Heritage Senior Living has named a new COO to help position the company for growth as it looks to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company’s new COO, Tammy Schafer, came aboard in 2019 as vice president of operations and has over the years overseen the company’s 15 communities in Wisconsin. s Her first task in her new role is to help overhaul the company’s culture and equip staff with the best tools and training to care for residents.
For West Allis, Wisconsin-based Heritage, Schafer’s promotion to COO was long overdue, according to CEO, President and Founder Milo Pinkerton. Earlier in the pandemic, she led an effort to bring in an outside consultant to help the company make operational improvements. She also advocated for an employee vaccination mandate at a time “when I think it wasn’t a popular idea,” according to Pinkerton.
“She proved herself over and over again – primarily during this difficult time,” he told Senior Housing News.
While Schafer’s job is partly to help prepare the company for growth, Heritage is in no hurry to expand, either. The company’s most recent development project, Aspire Senior Living Oshkosh, is slowly leasing up — but Pinkerton said that may be the last development project it undertakes for the next year or so.
“I think rather than new construction … the opportunity lies more with acquisitions,” said Pinkerton.
That growth could bring the company beyond the borders of Wisconsin to a nearby state in the coming years, according to Pinkerton, adding that Heritage is “not looking to expand rapidly.”
“We’re looking at what the growth opportunities outside our current portfolio are,” Pinkerton said.
As Schafer begins the task of cultivating the culture at Heritage’s 15 Wisconsin-based communities, the company is rolling out new benefits aimed at improving satisfaction and therefore recruitment and retention.
For instance, the company is investing in financial health and wellness planning for workers and has partnered with online banking service Varo Bank – of which Schafer is an investor – to give workers access to bank accounts and a $50 bonus if they use them.
“A lot of our caregivers don’t have bank accounts, or banks require a minimum deposit,” Pinkerton said, adding that Varo will set up an account without a minimum deposit.
In addition to creating a relationship with Varo, Heritage has increased pay twice in the last six months to well over $15 per hour, according to Pinkerton.
Heritage is also providing education, assistance with smoking cessation and holding fitness competitions, all in the name of improving the experience for staff.
“I think the most important thing we can do is to cultivate the culture and [to work] with our staff to give them more skill sets and [feel] more valued and more part of the team,” Pinkerton said. “Tammy has brought that to our company – that’s why she is the COO.”
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