A conversation with Ed Kenny, Chairman and CEO of LCS
With the presidential election now upon us, the “commander in chief” of the LCS Family of Companies addresses hot-button issues impacting senior living. In this second of a two-part series, Ed Kenny talks about the good, the not so good, and challenges and opportunities ahead for the senior living industry.
The new administration and Congress are expected to look at additional oversight and regulations for senior housing and care services. What challenges does this present for the industry?
I am pleased that the senior living industry is taking steps to address this issue with some very good initiatives. It’s important that as an industry we continue to evolve our professional and ethical standards to complement (not replace) state laws and regulations governing the operation of senior living communities.
Recent initiatives sponsored by Argentum are a good example of this. We need to demonstrate that we have the ability to be “self-regulated.” Right now, in many ways, the only real litmus test on whether we’re providing quality service is the state survey process for skilled nursing. That’s not the best test for communities as a whole. We can do better than this.
Another key going forward is to be very transparent on how we operate communities. This includes consumer disclosure for pricing, service standards, staff qualifications and certifications.
Can you expand upon the Argentum initiative and steps being taken to evolve standards and regulatory issues?
Argentum launched Phase I of Standards for Senior Living this year. This first step toward professional self-regulation is seen as an essential move to demonstrate to consumers and state regulators our industry’s commitment to quality service.
So far, more than 2,000 senior living communities across the country have attested to these standards. Phase II is expected to roll out in the next 1 to 2 years to develop more comprehensive standards. Someday in the future, the goal is to have organizations subscribe to a third-party accreditation system. No one wants burdensome regulations, so it’ll be important to seek internal and external input throughout this process, and Argentum is preparing to do that after seeking a lot of industry input.
Both political parties are calling for an increase to the minimum wage, and there is debate that it should be left to each state to decide. Where do you see wages going for a lot of front-line staff at communities? And how can communities handle wage hikes without hurting business?
Wage escalation is a reality and we need to accept that. And we need caring, compassionate and tenured staff in senior living – they’re the lifeblood of our communities. It is my view that LCS® and other senior living organizations are already building in wage structures that exceed the minimum wage. The only real way for communities to offset those rising costs is to continue to find operational efficiencies and maintain a responsible pricing philosophy. Experienced senior living management companies can help in both these areas.
As far as who determines minimum wages, I’m a proponent of letting local markets and states determine wage structures, rather than the federal government.
What will be key for senior living communities to plan ahead for wage structures?
I think there are 3 factors or “must-haves” in developing a compensation strategy for pay and benefits:
- Internal equity – ensuring fairness in pay/benefits for staff working similar jobs at a community
- External equity – ensuring that pay/benefits are competitive in your market
- Culture of growth and security – providing a safe and secure environment, one that allows for professional advancement and values staff staying on a long-term basis
Workforce development is another topic that’s getting a lot of attention in senior living. What does the industry need to do to ensure the workforce and quality of staff keeps pace with the growth expected in senior living?
We do a lot of great things in senior living, and I’m very optimistic about the future. One area of improvement is educating people about the importance of our industry and how satisfying it can be to work in senior living. It can be tremendously rewarding, and there are excellent opportunities for career advancement.
I think it’s critically important to get our industry in front of people at an earlier age. We need to reach out to high schools and work with guidance counselors on strategies to promote senior services and care as a good career option.
The NIC Future Leaders Council is working on this and several other outreach initiatives. Slowly but surely, we’re seeing a growing interest by colleges and universities in designing curriculums around a career in senior services.
Over the next 4 years and the new administration’s term, what do you think are the most important areas senior living leaders should pay attention to?
As a company and also as an industry, we’ve identified 5 strategic imperatives to build public policy and regulation discussions around. Along with each are questions we must constantly ask ourselves for the senior living industry to thrive in the future.
- Workforce Development
What are we doing to train and grow our workforce of caring professionals to serve seniors?
What are we doing from a public policy point of view to ensure we’re providing nurturing environments and improving the quality of life for senior living residents? What are measures of success?
- Operational Excellence
As a growing sector, what are we doing through innovation, technology and other areas to improve the way we deliver services?
- Consumer Choice
What are we doing for disclosure and transparency in serving what is viewed as (and in many cases is) a vulnerable population? How does our industry continue to evolve to provide housing and service choices for this expanding market?
- Memory Care
Alzheimer’s disease has climbed to #6 on the list of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. What are we doing to address Alzheimer’s and move it down the list?
Contact us with any questions or ideas you might have about advancing public policy discussions for the senior living industry. See trade associations we’re affiliated with and learn about opportunities to get involved.
About Ed Kenny:
Ed is the chairman and chief executive officer of LCS. In this role, he provides strategic leadership to a dynamic organization that serves more than 35,000 seniors nationwide. Under Ed’s direction, the LCS Family of Companies have grown to become leading providers of high-quality senior lifestyle products and services, and the third-largest senior living management company in the country. Ed assumed the top executive position at LCS in 2006. He began his association with the organization in 1979, initially serving as executive director for several communities managed by Life Care Services®, An LCS Company. Currently, Ed serves as chair for the board of managers for Life Care Companies, and is the chair of the board of directors of LCS Holdings, Inc. He serves on the boards of Argentum and National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), chairs the public policy committee for Argentum, and is a past chairman of the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA). Ed holds a bachelor of science in health services administration from Providence College.