Strategies for Improved Staff Communications

Leandra Negrete

Leandra Negrete, Vice President of Operations at Kisco Senior Living

Strong staff communication is essential to a senior living community’s success, but ensuring that communication is timely and effective can be challenging. The pandemic created additional communication obstacles, especially when situations were rapidly changing and timely updates were necessary.

Leandra Negrete, vice president of operations at Kisco Senior Living, shares how the organization invested in communication before the pandemic and found new communication solutions during the pandemic.

Cross-Community Communication

Kisco Senior Living is based in Carlsbad, California, but the operation owns 20 senior living communities throughout six states. That complexity added a challenge to reaching all staff at all locations across all shifts. Negrete shares that Kisco works to communicate with employees in a number of ways.

Kisco management teams host a “Daily Line Up” meeting every morning. All associates attend the meeting, where they learn important information about the day, residents, events, and more. “This is a meeting where everyone has a voice, can ask questions, and can make requests. We end it by reciting our principles, values, and beliefs as a reminder of what matters most in our culture,” explains Negrete. All Kisco communities host these meetings seven days per week. The home office also hosts a weekly meeting, virtually connecting more than 65 remote- and home-based corporate staff.

The home office also hosts monthly virtual meetings with service groups, like the dining, care, and wellness groups. These meetings allow peer groups to share best practices, provide training, and stay connected with other managers companywide.

The pandemic prompted increased communication and some alterations to the existing communication practices. The Daily Line Up continued, but was held in larger rooms to allow for increased spacing between staff. “But, we didn’t pause this important outlet to infuse culture and critical updates to start each day,” says Negrete.

“We moved monthly department support calls to a weekly cadence to help managers feel connected and supported with ever-changing COVID protocols, and to share rapidly developing best practices to serve our residents in new ways,” she notes. “To ensure we reached all associates regularly, we sent weekly messages through our Human Resource Information System (HRIS), which enabled us to reach all associates companywide via their mobile app.

“This proved to be one of the more important vehicles for communication, as it was a quick and comprehensive way to keep our staff informed, and updated, and to share much-needed words of praise and encouragement throughout the pandemic.”

Kisco adheres to the mantra, “7 different ways, 7 different times,” an important reminder of the need for repetition and multiple sources to ensure effective communication. The effectiveness of that approach was reflected in a recent associate survey; Kisco received higher scores on its companywide communication and overall support related to the pandemic than ever received previously.

Trust Through Transparency – and Technology

Technology – primarily Kisco’s existing HRIS system, Dayforce – allowed for faster and easier communication during the pandemic. “We leveraged this tool more than ever as the best way to reach every single person in the organization,” Negrete explains.

“We were able to send messages and videos from our CEO and other communities, in addition to COVID status and protocol updates. We have always built trust through transparency, and our associates felt safe and informed throughout the pandemic because we maintained a constant feed of communication through email, video conference calls, and HRIS mobile app messages.”

Communication Trainings

In addition to quality communication practices and technology, Kisco also offers trainings to help its associates communicate more effectively. “Communication norms and trainings are tailored based on a subject from recruitment to consultative sales to crisis management and effective performance conversations,” says Negrete. While communication skills are important, Negrete notes that Kisco focuses on sustaining its culture through its principles, values, and beliefs. Many of those elements focus on how communication takes place, with an emphasis on open communication, being professional, honesty, and more.

How Great Communication Fundamentals Play a Role in the Pandemic

Having effective communication practices in place made it easier for Kisco to transition to the increased communication demands of the pandemic. “We certainly responded differently than other senior living providers during the pandemic,” notes Negrete.

“If we had a COVID case, our staff and residents would be informed within a couple of hours from receiving the positive test result. Executive directors would write letters to share with our families, and we would even post the letter to our website and social media outlets. We didn’t delay bad news. We felt an obligation to keep our community informed of COVID status updates, what was being done, and protocol recommendations.

“While we may have leveraged technology more, from using video conferencing to conducting virtual tours to sending mobile messages, I feel that our communication over the last year solidified what we’ve always valued and feel our residents, associates, and families deserve – honest, timely, and open communication.”

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