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From good intentions to effective communication - with TheWorxHub - Part 1

Posted by Ronald Carlson | Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Part 1 - Residents and families, authorities having jurisdiction

I'm Director of Facilities for Jones-Harrison, a senior living facility in Minneapolis providing both assisted living and long-term care. While I manage a team of seven maintenance staff, I'm not the kind of manager who lives in an ivory tower. A few days a week I'm dressed in uniform, jumping in and helping out with maintenance troubleshooting. Everything I ask my staff to do I've done myself. I know the technical side of the work inside out.

Executive talking with resident image

But over the years I've learned that to be successful in my job, what I really need to be is an effective communicator. I've learned that even when I'm not consciously thinking about communicating, I am in fact always communicating. Others - residents and their families, external authorities, other departments, senior management - are constantly forming perceptions and drawing their own conclusions about what I and my team are doing.

What they think may, from time to time, be a long way from what I know to be the facts of the case - but perception is reality. It's up to me to be actively shaping that perception by staying regularly in touch with everyone who has an interest in our work, and putting the facts in front of them in ways that are meaningful to them.

Recently, I had a chance to share with a group of other senior living operations leaders how TheWorxHub software is helping me do this efficiently - on top of all the other demands competing for my time. In this article, I'll hit the highlights of how it's improved my ability to communicate with residents, families and external authorities - and to document our performance. In part 2, I'll look at effective communication practices within my team and with other departments.

Strengthening relationships with residents and families

TheWorxHub doesn't replace all the traditional ways we communicate with residents and residents communicate with us: one-on-one conversations, phone calls and voice mails, emails or letters, notes on the door, messages sent via family members or other staff members. The old ways still have a role to play.

But they're not very time-efficient, and they don't keep everything documented in one place. It's really easy for requests to get lost or misunderstandings to arise. My staff do so much work in a day, if family members call with a question about what we did two weeks ago for their mother it's pretty unreasonable to expect whoever answers the phone to remember the exact details.

With TheWorxHub, residents no longer have the anxiety of trying to remember how to get things fixed. They can go to anyone with their problem. We've trained all staff members that as soon as they get a maintenance-related request from a resident or family member, they enter it the system themselves or ask the front desk to do it. They don't have to find maintenance techs and remember to tell them. The request automatically gets funneled to the manager responsible for prioritizing it against all the other work in the queue and assigning it to the appropriate technician.

When the resident or family member calls with a question about the work, whoever they reach can pull up the full history - when the request came in, what was done, and the reason behind any delays (like a need to order parts). It's much more efficient for us than having to say, "Let me investigate and get back to you." And it builds their confidence that we care about good service and have things under control.

Another way we demonstrate we care about serving residents is by using TheWorxHub to do regular quality surveys on the things we've learned matter to them. Did the technician knock before entering? Did he or she solve the problem? Was the service professional? Do you want a call-back from the maintenance director to discuss the service?

An important feature for my team is the resident profiles in TheWorxHub - which can include photos. These make it much easier to pay each resident the respect of addressing him or her by name. We always remember that many of our residents may be feeling a sense of loss - loss of a long-loved home, loss of some freedom. We want to do everything we can to make them feel they've gained a home here where they are valued.

Demonstrating competence to authorities having jurisdiction

It takes an investment of up-front time and thought to set up TheWorxHub to automatically remind you of all the compliance tasks that must be done regularly. But it's worth it for the time it saves you as a manager in the long run, and in the message it conveys when authorities come to audit.

You can, for example, set up one scheduled work order for the requirement of testing all fire-damper operations every three years. You attach lists (that will print with the work order) of every damper to be checked and the specific steps involved in a thorough, accurate test. That's it. The work order will be automatically generated at the appropriate intervals and you know the work will be done.

When the fire marshal calls, you have at hand the record of what has been completed and when, with all details recorded should they be needed. You don't have to scramble around or call in your team to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. By demonstrating how organized you are, you're shaping the authorities' perception: "These people value my time. They're competent. They have things under control." Your message is effectively communicated.

Part 2: TheWorxHub for effective inter- and intra-departmental communication