Craig Newcomb got the phone call in early May. He was driving to a Brightview Senior Living community in Massachusetts to help during the beginning stages of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Turn around, he was told.
“I was needed back at the office to start an essential project right away,” said Newcomb, the IT Project Manager.
Assisted living communities have been on high alert during the pandemic because seniors are particularly vulnerable. Brightview Senior Living was determined to do everything possible to prevent coronavirus cases at its 41 communities that stretch across eight East Coast states.
A pillar of that strategy is providing real-time communication from executive leaders directly to associates, so that everyone is kept informed, safe, and inspired throughout these enormously difficult times.
Brightview Senior Living moved with lightning speed over the next 22 days to launch BVLink, a platform powered by Dynamic Signal. In less than a month, 93 percent of the 4,600 associates registered and began depending on BVLink for the news they needed to do their jobs in this new environment and keep residents healthy.
The team accomplished this while simultaneously dealing with pandemic-related issues – such as staffing, protective equipment shortages, and frequently updated guidance from local health departments and other agencies.
“It’s been just incredible,” Newcomb said. “Our frontline associates can hear directly from our senior leadership about things that matter to them from PPE to Black Lives Matter. It makes everyone realize that we are a unified front. BVLink captures our motto of ‘One Brightview.’”
Here’s how they did it.
A Great Place to Work
Maryland-based Brightview Senior Living is known for building and operating innovative communities that meet a variety of senior care needs. FORTUNE magazine ranked the company No. 1 in the large company category for Seniors Housing & Care in the 2019 Best Workplaces for Aging Services. It also was recognized as one of the 2019 Best Workplaces for Women – the only senior living company on the list.
In the effort to build on that culture, the company had begun exploring a more modern way to connect with associates – especially on their mobile devices. Communication had always been a challenge. Frontline workers – caregivers, dining servers, housekeepers, maintenance, and activities associates – don’t spend their days in front of a computer. They also don’t have company email addresses. Information was typically delivered verbally by managers as well as through bulletin board notices and mailings sent to associates’ homes.
The goal was to conduct a structured evaluation of software communication solutions late in 2020 with a rollout sometime the following year.
Then, the pandemic struck.
Brightview Senior Living faced a rapidly evolving landscape. What new protocols were required? Was there enough protective equipment? Could visitors enter the communities? Would independent living residents be allowed to shop for groceries? Should associates need to have their temperatures checked?
“Everything was moving so fast,” said Miles Mawby, Social Media Content Manager. “Things that we decided on Tuesday would change by Wednesday. Regulations on how to deal with the outbreak varied greatly from state to state. We needed a way to have direct communication with our frontline associates. They had to know what to expect on a day-to-day basis when they came to work and how we were going to be protecting them and our residents.”
It’s not an overstatement to say that arming associates with the most up-to-date information would potentially save lives. There was no time to waste. While the company wouldn’t normally implement a new technology tool in the middle of a pandemic, Julie Masiello, the Senior Vice President of Technology and Marketing, decided that waiting until a less chaotic time to introduce a new tool would be a missed opportunity. She decided that implementing Dynamic Signal as quickly as possible would solve this critical communication gap.
Newcomb got the call to turn his car around. The kickoff call was the next morning.
Implementation and Launch of BVLink
The Brightview Senior Living team faced two daunting challenges amid the pandemic: the technical implementation and getting the word out to associates.
Over the next three weeks, the Brightview Senior Living team worked closely with Dynamic Signal’s Professional Services group to meet the system requirements needed for implementing the platform. For instance, they needed to leverage the different technologies available to the Home Office, community directors, and frontline associates.
“Having the right people involved from both teams was essential,” said Jennifer Peters, Systems Training Specialist. “We feel like we got the recipe just right. The platform is robust. There are a lot of things it can do. But the Dynamic Signal team helped guide us to the tools that we needed right now, in this short amount of time, and help us become experts in those.”
At the same time, they worked on branding for the new platform – which they christened BVLink. They plotted an internal promotion strategy. And it wouldn’t be easy because they couldn’t even post signs in break rooms. They were closed due to the coronavirus.
So, they got innovative.
Directors at each community shared the news with their associates about how something special was coming. The team sent notifications to employees who do have company email. Peters created detailed training materials for associates to help them register and get started. She also provided the technology support desk with the answers to any possible questions they might receive.
They organized a raffle for associates who downloaded the app and engaged with a post. Ten winners each received $100 gift cards. (“One of our first posts in BVLink was a survey about what kind of gift cards they might like to win,” Mawby said.)
The team also decided to reward any community that reached 100 percent registration with an ice cream truck visit. They were hoping for one. Instead, they got 20.
“As the numbers grew, I was thinking, ‘Let’s go!” Peters said. “I wasn’t surprised because we all knew the value. I was pleased as I watched registrations exponentially increase so quickly.”
A remarkable 93 percent of all Brightview associates registered for BVLink in less than a month.
“Everyone at Brightview Senior Living was committed to overcoming the extraordinary challenge of implementing and promoting BVLink during a pandemic,” Mimi Hart, a Dynamic Signal Professional Services Consultant. “Their dedication, creativity, and willingness to adapt allowed us to meet their tight timeline. It has been amazing to watch.”
Content Strategy and Going Forward
Content is at the heart of BVLink’s success.
“It’s not like people are downloading the app to get their gift card and forgetting about it,” Mawby said. “People are coming back because of our content.”
Company President Doug Dollenberg used BVLink to provide a “State of Brightview.” Brian Engle, the Executive Vice President for Operations, does fireside chat-style videos about regulations, procedures, and other need-to-know information. As protests swept the country over racial injustice, CEO Marilynn Duker put out a heartfelt message about the importance of the Black Lives Matters movement.
“It was something that reached everyone – including our frontline associates,” Mawby added. “That wouldn’t have been the case in the past, so it was really special.”
It’s not just top-down messages for leaders, either. BVLink has become a way for communities to highlight fun moments in a dark time while sharing how the work of associates has a profound impact on the lives of their residents.
One recent post was a poem an associate wrote about her experience of working through the quarantine.
“It was incredibly touching,” Mawby said. “We got about 1,000 views within a day. It’s moments like that really get to you.”
Today, BVLink demonstrates that Brightview Senior Living truly is in this together as they get through this crisis period. But the long-term goal is for BVLink to become an essential engagement tool in all aspects of the company’s relationship with associates. For instance, BVLink will be instrumental in improving associate retention – a challenge at senior care communities even in normal times.
Newcomb said two platform features should be particularly invaluable. The Quick Links functionality will enable all frontline associates to have instant access to benefits and resources – all in one place. He also has plans to take full advantage of the broadcast feature that will allow community directors to alert team members to important messages through push notifications.
“As exciting as this is right now, BVLink is just going to get better,” Newcomb added. “We’re going to introduce even more features that will really impress the associates and make them want to become even more engaged with the platform.”