Introducing Rod Burkett

By on Jul 5, 2023 in Senior Living

“I think as human beings, we have some built-in resistance to change. I think as businesses, we owe it to our customers to never become extinct. We have to change and be both proactive and reactive to all that internal and external forces that impact our business.”

Yardi client Rod Burkett — a 2023 Changemaker — recently spoke these words in an in-depth interview with Senior Housing News (SHN). Burkett’s interview, much like all the interviews in the annual Changemakers series, features motivational stories, insights and advice applicable to senior living.

We’re pleased to share a highlight of Burkett’s interview below, but you can head to his full interview with SHN for more insights.

Yardi client Rod Burkett named 2023 Changemaker

As chairman of Gardant Management Solutions, the 25th largest senior living operator in the country, Rod Burkett is an expert when it comes to driving strategic, effective change. He’s led the organization since its founding in 1999, and through his interview with SHN, Burkett shares what he’s learned along the way.

SHN: Can you talk about a time when you tried to execute a change and things didn’t go according to plan? How did you pivot, and what did you learn as a leader?

Burkett: Yes. The one example that really jumps out at me is maybe like a lot of management companies, as we got bigger, we added more resources. Like most companies, we have a regional approach, with regional ops, regional marketing, regional clinical, and so forth. We added all these resources as subject matter experts.

The whole intention is to create more resources, more support for our communities but I think we didn’t create clarity because where is the decision being made? Are these people that are here to help? Are they making the decision? Is the local ED making the decision? Was all with good intentions, but the unintended consequences of confusion in decision-making. We talked about empowering that decision to be made at the local level. We talked about a good game. That was the change is to not let the gray area, lack of clarity who’s truly making the decision. We talked about it, but the talk didn’t work.

I think where we failed was we didn’t truly embed that in our culture and so as we added more people, I think it just, we very often weren’t on the same team. It was them and us, corporate versus at the community level. We really had to take a step back and pivot and we truly had to embed this in our culture and it’s still a work in progress. We’ve been working at it for a couple of years.

When I’m dealing with this local community, I’m on their team and we’ve created questions that we pose to all of our staff at every staff meeting. Little wristbands that talk about being on the community team. Regardless of how I identify myself, especially what subject matter expert I am, when I’m working with that local community, I’m on their team. Not only did we talk about it, we truly had to make it embedded in our culture and have each individual talk about it and what it meant to them.

I would say that’s the one that really we spent the most energy and time truly making a change where we would create the decision-making at the local community level and have our staff truly saying, “We’re here to support you.” You’re the ones on the ground at the local community, and it’s taken a lot of effort to create that change.

SHN: What is a word of advice for managing resistance to change?

Burkett: I think as human beings, we have some built-in resistance to change. I think as businesses, we owe it to our customers to never become extinct. We have to change and be both proactive and reactive to all that internal and external forces that impact our business. In my mind, it is always that if the result of change is that you diminish and become extinct that sure is a big motivator for me to say, “Hey, we better be proactive and reactive to the changes that we need to do to keep carrying out our mission.”

SHN: What is the single greatest driver of change in today’s senior living operating environment?

Burkett: I think it’s absolutely the staffing labor shortage, making sure we have adequate staffing. I think that that may have been exacerbated by COVID, or so many people leaving our industry and I think accelerating wage increases. I think again with the number of seniors that are going to be in our target market, and I think the younger work generation wants to know that their work makes a difference. They’re having an impact.

I think in the assisted living world, we absolutely day in, day out can show that to the younger workforce and really all age groups that their work is really making a difference in people’s lives. But our real challenge is, how do we make it cool to work in senior housing and care, how do you make that connection? I do think technology is changing a lot of things.

Read more from Rod Burkett

Want more insights from Rod Burkett? Read the entire SHN interview, packed with additional questions and answers. And be sure to read the rest of the Changemaker interviews, released in batches, which we’re proudly sponsoring for the fifth consecutive year.

If you’re curious to see how clients like Gardant Management Solutions drive success with the Yardi Senior Living Suite, kindly get in touch with our team.