This month’s theme is Innovation!

A few words from Rayne…

I often wonder what it means when people say, “I want to reinvent myself”. Change your DNA? Get a new personality? Maybe have an extreme makeover? And is it even humanly possible – to reinvent oneself? Somehow, I’m not so sure. We’re physiologically hardwired in a way that determines who we are, through every cell in our bodies. As much as we can change the exterior and try to be different, our ‘cellular intelligence’ is the divine programming that expresses itself through our personalities.

Reconnecting with who we are, however, is a different story. Becoming more of who we are is possible, if we’re brave enough to stand in front of the mirror, non-judgmentally, and acknowledge, “This is who I am”, through honest self-observation and reflection.

What’s the difference, then, between self-observation and reflection? Self-observation means I look at myself and see what I see. Reflection means I look at myself, examine what I see, and decide to consciously change the way that I am in the world. I can, if I am brave enough, alter my reaction to the world around me, without giving up my true identity. I can engage in a different manner to fulfil my covenant with the earth, reconnect to my true purpose, and innovate a different being in this world.

After 22 years of striving towards ‘excellence in person-centred care’, our GERATEC team recently embarked on a journey of self-observation and reflection; taking a long, hard look at who we are, how true we remain to our purpose, and how we live this in how we do what we do.

It wasn’t easy.

I, for one, spent many hours contemplating my role in the company: the way I see the company and the people who work alongside me, and the impact of leadership style. The senior team undertook their own journey alongside mine. With the help of a business coach, together we explored our engagement around the purpose of GERATEC. Who are we? Are we still satisfied with our purpose, the why and what of how we do our business? Do we all agree that our purpose is what motivates us to get out of bed in the morning? And are we being honest about what drives us? (GERATEC has never been, and will never be, driven by money − on this I remain steadfast.)

The process was tough – a bit like going to the gym after a five-year break. You stand in the changing room, removing your clothes and facing your less-than-perfect physique under those harsh lights reflected in the mirrors, so obviously positioned for fitter, healthier, more-attractive people. You realise that you’re not necessarily the same fit, young and healthy specimen you once were. But after the initial shock, and a few gym sessions later, you calm down, look around and accept that you have matured. Yes, just like a superior cheese or a spectacular wine, you’re pretty good. You’re no longer the fitful youth in a mad race to ‘get buff’. You’re a wise and mature being who has come into yourself. You are steeped in your own being.

And this is where the magic of innovation pushes through the winter soil like a daffodil in spring. This is where growth happens – not the growth of building bigger muscles like those you see on social media, but the inner growth that’s not reflected in the mirror; the growth of becoming the true you. It’s not about needing to expand, branch out and conquer the world. It’s about reconnecting with your purpose.

For us at GERATEC, our growth includes reaffirming our commitment to quality care for our residents and staff, and being a company that creates a life worth living. Having reconnected, we realise we can bring deeper meaning into our business through innovation. We embrace innovation to become more and more of who we are: igniting creativity, sparking new energy, but staying true to our purpose.

At GERATEC, we don’t need to reinvent who we are. We’re good. We are who we are, and we are here for a reason. And we all live and feel and breathe that reason – to create communities in which older people can flourish. Simple, yet profound.

A few words from Victor…

Most South Africans are feeling the pinch. Years of political instability and low to zero growth has brought our economy to its knees and many businesses have been forced to close. Thankfully, glimmers of hope are starting to emerge. But economists tell us that the much-anticipated economic recovery may still be some way away.

We are deeply grateful that GERATEC has been weathering the storm. We are standing strong and growing, thanks to each of our loyal clients and the consistently high quality of service our incredible team of employees continues to provide in spite of the daunting challenges they face.

However, we have not been immune to the impact of the past decade. At the beginning of the year, owing to a confluence of external pressures and some internal factors, the business unexpectedly found itself without an operational head. The timing could not have been worse. We were engrossed in a months-long internal process of deep personal reflection to review our business purpose and define our strategic direction for the next 10 years. The process until then had been arduous, fluid and sometimes painful, but we were finally gathering momentum and were close to making some exciting decisions about the future. Since time was of the essence and money was tight, we couldn’t afford to halt the process to embark on a costly and time-consuming recruitment drive, without any guarantee of success. Decisions had to be made quickly or we faced having to start the process again later, with a new leader.

In this time of crisis, the GERATEC leadership team made a snap decision not to appoint a new leader immediately but, rather, to assign the responsibility for the strategic process and day-to-day operational management of the business to a core group consisting of the heads of departments as an interim measure. It was a risky move. The pitfalls of ‘management by committee’ are well known. ‘Analysis paralysis’ and mediocre decision-making were real threats. However, we decided to take the plunge because the individuals appointed were loyal employees who understand the business, inside out. Over many years of service, they’ve all internalised the business values as their own.

Our decision turned out to be the right one. We soon found that the risks associated with group decisions were far outweighed by its advantages, including:

  • Diverse thinking that contributed to a broad-based perspective when making decisions
  • A greater possibility for shared and aligned goals and objectives
  • A high degree of collaboration and improved communication between the core group members
  • Strong team dynamics and strong relationships developing between core group members
  • The diverse team was able to relate to a diversity of interests, which played well with our employees and led to a higher level of buy-in from staff in the decisions of the core group
  • Boundless innovation, creativity and positive outcomes as a result.

What had been an temporary stop-gap measure put in place to avoid the collapse of our strategic-development process became one of the most positive outcomes of our strategy process. In fact, the business decided to retain the core group as a permanent part of its management structures with an operational team leader who will retain some, but not all, of the functions that were previously assigned to the individual. While individual decision-making has its place – and will still take place – our experiment taught us that a combination of individual and group decision-making works best for GERATEC as a business.

As the Afrikaans saying goes, ‘nood leer bid’. But a crisis is often an opportunity to innovate and grow: to reconsider existing practices, structures and systems; to get rid of those that no longer serve their purpose and find a better way forward.

Our experience has taught us not to cower and hunker down, but to turn towards the approaching storm, harness the wind and find the opportunity to innovate. That is how we change paradigms. That is how we make worlds.

Innovation in care

In April 2017, a document was released with policies and procedures for the care of older persons according to a ‘person-centred care’ approach. This document, which took two years to complete, is called the Resident Pathway. It covers a resident’s interaction with a care environment, from the time the resident applies to relocate to an elder environment up until the day that the resident either moves out of the community or passes away.

Included in this document are all policies, procedures and documents that are necessary to render a high-quality care service to residents, whether they’re still independent and in need of only a little care, or totally dependent on care from the care employees.

As the environment we live in is a forever dynamic one, so is the Pathway also a growing and changing entity, which will be reviewed from time to time to integrate new concepts and better practices as they evolve.

As some of the residents are independent and live in their own houses or units in an elder community such as a retirement village, the care they need is rendered in their homes. We call this home-based care and it means that a person doesn’t have to move out of their known environment to receive care.

Another new innovation that the Care Department is embarking on is to train their employees to really be mindful when rendering care services. This ‘being present’ in the moment brings about a better experience for the resident as well as the employee, as both parties share and enjoy ‘the here and now’. Being mindful in every moment means that the best can be experienced in each interaction between the care employee and the resident. Interactions thus become much more meaningful for both parties.

But watch this space as more innovations are coming up. The Care Team is really excited about the future.

Innovation can be defined simply as a new idea, device or method. However, innovation is often also viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. One of GERATEC’s values is innovation, so as a team we are constantly looking at how we can innovate within the various departments.

For the catering industry, 2017 and 2018 have been particularly challenging. First it was the water shortages and the dreaded Day Zero hanging over us. Next was the threat of a countrywide egg shortage. Then the third thing we had to contend with was the Listeriosis outbreak. All of these have had a direct impact on our operations and the GERATEC catering teams have been working hard, within their own units and in conjunction with their clients, to tackle the considerable challenges we’ve faced.

Although Day Zero has (thankfully) been avoided for now, our units continue to work hard to help save water. Cooking methods have been adapted, menus changed where needed and there’s a general heightened sense of awareness with regards water wastage and use. Posters making employees and residents aware of the water shortages were designed and distributed throughout the units.

Waterless Wednesdays have been introduced at some units and the employees at these units are now experts at working with limited water resources without impacting on the quality of the food prepared or the standard of hygiene. Grey water is being saved and utilised where appropriate, and when the much-needed rain does fall, our employees are quick to place containers in strategic positions to catch water.

Part of innovation is meeting new requirements and GERATEC constantly considers how we can improve the dining experience for our residents. Resident profiles change at units and with these changes come different needs. Feedback from the comments book, resident surveys, food-service manager feedback, area-manager feedback and input from our dietitians has enabled us to make some changes to meal plans, or to certain meals, to specifically address the needs of residents.

GERATEC also embraces technology, so we are now using the collaboration software tool Google Suite. Although it has been a challenge, we are able to work more productively and, ultimately, save time.

A week in the life of the housekeeping team at Rusoord

How does Finance innovate? Can Finance be innovative?

According to the online learning centre Innovation Management, the concept of ‘financial innovation’ can be defined as, “making and promoting new financial products and services, developing new processes to facilitate financial activities, to interact with customers and to design new structures for financial institutions”.

The recent egg crisis sent shock waves through our kitchens. How could we stick to our budgets with egg prices going through the roof?

We had to think fast – and hard. 

The one refrain, “Take eggs of the menu!”, is much easier said than done. Everyone loves eggs, loads of recipes contain eggs as ingredients, and what is a breakfast without an egg?

We made small changes to recipes and menus and spoke to our clients to get their ideas and suggestions. Everyone had to be mindful of the crisis that we, and the rest of the Western Cape, was experiencing.

The end result was that we didn’t have to charge anyone extra for their meal plans. We sailed through the crisis, thanks to creative managers and understanding clients. And very little disruption was experienced by the residents.


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