If the Royal Commission into Financial Services is anything to go by, Australian aged care providers are about to be put through the wringer. The terms of reference of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety are broad-ranging, and promise to look at issues ranging from quality of care to delivery, accessibility and – importantly – customer-centricity.
Providers are rightly concerned about the potential reputational risks that come with such an inquiry. As the financial services sector has experienced, to some extent it doesn’t matter whether your organisation has done the wrong thing or not. If enough stories of misconduct are raised, the whole industry is tarred with the same brush.
But there are proactive steps that can be taken right now to manage the narrative, reassure customers and prospective customers, and maintain the right culture within your organisation.
1. Reassure your staff
The life of a carer is not exactly glamourous. Carers look after elderly people at their most vulnerable, when their physical and mental health is deteriorating, and in many cases, when the person being cared for is resistant to the care, or at least is frustrated at the situation in which they find themselves.
To the majority of carers who are doing the right thing by those for whom they care, a Royal Commission is like a slap in the face. The impact on morale and sense of value should not be underestimated.
It’s important to reassure your staff that they are valued and manage the internal narrative inside the organisation about what a commission is and isn’t.
It is a chance to uncover issues that may or may not represent systemic problems within the industry.
It is an opportunity to improve the quality and delivery of care for older Australians.
It is a time to have honest and open conversations about where the industry needs to innovate to deliver business models that are fit for evolving customer needs.
It isn’t a witch hunt. And it’s not a reflection on the vast majority of carers who are selfless and compassionate in their desire to help others and provide them with dignity during their dying days.
2. Talk to your customers
CBA recently announced that it had received responses from more than 10,000 customers after CEO Matt Comyn requested feedback on how the bank does business.
While it’s an honourable thing to ask your customers to provide input into how you service them, you don’t need to wait for a Royal Commission to do it.
Take the opportunity to check in with your customers and find out how they’re feeling; what experience the family involved in the aged care decision has had with your organisation, and how that experience can be improved.
Talk to the people who are likely to be your future customers – the broader market in which you operate – to determine how they perceive your brand and the services that you offer.
Whether you do this via on-the-ground conversations or formal market research, it’s an opportunity to get on the front foot and find out what’s going on at the coal face – to avoid any potential surprises down the track.
3. Review your governance
Most critical incidents are avoidable – with the right governance and risk procedures in place. Interrogate the data you have on your business and find out where the gaps are.
If I were on the board of an aged care provider – of any organisation in fact – I would want to be sure of the quality of the information I was receiving from the executive and probing to find out if there was anything I was missing.
By conducting a review of your governance and risk procedures, you may be able to clean house before the commission puts the spotlight on governance failings.
While it’s never a great thing to find problems within your organisation, it’s certainly better that you find and address them than have them exposed by a public inquiry.
As the British government said in 1939: “Keep calm and carry on”. A Royal Commission into aged care might be viewed as an unwelcome distraction in the short term, but if it leads to better outcomes for the end customer, then it’s a win-win for everyone.