It goes without saying, the last couple of years have been very challenging for the aged care sector. A pandemic, mixed with chronic underfunding, serious workforce shortages, increased compliance obligations and a broader media agenda of negativity, have all had a significant impact.
So, what does the future hold? Well, more of the same unfortunately.
While it is easy to say it is all too hard, the reality is that the demand for aged care services is still there, still growing as we age and despite political indifference, the proper care of our elderly is fundamental to Australia’s future.
From our experience in the sector (which spans some 22 years), it’s all about taking control of our own destiny and making sure that organisations are well positioned to maximise their future.
This is not just about positioning to effectively overcome the challenges and obstacles, but also to capitalise on all the opportunities.
An important first step in realising these ambitions, is to establish a highly competent, high performing leadership team encompassing the Board and the executive leadership.
High performing organisations start with competent and highly skilled Boards whose skill mix and passion are aligned to not only the business and the sector more generally, but also whose members recognise that their personal reputation is directly linked to the success or otherwise of the organisations they lead.
High performing Boards who meet the criteria outlined above are also committed to ensuring that the right organisational structure is in place, that executive teams are made up of the right people, and that there is diligent oversight of the organisation’s performance to make sure that there is a culture based on sound values.
Further, they are committed to innovation. If aged care organisations continue as they have operated in the past, they will remain insular, ineffective and slow to adapt to change. These organisations are destined to fail, as the world has moved on from those earlier paradigms.
The Board’s role is to ensure that a competent executive team is in place and then oversee the development and implementation of the future strategy. The Board must also ensure that they have access to sufficient data and information to allow them to make rational, informed decisions to support the executive, aligned with the strategic direction. They must also ensure that there are appropriate measures in place to determine progress towards the achievement of this direction.
Developing a timeline for Board and executive renewal is a key strategy in ensuring organisational alignment to the future strategy. High performing Boards ensure that they have in place succession plans for Directors and executive teams and make sure that these plans are regularly modified to adapt to changing needs in skills, competencies and personal attributes, to enable the prosecution of the strategy.
Through balancing individual competencies, thinking styles and interpersonal skills, Boards can be far more effective, however it is also important to recognise diversity and inclusiveness at Board level, as this will encourage these attributes to flow throughout the organisation.
While all these factors seem obvious, from our experience the many organisations that are now faltering are in this position now because they have not acted on these fundamentals in the past.
What is needed is therefore a starting point and it is up to the Board to recognise that it needs to act and engage specialists to help them map the journey to success.
Chris Westacott is Managing Director, Realise Performance. For more information visit www.realiseperformance.com.au