After climbing to the number one spot on Fortune’s Best Workplaces in Aging Services list this year, leaders at The Palace Group say they’re not resting on their laurels.
The Palace Group is based in South Florida, with a concentration on its footprint of 10 communities that span the care continuum. The luxury senior living provider has remained family-owned since its inception.
The Palace Group also owns and operates a home health agency centered on providing extra-community care in Dade and Broward counties. While The Palace Group had opened a community in Tel Aviv, Israel, the company sold the property to focus on domestic operations in 2015.
“We’re hyper-focused on the South Florida area,” Principal Haim Dubitzky told Senior Housing News in a recent interview. “We’re hands-on and we want to be within an hour of all of our different communities.”
The Palace Group is currently focused on filling up The Palace at Weston community in Weston, Florida, while also making CapEx improvements and renovations across the portfolio.
“The growth is in the occupancy of the buildings and we’re going to focus on that for the near-term,” Dubitzky said.
‘Eclipses the word recovery’
Senior living operators have spent the last two years digging out of a Covid-19 pandemic hole, and they have used strategies including seeking wider margins and implementing new ways to solve persistent staffing issues.
The Palace Group’s pandemic recovery “eclipses the word recovery,” Dubitzky said, with success on staffing and stable occupancy, which never dipped below 90% throughout the pandemic. Today, the company’s communities are sitting at 97% occupancy. This year’s been spent stabilizing staff turnover, while wages grew “across the board” by nearly 50% since the pandemic.
“I think we’re past recovery and we’re at a more stable point,” Dubitzky said. “We had to make some adjustments and we caught up pretty quick.”
Cost inflation has been a persistent challenge, both for Palace Group and for the wider industry. About three-fourths of the company’s current expenses stem from staffing, and , like others in 2023 the organization is mulling an up to 9.5% resident rate increase to offset those and other costs.
“I would say we were caught off-guard and we’d never thought we’d see something like [inflation] this,” Dubitzky said. “Our turnover has come down and we’re seeing more stability and a lot of normalities again.”
Palace Group is currently reporting turnover rates of around 40% for hourly staff and10% to 15% for salaried employees. The company also adopted an orientation platform for new staff that was created in consultation with the Ritz Carlton, something in use by other operators, including Sunrise Senior Living.
‘The people around us’
Like other senior living operators in recent years, The Palace Group has made strides to keep employees feeling happy and engaged on the job. The company has also in the past helped shoulder health care costs for workers.
A major component of The Palace Group’s success on staffing lies in its employee benefits, which range from making specific accommodations for employees to hosting large employee appreciation gatherings.
“We’ve had many people we have helped simply because we enjoy doing it,” Dubitzky said.
Before the year’s out, The Palace Group will bring back its employee appreciation banquet at the Trump National Doral Golf Club. The operator’s typical events usually host about 1,100 people and carry perks for attendees that are “first-class for everybody,” Dubitzky said.
“I would say instinctually, it’s the team, it’s the people around us,” Dubitzky said when asked about what drove the company’s recovery. “I think they’re all very happy to be getting back to normality.”
In February, The Palace Group will hold a “manager of the year” award ceremony to recognize excellence in daily operations. These events, Dubitzky said, have a “big impact” and improve morale and culture of all staff.
With an emphasis on transparency and accessibility, Dubitzky said that team members are able to bring new ideas to the table to improve operations.
“The success of the company is all about the people,” Dubitzky said. “We encourage our people to speak up and see how we could do better.”
Competition remains tight, outlook positive
Looking ahead, Dubitzky said the company will be open to opportunities to expand employee benefits via workforce housing, noting that that would be “next on our radar.” That’s due to the extremely high cost of living associated with living on South Florida’s eastern coast.
While emphasizing treatment of employees, Dubitzky said that comes with the expectation that “demands performance” in operations. One of the standards is high census across the portfolio, where 97% occupancy is “expected.”
That demand for performance stems from the fact that the South Florida senior living market is one of the most competitive markets in the country, with 800 new units coming online in the company’s primary market within the last 12 months. That influx of new units has “changed the playing field,” Dubitzky said.
With competition more fierce than ever, The Palace Group remains committed to providing luxury senior living to existing and prospective residents, Dubitzky said.
“Even though there’s more competition, you don’t need to monopolize the world, you just need to be the choice people make,” Dubitzky said. “You can’t rest on your laurels and you always have to keep going.”
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