Apparently I’m an ENFJ: an extroverted intuitive feeling judger. While some delegates had travelled down the self-psychoanalytical road before, it was the first time I’d completed any sort of personality type assessment. It was a lesson in self-discovery, or rather confirming what I already knew about myself.
I know I suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), that I rely heavily on my gut instincts, that I have a tendency to glaze over the finer detail. The biggest take-away from the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, was that it takes all sorts of personalities to build an effective team. The big-picture starters need to be balanced with the detail-driven finishers. The logical analytical decisions need to be tempered with how they affect people.
It felt almost frivolous to be allowed to dedicate so much valuable conference time to soft skills like communication and team dynamics. But perhaps this is a reflection of the state of the retirement village sector: healthy.
In the queue for the free ANZ coffee in the humming exhibitor hall, I chatted with caffeine-deficient RV managers about how collegial and collaborative the retirement village sector is, despite operators essentially competing for segments of the same market. The conclusion was that demand still outstripped supply – there is more than enough to go around.
So business continues to boom. New sites are being developed, growth has spilled beyond the cities into the regions, and the RVA continues to iron out any wrinkles in the public’s perception of the industry.
ANZ’s Richard Hinchliffe and Sharon Zollner noted that growth was starting to decelerate, and suggested that the good times might be about to wane. What better time for the sector to focus on people, when providers are still in the throes of the boom, yet alert to the possibility of a slowing market?
Former Prime Minister Sir John Key conveyed a similar message to delegates: that they need to look beyond the profit and loss statement. He talked about the importance of a strong team and of knowing what success looks like.
“When the answer to everything is money, you’re asking the wrong question,” he said.
The focus on people extended beyond staff, to customers and their changing needs and wants.
Neer Korn from Australia had much to say on the subject. Baby boomers have brought change at every stage of their lives and they’re not about to stop now. They want to live for today, enjoying experiences and treating themselves. They don’t want to feel old and like the appeal of intergenerational living options. Yet they feel ignored: marketers have a tendency to talk about the 50+ demographic, which assumes a 55-year-old is the same as a 95-year-old.
Prompted by a show of hands from the MC (the ever-delightful Jackie Clarke, who assumed a hippy, happy American alter-ego for the event), it transpired that a large number of delegates were at, or nearing, boomer age. So Korn’s message rang true as they descended on the gala dinner Tuesday night dripping in sequins, feathers and bow ties.
I had to park my inner feminist as I watched the scantily-clad showgirls high-kick and shimmy across the stage, as Jackie Clarke and Tim Beveridge crooned away to old show classics.
While health and wellbeing might not have been top priority for most people that night, I felt smug all day for starting the next day with the yin yoga session sponsored by Head and Heart Consultancy. Looking after yourself and your people was a theme that cropped up increasingly throughout the conference.
Again, it is nice the retirement village sector has the luxury to think about things like this. There were discussions around how to achieve greater market penetration and how to expand the retirement village offering to lower socioeconomic groups, but these were secondary to the main focus on looking after people. Questions around things like sustainability and the underfunding of aged care operations also played second fiddle.
Who knows what next year will bring? But for now, let the good times roll. That was certainly the take-away from this year’s conference.