Lindsey Poeth

Managing any organization on a day-to-day basis can present an array of challenges, and those challenges magnify in the face of a crisis, especially in a long-term care setting.

A leader’s effectiveness in the face of a crisis is largely dependent on the facility’s strengths in four key resources: the organization’s architecture, operational processes, its brand, and its staff’s individual competencies. All things considered, the first three of these elements should be well established at the onset of a crisis.  

The one wild card for most in leadership positions is the realm of personal competencies. A crisis, particularly one that is completely unfamiliar to those in the long-term care setting, like COVID-19 or a fire, can be especially destabilizing. Then, new variables arise to further aggravate those with limited competencies.

In what ways are decision-making patterns introduced to someone who has only had to deal with routine matters in their job? Or, for those who have only been expected to “do what they are told” or to take orders. How do these people learn to “take charge” or assume a leadership role in this perilous moment? In many instances, the capacity to lead a crisis containment effort is defined in terms of relevant competencies. The problem, however, is that the competencies required may be beyond the vision, training or experience of those facing the challenge. 

It is foolish to wait for a crisis to emerge within your building to teach those involved how to respond. What we believe is best is to build a process that allows for personnel to develop an “adaptive response profile.” This is a behavioral profile that fits the organizational needs regardless of emerging conditions or events.

Dealing with challenges based on an Adaptive Response Profile

Helping your staff build this “adaptive response profile” (ARP) is a straightforward process.  It begins with understanding that competency is the ability to adapt to changing situations. Your objective is to groom people with this talent.

Core Competencies

Every ARP is grounded in five competency components. These are part of all organizations, including long-term care facilities, and all positions within the organization. They are:

  1. Administrative competencies that reflect procedural activities associated with the work one does. These can include preparation of reports, reviews, budgetary matters or the like.
  2. Professional competencies that directly relate to one’s line of work. Doctors and lawyers must be able to perform successfully in medical or legal offices. Plumbers and carpenters must be able to meet customer needs related to their professions. and administrative staff must be skilled in office or project support.  
  3. Basic skills competencies that underscore matters related to getting work done. These might include working with computers, using math or financial tools, even phone or social media skills.  
  4. Social competencies that reflect an individual’s capacity to work or interact with others.   Communication, collaboration,listening and speaking skills are representative.  
  5. Cultural competencies that reflect a class of behaviors associated with an individual’s orientation to both the organization’s inherent culture as well as the cultural makeup of others in or outside the organization. Freedom from bias toward those of different races, religions or sexual preferences are other examples.

Monitored real-time experience

It’s possible to hire people with these competencies, but tailored training can ensure the competencies are demonstrated in ways that meet the long-term care facility and its stakeholders’ needs. Beyond training and related evaluations, an ARP is developed when staff has opportunity to participate in, and ideally lead, a monitored key program. These trials should leave participants with experience in planning, organizing, direction and dealing with a crisis. 

Evaluation of the competency succession plan

Building personnel who possess an ARP isn’t merely the transfer of skills and competencies developed in the past for specific tasks or situations, nor is it some type of “competency workaround”. It is a program that adds to an individual’s core competencies by adding a heightened capacity for process performance, regardless of the event at hand.

One way to visualize both the need and success of this type of program is to think of four or five employees in different parts of the building. Next, imagine how you might want them to respond to different types of harmful events, say a fire, racial profiling or a rude visitor. Now, how do you think they would respond given their current behavioral profile?  

Most leaders in long-term care facilities are familiar with the use of succession plans to build a group of qualified individuals able to advance to higher positions should opportunities or need arise. In this instance, we are thinking of competency profiles as having the potential to make similar contributions to a facility’s health and well-being.

Opportunities for these types of monitored, real-time experience projects abound in all organizations. Safety, security, productivity or process improvements are needed areas associated with all organizational areas. The effort associated with building the ARP of all organizations has a two-fold benefit: It helps develop staff readiness, while also potentially reducing organizations’ exposure to risks, threats and vulnerabilities. 

Lindsey Poeth has 20 years’ experience in the healthcare, consumer goods and electronics industries, with a major focus on pharmaceutical market research. She is a certified senior advisor with Oasis Senior Advisors in Pennsylvania.