Lucinda “Cindy” Baier

Brookdale Senior Living’s efforts to increase the retention rates of senior community-level leaders, now in their third year, are continuing to pay off, President and CEO Lucinda “Cindy” Baier said Tuesday during the company’s first-quarter earnings call.

Brookdale increased total compensation costs by 5% in 2018 and expects to increase compensation by 5.5% to 6% in 2019.

The trailing 12-month retention for executive directors and health and wellness directors was higher than 70% for the seventh consecutive quarter, she said Tuesday.

“In addition, the investments we are making in our associates, especially resident-facing roles, resulted in a 360-basis-point improvement in voluntary turnover compared to the first quarter of 2018,” she said.

Success in retaining sales directors hasn’t been as pronounced, but “our initiatives are beginning to take hold,” Baier said.

Improving sales director retention rates is the first step to improving the sales cycle, which she described as “one of our top priorities,” she added. Controllable move-outs saw a 50-basis-point improvement in the first quarter compared with the same quarter in 2018, Baier said.

Three new leaders

Brookdale also is adding three leaders to the organization, the CEO said.

Diane Johnson May joined Brookdale this week as executive vice president of human resources. May has more than 30 years of experience with Kraft Foods, including serving as executive vice president and chief human resources officer.

Rick Wigginton will join Brookdale at the end of this month as senior vice president of sales, bringing experience from Holiday Retirement and Atria Senior Living.

And next month, Anna-Gene O’Neal will join Brookdale as vice president of the hospice business. O’Neal has been president and CEO of Alive Hospice for the past seven years.

Steven Swain, Brookdale executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the company’s hospice business continues to increase in average daily census and recently expanded into a some additional markets.

“We’re also excited that we are doing de novo development of hospice,” Baier said. “One of the benefits that Brookdale has that other companies do not have is we have a resident base who regularly need hospice services. And so we are able to start up new hospices in a way that others can’t, because we have an engine to generate new patients.”

Regarding occupancy across the company, Swain said, “We are pleased that same-community independent living occupancy remained strong, at 90% in the first quarter, and increased 150 basis points when compared to the prior year quarter. However, our assisted living and memory care occupancy declined 220 basis points and continues to be impacted by cyclical oversupply pressures.”

Same-community revenue per occupied room increased 3.1% on a year-over-year basis and grew 3.7% sequentially, primarily driven by in-place resident rent increases, he said.