Before the coronavirus pandemic shifts the focus to the safety of residents, the Seattle-based owner and operator’s essential work to enter the mid-market is underway. However Tana Gall, president of Merrill Gardens said in the latest issue of the Senior Housing News (TALKS) series that their entry into the middle market is in the making and is to be piloted in a small number of communities by the end of this year.
The summer turmoil and racial equality protests across the country prompted Gall to reassess Merrill Garden’s work of guiding people of color to pursue a senior career and promote him to a leadership position.
“I want to guide people. I like this business. We need to get to know our outstanding colored employees better and say:’This is a great industry for you. She said: “We will help you get where you want to go. ”
Mid-market plans to move forward
Returning to Merrill Gardens during the Blue Harbor Senior Living acquisition, Gall set out to study a scalable mid-market model and made significant progress. However, it slowed down due to the epidemic.
By January, Merrill Lynch had set up a focus group and gathered many people. The insights and suggestions of these people will prove beneficial to the company’s pursuit. Operators are about to choose a brand for their mid-market products and operating model.
Even if Merrill Gardens’ top priority is to respond to this virus, progress continues, and the company may be ready to try out the concept in a few communities within a few months.
Gall said: “By the end of this year, we should start this work in some of our communities.”
It is believed by Gall that Merrill Gardens’ mid-market brand will not only meet the growing needs of the fast-growing baby boomers but will also become a simplified product. Her envisioned mid-market brand will have a higher service component and fewer amenities than the company’s market price part. That should attract baby boomers whose retirement pensions have been hit by the pandemic, as well as future residents of high-end housing that cannot afford market prices.
“Many people will think about their retirement plans in a more practical way. That is what I see in this mid-market model: more practical. She said: “It is a good thing to have a place in the market. ”
Versatile employees (or “general workers”) will play a role in Merrill Lynch’s mid-market model. Gall said that operators are looking for workers who can receive training in various abilities. She thinks this is a way to control personnel costs, and it also lays the foundation for employees to move toward a senior life career path.
The former Blue Harbor community will account for a large portion of mid-market brands. The average age of the portfolio is 26, but Gall believes that factories and buildings are suitable for future needs. There will be some renovations, especially the upgrading of the WiFi system to meet the needs of residents better, and because the care platform of Merrill Gardens runs through these systems.
Merrill Lynch also studied hotel groups and contacted some operators to obtain best practices for operating multiple brands, and found that elements such as accounting and management can get carried out in a centralized location. That is the goal the company has established.
“Some large hotel chains tell us that the same operator will supervise multiple chains within the organization. I think we are already doing this now,” Gall said.
Recommit to diversity
Following the nationwide “Black Lives Matter” protests, Merrill Gardens is taking steps to improve the diversity among its executives. In a community, the staffing ratio between whites and people of color gets distributed evenly among departments.
However, leadership is an exception.
“We have ten people in leadership positions, and none of them is people of color. It’s a big punch to see it,” Gall said.
She has assembled a diverse team of trustworthy consultants who will help identify areas for operators to improve in their future work. She also relied on her experience in the industry and, at the same time, realized her blind spots and strengthened her determination to become a diversity advocate.
Gall recounted three years ago at an industry meeting with a black nurse. When she noticed at the meeting how all white men and women work hard to succeed in the industry, the nurse told her: “You should try to be a black woman.”
For Gall, this is a reality check.
She said: “It made me feel bad that day, ‘Wow, I don’t understand this fact a little bit.’ From that day on, I have taken it to heart.”
Gall believes that the leadership of Merrill Gardens can train and identify people of color to pursue the career paths of senior managers. Early discussions and suggestions from the diverse team will lay the foundation.
She said: “We can be the ones who bring them into our ranks, ‘This is a great industry for you, and we will help you get where you want to go.” “We already have a good guide Plan. I hope it is more specific to what we are looking for.”
Lessons learned from the Covid-19 response of China
The experience of Merrill Gardens stated by Gall of China to quickly inform of the pandemic rapid response within the United States. The company is one of the few US operators with a community in China, and the country’s adult population in 2222.is expected to grow to 300 million by 2033.
When the virus forced the Chinese authorities to close the country, they meant it literally.
“This means that our employees cannot leave the building; they must be in the community,” she said.
The main benefit of this approach is that if the community is closed without Covid-19, it will remain in this state until the building gets deemed safe to reopen.
Although Merrill Lynch could not completely shut down its community, when Kyle Reiter, vice president of operations, held a meeting on February 29, the Chinese reaction was still in the company’s mind. That reminded executives Merrill Lynch has a community in Kirkland, Washington, located 10 minutes away from the Life Care Center Nursing Home, which was the center of the first notable outbreak of Covid-19 in the United States.
The silver lining of the increase in the number of employees who test positive for the virus is that most of the cases are asymptomatic and that employees are following the isolation guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until they are allowed to return to work. Most notably, employee infections have not gotten merged into severe residential outbreaks.
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