A day in the life of an Operations Manager

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13th Apr General
What are the main responsibilities of your role?

I oversee all the retirement communities that are managed by Adlington Management Services, the management arm of Adlington Retirement Living.

We set up Adlington Management Services as a new company in 2019, to bring the operations of our retirement communities in-house and provide a consistently outstanding service to our homeowners. I’ve been involved with that from day one. We currently have five retirement communities and going forwards we will manage every new Adlington Retirement Living community.

There are two main strands to my role: the practical aspects of running a retirement community, such as maintaining the building, recruiting the on-site team and managing third party services, and the more emotional aspects of care, support and contributing to the health, happiness and well-being of our homeowners.

I begin the recruitment process for a new retirement community before each building is complete, recruiting the general manager first, then we work together to recruit their team of duty managers, housekeepers and maintenance technicians.

Everybody has an induction and regular one-to-one meetings, and we provide immersive training around ‘the Adlington way’, as well as additional training via eLearning.

Every member of my team has a genuine passion for what we do, and we instil our Adlington Retirement Living values early in the process. I tend to spend a lot of time with our new General Managers to ensure they understand our expectations and high standards. We then support each other with regular meetings to discuss best practice, any challenges and how to overcome them. I also audit every community on a regular basis to make sure our standards are maintained and that everything is running smoothly.

Each of our communities has an in-house restaurant, delivered through our catering partner. We ensure they deliver the quality and service to meet our high standards. The same goes for our domiciliary care on site. We recruit a care partner, to carry out initial health assessments with our customers, prior to moving in. If a homeowner would like a tailored personal care package, it’s completely their choice whether they want to use our health partner or they can choose another organisation.

The most important aspect of our job is the support we provide to homeowners. It’s our role to deliver the lifestyle that they expect when they move to an Adlington Retirement Living community. We create a vibrant community through a programme of activities such as Pilates, art classes, book clubs and special events.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I think it’s the satisfaction that comes from exceeding our homeowners’ expectations. It’s important we deliver everything they hope their move will achieve, and it’s lovely when we get feedback from them to say that they love living there.

I personally get a lot of satisfaction from the recruitment aspect of my role and ensuring we have the right team in place.

How did you get into the role?

Leaving school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I joined the NHS as a cadet in a mental health hospital. My next role was with a local authority, working in a care home, where I worked my way up the ladder to become a senior care assistant.

I transferred over to the local authority mental health team, working in the community, and became a residential care worker for a few years before running my own team. I progressed to the role of group leader and eventually manager running the mental health provider team for over 20 years.

After that, I was asked to manage a brand-new Dementia respite service within the local authority. We provided Dementia day care, respite for older people,  and care and support for those with mental health issues and learning disabilities. It was a challenging role managing 77 staff, but also one of the most enjoyable.

My next move was to take the plunge and do something completely different, so I applied for a role with Methodist Homes (MHA) then the management company for Adlington Retirement living as the General Manager at Adlington House in Wolstanton, Staffordshire, which was amazing. After three years. I was offered a position with Adlington Retirement Living in the head office, initially as commissioning manager and then customer care manager, until in 2019 we set up Adlington Management Services and I became Operations Manager.

What attracted you to this role?

To be able to make such a difference to people and to support homeowners enjoying their retirement to the full is so rewarding.

Although many of our homeowners don’t require additional care when they first move into one of our retirement living communities, it’s fantastic that they can have a tailored personal care package as and when they need it. It means that they can live on their own terms, in their own home.

We also provide homeowners and their families with peace of mind, knowing that if they need help in the middle of the night, somebody will be there in minutes.

Having managed a retirement living community myself, I’ve seen first-hand so many individual stories, where moving to a retirement living community has made a huge difference to the homeowners and also to their family.

What are the most significant challenges in your field of work?

Managing the changing situation throughout the COVID pandemic is one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced so far. The whole world had to find new ways to live and work.

Our combined experience – which included healthcare – meant we, had dealt with other viruses at some point in our careers. We already had very rigid infection control procedures in-place and we had outstanding support from the management team at Adlington Retirement Living.

They protected our teams, which meant we were able to protect our homeowners. Sometimes they were more stringent than the government guidance. I recently had a conversation with somebody from Public Health England and they said that the procedures we had in place should have been held up as a flagship of best practice.

Another challenge we have is to make sure the buildings are maintained and presented to the highest standards. When somebody first comes to visit one of our communities, they see it looking absolutely amazing and we work hard to ensure it continues to look that good every single day.

How do you overcome those challenges?

Having a strong and positive team, and a supportive management team gave us a solid foundation to cope with the situation over the past two years.

COVID was like an intense version of what we do on a day-to-day basis. Part of my role was working with the team to come up with new ways of doing everything. We did everything in conjunction with Adlington Retirement Living, consulting regularly to find the best solutions.

We increased the cleaning regime and changed a lot of the products that we used, in consultation with our health and safety manager, who was a massive support to us. We’re maintaining those increased levels because we believe that was an important factor in keeping people safe.

We retained an empty apartment set aside as a COVID changing room. That way, if the team had to help an individual with COVID in an emergency, they had all the PPE they needed and somewhere to wash and change their clothes afterwards.

Some of our team members have a care background and some have a hospitality background, which is a wonderful blend to provide the best possible support to our Homeowners.

We set up pop-up shops in our retirement communities where homeowners could purchase staple groceries. Our restaurants had to close for each of the lockdown periods, so instead, our catering teams prepared freshly cooked lunchtime meals and we delivered them to homeowners’ front doors on sanitised trays.

Our teams also did some shopping and collected prescriptions for homeowners and helped to arrange their vaccinations for anybody who needed help. We’ve had lots of comments on how supportive the teams were. Nothing was ever too much trouble. It made me immensely proud.

We were also conscious of maintaining a sense of community throughout the lockdowns to support our homeowners’ mental health. We carry out daily well-being calls anyway, but on top of that, our teams would go and have a balcony chat with homeowners either from the garden below or from the balcony next door if it was available. Many homeowners came up with their own activities and we would support them in whatever way we could.

What gives you the most satisfaction from all of this?

The best thing for me is having happy homeowners. The fact that I can walk into any of our retirement communities and feel a positive atmosphere and hear laughter and joy. I love it. That’s when I know we’ve got it right!

Having happy staff is also important and gives me a lot of satisfaction. We want to create a place where people want to come to work. It’s a great feeling when they say they love their jobs too.

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned in your career so far, and how have you made use of it?

The most important thing is to be respectful to every single person you meet and to be kind to each other.

If you can manage those two important things, they help every other aspect of your working life.