Download the full Annual Report with financial reports for FY 2019 here.
Looking back over the past months, I can say with great confidence that it has been a year full of progress. Some of it came from the momentum started in 2018 by the unified Covia brand, while other aspects have resulted from a strong strategic focus and our willingness to make difficult decisions. I can proudly say that we are positioned for a future where we can help more seniors live well and age well no matter where they call home.
In February, the Covia Communities Board made the difficult decision to close one of our communities — Los Gatos Meadows. We have long had a goal to redevelop this community to better support the needs of our residents. As we began our evaluation of this long-term plan, we uncovered some safety issues at the campus that accelerated our timeline. Since arriving at the decision, our focus has been on supporting and relocating the residents and fulfilling our commitment to our staff. Soon we will begin the preliminary work of redevelopment. We are committed to staying in Los Gatos with a reimagined approach to community living.
Our year-end financial results as of March 31, 2019, show continued stability and strength as outlined in the audit results in this report. This has been further reinforced by the reaffirmation of our A- rating with a stable outlook from Fitch. Even with the one-time costs for the closure of Los Gatos Meadows, Fitch recognized the operational consistency and strength we continue to demonstrate. Their confidence is a strong signal for a bright future.
One of the important commitments we are making as we move into the future is technology. Over the past year, we have continued to implement software platforms that help us improve the services we provide. From a more efficient electronic health record system, to a new human resource information system, to a refined customer relationship management system, we have invested to create solutions for our residents and employees alike.
And it was our employees that achieved one of our greatest accomplishments this past year. We were once again named a Great Place to Work. Because this certification is based wholly on employee feedback, it says a lot about the success of the efforts we have been making. I am thrilled that our team members throughout Covia, from Support Services to every community and program, feel engaged and committed in helping us fulfill our mission. They are the heart and essence of what we do and how we can make a difference.
Expanding the number of people that we touch was also a core focus over the past year. From high occupancy at our communities to signing a management contract for Friends House, a Life Plan Community in Santa Rosa, to increasing participation in our Well Connected program and launching Well Connected Español, we are involving more seniors. Add to that Home Match launching in other geographies and making ever more shared housing matches, and the measures of progress are truly profound.
We also piloted a meaningful sustainability initiative started by our residents — CoviaGreen. The brainchild of the Green Action committee at St. Paul’s Towers, CoviaGreen involves a pledge by residents and staff to live more sustainably and consider elements of environmental justice in our community planning. The program is slated to roll out to all of our communities and programs in the coming year.
From financial progress to community progress to progress for the environment, this past year has been one of commitment, engagement, and forward movement. I am grateful to the Covia staff, our leadership team, and our Boards for all that we have accomplished this year. Together we have established an incredibly strong foundation for progress and growth.
Earlier this year, Covia was certified for a second year as a Great Place to Work. This certification, based on a Trust Index that includes over 60 evaluated elements, considers not only organizational culture but also each team member’s experience.
“We like to get feedback from the organization to see how we’re doing,” says Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources. “Are we meeting our objectives? Is everybody engaged with their current roles? And, most importantly, are there areas to improve? At the end of the day, we want to build a strong culture and the only way that we can do that is by getting employee feedback.”
The Great Place to Work survey revealed a lot of exciting insights about Covia. One of the things that was made clear in these results is that employees are proud of their work. 89% of respondents indicated that they “feel good about the ways that Covia contributes to the community” while 87% feel a sense of pride about what they have accomplished. The people stand out at the top as one of the main reasons employees enjoy their work, especially in their interactions with staff and residents.
“The work that we do truly makes a positive impact in people’s lives,” says Lizette Suarez, Well Connected Español Program Manager. “I am surrounded by a great team who is dedicated and committed to making a difference in the world.”
The Great Place to Work survey not only highlights successes but also serves as a great tool to pinpoint areas of improvement within the company. Based off of the results of the survey, each community has identified specific goals that will be their focus over the next year. These goals range from managers more readily including employees in important decisions to working quicker to adapt to changes.
Beyond these individual goals, there is one company-wide goal, which is centered on creating a great culture. Over the next year, Covia will focus on developing a hiring culture that is both fun and effective with the goal of bringing in more candidates that are a great fit. This will include becoming more transparent and creating a New Hire Orientation and Onboarding process that does a better job of orienting new hires within their particular community as well as with the company as a whole.
These goals will be evaluated through pulse surveys sent out to employees periodically. Based on these surveys, the entire company as well as each community will be able to determine if they are moving forward or if more work is needed to reach their designated goal.
“All of the work that has gone into identifying these goals and tailoring them to each community is intended to better the experience of every employee,” says Brinton. “There are always places to improve and the Great Place to Work survey has provided a great jumping off point from which to evaluate and enhance Covia’s employee experience.”
For the second consecutive year, Covia has been certified a Great Place to Work.
Great Place to Work™, an independent research and consulting firm, evaluates an organizational culture brief as well as more than 60 elements of team members’ experience on the job. These elements include pride in the organization’s community impact, employees’ belief that their work makes a difference, and a sense of respect, fairness, credibility, and camaraderie. Together, these items are called the Trust Index.
The certification process at Covia considered almost 700 employee surveys from across all of Covia’s California communities and locations. To be certified, an organization needs a participation rate of over 50%, and a Trust Index score of 75% or greater. Overall, 66% of Covia’s employees participated in the survey with a Trust Index score of 77%.
Being certified makes Covia eligible to be considered for the Fortune Great Places to Work list, including Great Places to Work in Aging Services. Last year, Covia ranked 29th on the list. The 2019 results will be published late this summer.
Survey results will be used to create action items to improve the employee experience. After reviewing the results, Covia will determine an action item that will be applied to the organization overall, and each community will also develop an action item that is specific for that location.
“The Great Place to Work certification is a testament both to the quality of our workplaces and of our employees,” says Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources. “We want to take this moment to celebrate this achievement as we strive to become the best workplace we can.”
The company overview is available online at the Great Place to Work website.
Originally published in Engage Winter 2019
In December 2018, Sandra Crowder, Environmental Services Tech, was named Los Gatos Meadows Employee of the Quarter.
The Covia community shared on Facebook that “Sandra’s positivity and attention to detail inspires all who cross her path. She holds herself to very high standards and strives to provide excellence to residents, team members, and guests.”
For her part, Sandra says, “One of my goals at work is to make people smile and feel cared for which is easy here.” She adds, “Also I have a wonderful supervisor and I feel appreciated by my boss and the management.”
But which came first: Sandra’s high standards, or the appreciation of the management?
“What we find across all industries across all countries is that people want the same thing,” says Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Activated Insights, a senior care company of Great Place to Work. “And it comes down to trust.”
Great Place to Work has been studying the elements of trust in the workplace for over 30 years. They have found five key elements: Respect, Credibility, Fairness, Camaraderie, and Pride. Together, these comprise the Trust Index – a measure that is tied to increased organizational performance.
According to Kung, the first three measures – Respect (I feel respected by my employer), Credibility (I can believe what my employer is telling me), and Fairness (I feel that decisions and policies are fair) establish a relationship built in trust. “What really elevates it even more is Camaraderie, which is with my coworkers, and then Pride in what I do,” she says.
For the first time this year, Great Place to Work has offered a list of Best Places to Work in Aging Services. Covia, a LeadingAge California member based in Walnut Creek, placed 29th overall.
The Trust Index has been shown to have a causal effect on improving the workplace. “You improve the Trust Index score, and your performance as an organization improves. In public companies, the best companies outperform the stock market index by a factor of 200 to 300 percent,” says Kung. “In our industry, higher Trust Index score, lower employee turnover. Higher Trust Index score, happier residents and families. Higher Trust Index score, better occupancy.”
Of the five dimensions of Trust, Covia rated highest in Pride and lowest in Fairness – a typical result for the Aging Services industry, according to Kung.
“Our industry compared to other industries really stands out for that reason – pride and purpose – and it’s the organizations that highlight and inculcate that best that seem to do best,” says Kung. “And of course they also are high in respect, credibility, fairness, camaraderie.”
For fairness, perception is key, and a lot of the perception is based on day to day activities, such as scheduling. “Scheduling is really important for this industry. If you’re not getting what you requested and you see someone else and you don’t know why, then it’s perceived as not fair.” One way to improve the perception is to make sure employees understand why something is the way it is.
Another common area of perceived unfairness is compensation. “Our industry does not do a good job communicating how compensation is determined,” notes Kung. “And compensation includes of course the pay itself, but also benefits, and having some sort of share in success.”
For Covia, which had been evaluating employee satisfaction through other surveys since 2010, the choice to partner with Great Place to Work made sense.
“Quite honestly, it’s a great recruiting tool,” says Prab Brinton, Covia’s Vice President of Human Resources. “The minute that you say, ‘We’re a great place to work,’ the candidate instinctively paints a picture of what that looks like for them.”
“I think the designation is also a good reminder for our current workforce,” she adds. “It reminds them: ‘Oh, wait a minute. Actually, you know what? We are a pretty good place to work because here’s what all of my peers are saying. Here are all the great things my employer offers me.’ It’s a great reminder, just from a retention perspective.”
“The other thing that was really good about this tool is that it’s also being able to tie our employee feedback to the resident experience,” says Brinton. With other surveys, “We got lots of great information, but how do you tie it into the resident experience? With Great Place to Work, we were able to give them that information and they were able to correlate that together for us.”
And of course, the Great Place to Work survey gave Covia information on where it can grow and improve, both overall as an organization as well as at a community or departmental level.
One area where Brinton feels Covia has room to improve is in building stronger relationships with employees, rather than spending the bulk of the time in bureaucratic tasks. “We have systems to handle day to day tasks. These systems help us move employee conversations from ‘did you fill out your benefits paperwork’ to ‘let’s talk about what would be the best benefit choice for you and your family.’ Or if you know that there’s a rising star within your community – the conversation turns to ‘Hey what are your plans? I know you’re getting ready to graduate from school, what are you planning to do? Have you considered this kind of position with us?’ We should be turning it more into that kind of relationship. We spend a lot of time building those relationships with our residents. We need to do the same with our employees.”
In her one-on-one meetings with her direct report, Brinton focuses on four areas: the status of current projects; any roadblocks or concerns; current successes; and ongoing career development needs and desires. “I do think that a lot of times in many organizations, HR falls into the role of ‘managing’ employees through their tenure. The true role of HR should be to create an environment that employees can come in and do a great job every day and feel pride in the job that they are doing. We’re also here hopefully to educate in some way, to help employees along their career path.”
And if the original career path doesn’t work, there may be another way to use a talented employee’s skills and talents. Gina Secchi, Marketing Coordinator at St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland, started her career at Covia as the Catering Manager at San Francisco Towers. “I loved the event planning and the San Francisco Towers residents and felt mentored by [Director of Dining Services] Larry Brooks,” says Secchi. “Unfortunately, the commute was too much and I wasn’t going to be able to stay. When I mentioned this to Larry, he was instrumental in me coming to St. Paul’s Towers. He knew my strengths and suggested to [Executive Director] Melody Mitchell and [HR Director] Donna Tendler that I work at St. Paul’s as the marketing coordinator and they all helped me to do so. Larry made me feel very respected because he said, ‘I wish you could stay here but I would rather have you work for Covia than have the company lose you.’” Secchi is now considering getting a degree in Marketing. “I know that Covia has a program that assists with going back to school and I am looking into participating in this program.”
“I would say to other aging services companies, figure out ways to make your employees feel connected to the organization, to the management teams, to the other employees. I think that goes a long way,” says Brinton. “If you don’t feel connected to your spouse or partner, you say, ‘OK, I need to find greener pastures.’ It’s the same thing on employment. If employees don’t feel connected then they’ll ask themselves, ‘Why should I keep coming here? You don’t value anything that I bring to you.’ It’s really being able to harness the connection between employer and employee.”
“Covia believes that every single employee is essential and vital to our team. Our management staff works hard to communicate this and to be sure everyone is treated that way,” says Ron Schaefer, Chief Operating Officer. “Covia is also a great place to work because of the important work we do: supporting older people to live well and age well.”
“There are always the usual things: you have pay, you have benefits,” says Brinton. “I think more importantly are the people you work with, believing in the mission of the organization, and being surrounded by a bunch of people who are driven by that same thing. I think that makes Covia a great place to work.”
Brinton adds, “I think something that makes us unique over numerous other industries outside of senior living is the employees get to feel like they have an extended family outside of your work family. You have these great seniors or elderly people that you are interacting with on a day to day basis. One, they’re very grateful that you’re there helping them. But two, just think about all the stories you get and the added knowledge or learning. You just feel connected.”
This connection is clearly felt by Sandra Crowder at Los Gatos Meadows. “I truly give my all to Covia and the residents,” she says. “I also receive a lot of joy from the residents in return.”
We are pleased to announce that Covia has been recognized as one of the 50 Best Workplaces in Aging Services in a new list published in Fortune. Covia ranked 29th among senior housing organizations nationwide.
This is the first time Fortune and Great Places to Work have created a list for the Aging Services industry, which includes both senior housing and at-home care. According to Fortune, the list was developed by analyzing survey results from more than 162,000 employees working in both aspects of the industry.
“We are honored to be recognized in this list of organizations in Aging Services,” says Kevin Gerber, President and CEO. “We are especially proud of all the incredible Covia employees who help us live out our mission and guiding principles every day. Their excellence, compassion and camaraderie are what make us a great place to work.”
“Making the list is a huge accomplishment,” says Prab Brinton, Vice President of Human Resources. “Although we have room to grow, I’m very proud of what this recognition says about our organizational culture.”
The article in Fortune Magazine can be found at http://fortune.com/2018/09/27/best-workplaces-for-aging-services-2018/
Covia’s organizational profile is online at http://reviews.greatplacetowork.com/covia