Join us as we discover how to create an engaging, impactful resident experience on Care - the Resident Experience Podcast from Welbi. This month, host Terry Wang chats with Tanya Snow, Director at Bria Communities about the data-driven process she uses to ensure outstanding results and continuous improvement for her team.
Every month on Care, host Terry Wang chats with some of the best leaders in senior living to discover and share innovative new strategies and perspectives that will impact communities for years to come.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 00:00
You're listening to Care, the Resident Experience podcast from Welbi. Every month we chat with some of the best leaders in senior living to discover and share innovative strategies and perspectives that will impact communities for years to come. This week, we're chatting with Tanya Snow, director of Bria Communities. Tanya, how are you doing?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 00:18
I'm good. How are you?
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 00:21
Busy, but I'm doing pretty great.
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 00:24
I think we're all busy these days.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 00:26
Oh, that we are. The work never seems to stop. Before we get too far into the actual topic today, why don't you give a little background as to your role over Bria as well as how you came into that role?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 00:43
Right. Okay, so I've been with Bria Communities for about four years. I have worked with seniors for about the last 25 or 30 years in multiple different settings, from health authorities to not-for-profits for both private and publicly funded places. And this [position] was an opportunity for me to move from a single stand alone retirement community to oversee four different properties with Bria Communities. We have both independent living and licensed care settings, and we're situated in the lower mainland. We have two sites in Langley and two sites in Tsawwassen, and we serve over 500 seniors.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 01:26
That is awesome. I was actually over in Langley last week. I was pretty sure I passed by one of Bria's communities. I was like, oh, that's super interesting, I know who those people are. You've made quite a few changes since you've joined Bria, correct?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 01:42
Right. I said to someone recently, if I had known that my role would focus a lot on building a brand, I might have had second thoughts about what that would entail. But it's been a real journey trying to take four different communities and streamline their processes and operations so that we are far more efficient in what we are doing versus everyone making individual decisions about sites, which created a lot of duplication and a lot of missteps in some cases around what approach we are taking to resolve basic day-to-day issues.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 02:24
That makes sense. I find that really interesting when you talk about building a brand, because I don't think we talk about that too much in senior living, especially at the community level. What about building a brand is important to you and Bria?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 02:38
It's really about the experience of the family and the older adult who's making the choice. It’s so they understand that if they're coming to a Bria community, they're going to know that we have a solid philosophy around how we serve older adults and philosophy about the programs that we offer, and they know the consistency and follow up that they're going to get. So it's really about making sure that we're providing continuity throughout all the sites with the end result of delivering the highest quality of care and services that we offer.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 03:14
So when we talk about that brand experience at Bria, what different components play into it? I'm sure it's on one hand, it's the resident experience, on one hand, it's the buildings. But of all those pieces, what do you see as the most important? What do you see as kind of critical for determining this is who Bria is as a group of communities?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 03:33
Well, the end result is always about the person that we're serving being right in the center. So all the decisions that we're making all go back and ask the question around whether or not this is going to improve the quality of life of the person who's choosing to live with us. It's about the people that we choose to work with us. So we have what we call the Bria Way. And there's qualities and characteristics of employees that we put out there right up front before they're even hired to say, do you feel that you meet these values that we have, and do you feel like you would be a good team member based on these attributes about the Bria Way? And that sort of gives them an idea right up front about what our expectations are of them. And again, the end result is that you're here to serve and you're here to make sure that the person who you greet and meet and care for and serve every day is getting the best service possible that you can give in that moment.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 04:26
And it is a process, right? It definitely isn't easy to do that extra step of vetting with every employee you hire. It isn't easy to maintain that level of care across every single community. So what are the tangible benefits you've seen out of it compared to, say, a few years ago before the brand took a shape?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 04:47
Well, we certainly are saving time in ensuring that we have lower turnover of employees. Sometimes taking that extra little step or that extra 15-minute conversation with people will weed out, for lack of a better term, those people who aren't on the same page as us in terms of what we want to have as the outcome for the person. So if you're someone who is in tune to the needs of the people that you're seeing and learning and growing with every day and getting to know and building a relationship with them, and you start to anticipate their needs versus respond to their needs, those are the kind of people that we're looking for. Those are the kind of people that in the long run of 15 or 20 minutes extra time is going to result in a much more cohesive team and better teamwork, better outcomes and quality of life for the person who's receiving them.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 05:39
That's massive. That's massive. And I find it's easier said than done, obviously, right? I think we all have these grand hiring ideas that we're going to hire the best people. But a lot of the time, it falls on hiring managers who, frankly, don't have a lot of options and don't have a lot of expertise in terms of figuring out these things. What's your strategy when you're hiring people?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 06:00
Looking for attitudes, the best attitude. There's a lot of things that we can teach people on site. Oftentimes someone doesn't have a background in a certain department or area, but we really want to make sure that the person's attitude is what fits first. And we support ongoing education and learning, and we provide grants for people who might want to go further in their career and do something different or learn more about a different type of job. It comes down to making sure that someone really wants to be in the setting, understands the setting and really understands what our outcomes ought to be. And that's really, again, around improving the quality of life for someone who chooses to live with us and be with us and, you know, have their golden years, so to speak, be as golden as possible.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 06:50
Agreed. And post hiring, I think the other challenge in terms of finding really great staff and having a really great team and ensuring a really great experience is the measuring piece, which I know we've talked about in the past, and that's something that you don't see out of a lot of communities, unfortunately. Why do you measure things? I know this might sound like a stupid question, but why do you measure the effect of resident experience or resident engagement? Why bother?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 07:18
Because you're never going to improve if you don't measure things, and you're never going to be able to know what areas you might be falling down on and what areas that you need to celebrate. And when I said “you can't manage what you don't measure,” it was Peter Drucker who said that. It's really about putting qualitative and quantitative measures to what we do every day. Even just a small thing like asking residents or clients about their privacy and how comfortable they feel with the staff who might come in their suite to clean their room, are they comfortable with that, and are we approaching that in the right way? Are we taking into consideration the preferences that they like around meal time, or are we having a really good understanding of who they were in their middle ages, and are we understanding their passions around things that they love to do and they want to continue to do, and how do we support that?
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 08:20
Agreed. I think if you want to be a leading group or leading community nowadays, you really do have to measure those things and you have to iterate on them, right? You can't be the old school type where you set your standards and forget about them, or say we just have to hit this and then we're done, right?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 08:36
Yeah. No, you have to be able to be open to hearing the constructive criticism that people provide for you. One of the most important feedback I ever get from residents is after we do a satisfaction survey. As an example, I always say this is confidential, but if you'd like me to contact you personally and follow up on your concerns, leave your name and number. And people are always saying, like virtually 95% of the time or more, ‘I can't believe you called me back, and I really appreciate it.’ And it just shows the commitment that we have for making sure that when we ask for feedback, that the residents and families know that we hear them and that we want to keep those doors open for constructive feedback anytime throughout the year versus just at survey time.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 09:25
Did you guys always have this feedback or was this something that you implemented at Bria?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 09:30
Before I got there, there were satisfaction surveys that were done on a regular basis, but there wasn't that next step where we now produce documentation and collateral or posters that say, we've heard you, this is what you've identified as areas where we can improve. This is what you've identified as areas that we’re successful at. And we are going to commit to these five or ten goals for this year. And we'll get back to you. We'll get back to you next year when we ask you again and we'll celebrate what we achieved and where we improved your quality of life.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 10:06
Well, that's a huge improvement. Right. Actually bringing that to the residents and bringing that to families so that they understand that you do hear them. I think that's one of the things that everybody is skeptical about, right? Like, we've all seen the leave a feedback survey at the bottom of a receipt. But you're like, nobody's ever going to read this thing. Like this is just going into an Excel sheet somewhere, living in there for ten years, and somebody is going to dump it eventually.
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 10:29
Right, right. And I think we also do that when we have our all resident meetings. One of the things that we make sure happens is that the first part of the meeting is following up from the previous meeting to say this is what we committed to doing in this past month or two. And just as a reminder, you asked for this, and we are able to do it or we weren't or we're delayed on that. And then we go into what's happening now and what are the comments and kudos and concerns that you might have to bring to us this month. So it's a continual feedback loop. It's a continual look at what's happening and how we can continually improve. Sometimes we don't hit that mark, and sometimes we have to take a step back and look at why we didn't do that the way that was expected, and adjust and adapt and try something again.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 11:17
I think that's also one of the challenges of actually following through and talking to residents, right? It becomes much more difficult to deal with a goal you didn't hit when you've told that goal to everybody and now you have to own up to it. So what are your strategies for yourself and also for your team about dealing with goals that you didn't hit? Because obviously you're not going to hit every goal every time, right?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 11:39
Yeah, it's easy to make excuses. I mean, COVID has been really challenging for all of us for the last couple of years, and I'm kind of sick and tired of saying that that's a reason for an excuse, but it's really being frank about things. Sometimes it is financially related and sometimes we don't want to make a decision that's going to impact the resident because it means raising rents and things like that. So, yeah, it's really being honest and saying we didn't hit the mark, this is the reason why, and not putting any blame on anyone. It’s really about trying to have a good understanding of why that happened and whether or not we would be able to achieve it in a future year, or if it's just something that because time has passed is no longer a priority goal, or that we might need to look at things and reframe them a little bit differently.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 12:35
I think that's really interesting how you reprioritize these goals. A lot of organizations, I think, either set goals and they're just there perpetually and there's no timeline for them, or they're constantly changing them. It's like today we're going to do this and tomorrow I'm going to promise that and next week is something different. So how often are you reprioritizing goals and are you planning on changing that?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 13:00
We set operational goals over about a two year period for major projects. It comes from a project management perspective of identifying priorities and then working through the projects and timelines. Even something as simple as, well, not simple, but something like implementing a software module or something like that might seem as easy as turning a switch on, but there's a whole bunch of planning that goes around that. And it has to be systematic. It has to be done in a measurable way. It has to be able to have some wiggle room for timelines for people who may need more support or continued support or ongoing support. So we kind of see across our sites as being like a train. One site might be at the front of the train and some others might be at the caboose. Those positions might change based on the project or based on where people are at. We have to focus those energies to make sure that we're all staying together on the train and we're going to meet this goal. I think when goals change, oftentimes it's if you are having delays or you have a project that just is taking longer than you have, you really want to make sure you're closing it out and making sure that everyone's feeling good, getting a break, then working on the next thing. Some things are simultaneous depending on the teams that you're working with.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 14:17
I really like that. I'm actually going to apply that to my own goal setting because it's management that I think can be used anywhere, right? Regardless of whether you're managing communities, if you're managing a software company, if you're managing professional services, I think it's something you can take into account. The other thing I found really interesting was that you mentioned how different communities at Bria have different speeds of adoption for different goals. That's obviously something that's very different than if you were just managing one community. So being somebody who went from managing one to managing four, what has that process been like and what are the challenges that you felt?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 14:55
I think for me, I needed to really come to a realization that it wasn't my timeline anymore. It was really a goal that was set together and a goal where timelines were going to take into consideration where everyone was at. And so for me personally, it was just taking a breath and realizing that, yes, I want this to move forward, but the goals for success are going to come from the people who know their teams the best, who know what stage that they are at in their learning, and their ability to change and adapt. For some people that's very easy for them. And for others change is very difficult, and it just takes a little more time. And I have to just try and keep people on track and make sure that when their goals are being set that they are agreeing to it, that they are the ones that are saying, yes, we feel like this is going to be achievable in this timeline. Then I'll step in and help them through that if they feel like they're maybe not meeting their time targets.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 15:54
That makes sense. On one hand, it feels like you control a lot more when you're working with four communities versus one. But at the same time, you can't do the things yourself anymore. And you can't talk to each attendant by themselves anymore, right?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 16:06
Well, I try to, yeah, for sure. I think there's probably over 250 employees. I think one of the most important things is making sure that I actually know how to do every single job. I may not want to get in the kitchen and cook, but at least I know how the kitchen operates, and I know how the care centers operate. One of the things I do insist on is making sure that everyone has their name tag big and bright so that we can all see it, because if I can't recall your name, then someone who might have a moderate or mild dementia is never going to remember your name. And that personal touch is really important. So getting right down to the front line is really important for me. I'm on sites virtually every day, talking to the staff, seeing how their day is going, what their pinch points are. One of the best things I always ask is if you were a general manager, what would you do differently? And that's a really important question to give us really good feedback.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 17:04
I really like that because I've always felt management is like that. You're not really telling people what to do. You're supporting them in their jobs so that they can do it as well as they can, right?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 17:14
That's right. My job is to provide the support and the tools to make sure they're successful.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 17:20
And when we specifically, again, talk about the recreation department, kind of circling around back after a nice little chat about management, where do you see that going? Because I know Bria has both long term care. Is it long term care or just assisted?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 17:36
It's long term care and independent. We actually don't have any assisted living at this point.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 17:41
Okay. That makes sense. So that's two opposite ends of the spectrum there.
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 17:44
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 17:45
You can see both sides. Do you see a difference in where recreation plays, in long term care versus retirement?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 17:52
I mean, obviously, their goal is to connect and provide programs around wellness that will enhance that individual's personal wellbeing, like individualized personal trainers, almost wellness trainers. And the needs in the care center are very, very different from the requests from independent living. That's often because in the care centers, you are working with people who may not be able to verbally express themselves. And so you're working with families on their history, what they loved to do growing up, what their hobbies were, and how they socialized. Did they not socialize? Were they loners? All of those are the more deeply intimate conversations that we need to have around who this person is. We involve them as much as they are capable of being involved and then observe their reaction to exposure to different things. Seeing someone be able to sit down at a piano and start playing and we didn't even know that they ever played the piano before is incredible to see. We're seeing someone who looks at paintings that they're doing and has a great understanding that this is something that they created, and we see them smile. These are our small little rewards versus when you're working on the independent side, you're still trying to understand who this person is, but they're telling you the story and they're telling you what their needs are and what their goals are for active aging. It's a completely different interview that you might have, but it's critical to make sure that their personal wellness needs are being met.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 19:28
That's a really interesting breakdown of it. I don't think I've ever actually heard somebody break it down quite as well between the different needs. And not to downplay the difficulty of recreation in independent living, but it certainly does sound like in long term care, it is a completely different level in terms of working with people who might not be able to communicate in a super effective way and having to work with their families, having to work with observations sometimes. What are some strategies that you talk with the rec team about in terms of providing better and understanding the residents better?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 20:03
Well, I think it's really making sure that they're comfortable with some of those more intimate questions. Interviewing someone successfully sometimes takes corners and turns and roundabout ways to get back to where you need to find your answer. And so interviewing tools are often things that recreation staff may not really have a lot of experience with, and they may not feel comfortable asking personal questions. And so there's a skill that needs to be developed in a comfort level and that's taught through mentoring and supporting people and making sure that staff have the opportunity to ask for support and help if they're finding it challenging to better understand someone or try to meet their needs. Because sometimes we don't get any information at all from someone, even those who live in independent living. They just have no interest in being interviewed, no interest in sharing their life. And so you have to create these touch points on an ongoing basis of small little moments that you create that you then have to build your own knowledge about this person. Sometimes in the care center, there is no family, there is no one who may fully understand what this person's needs are. And that takes a whole other style of interviewing, for lack of a better term.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 21:19
For sure. And that's why at the end of the day, you have two very different teams and you hire for very different skill sets, right? That's all part of building out that Bria brand and bringing it all back in terms of ensuring that high level of experience for every resident, regardless of where they are. Not every community is there, right? Outside of Bria, I think a lot of communities are pretty far off from that vision, both in terms of what we talked about on the managing and measuring side, but also on this understanding side. So if you were to give advice to somebody in your position just starting out, what would that look like? What would be a good first step for them?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 21:57
For someone in my position?
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 22:00
Your position and for someone in rec, I guess.
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 22:05
Listen, listen, listen! Be adaptable, be creative, be okay developing personal relationships that are professional and really trying to just be adaptable to a situation. It comes down to listening to who is speaking to you in front of you in that moment, and it's going to be a different conversation every single day.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 22:26
That's a really poignant point to end it off on. I think that's the right way to end off. I think that was really powerful right there. You have a habit of creating these really powerful statements. They just work for you.
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 22:39
I do? Well, thanks. You know what? I just am who I am and I have a passion for what I do and I chose many years ago to work in senior living and I can't imagine myself doing anything different and I love what I do.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 22:58
100%. And if somebody was interested in learning more about Bria communities whether that's for their family, for themselves, whether they're interested in maybe a future career with Bria where should they go? Who should they talk to?
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 23:13
They can talk to me anytime. You can go to www.briacommunities.ca. Our profiles are on there. Our way to connect is there. We have a 1-800 number, we have a Hello Bria email that you can send us. We've got multiple different social media platforms, we have wonderful Instagram pages on our Bria cuisine which shows all of the fabulous food we eat, Instagram pages of just Bria communities which are all the wonderful amazing faces of the seniors we serve and how happy they are. It's just a joyful page to go visit so you can find us.
Terrence Wang (Welbi) 23:50
I'll definitely go check that out myself and I'll try to link as many of those items as I can either in the description for this or wherever you're seeing this, whether it's social or email, I'll try to link it. Again, thank you so much for joining me today, Tanya. It is an absolute pleasure talking with you.
Tanya Snow (Bria Communities) 24:07
My pleasure as well.
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