future Leaders

The best way to prepare your teams for the future is by encouraging them to help define the “new normal”. Understanding what contributes to burnout and taking a proactive role in redefining your community’s culture are important — but you need advocates along the way. The ICAA suggests defining criteria for “top-talent” employees with leadership potential. By supporting and promoting from within, you’re welcoming new perspectives that are rooted in a common culture which promotes independence and active aging in a positive light. 

Developing staff members to be leaders doesn’t start with backfilling senior roles; it starts with recruiting and hiring. Aspirational staffing will ensure your teams have the ability to grow into the culture of wellness and self-sufficiency that Baby Boomers demand from the senior living communities of the future. Need help getting started? Schedule a video call with Vince to discuss the best recruitment marketing strategies for your brand or check out our archive of senior living posts.

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