Fast Five: how genU is staying focused on what matters most

2020 has been the hardest year aged care service providers have had to endure, but no matter the scale of the obstacles that stood in Clare Amies’ way, genU’s CEO has risen to the challenge.

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Welcome to the final edition of Fast Five for 2020 - VCCI’s fortnightly series where we ask Victoria’s most successful business leaders to answer five simple questions and look behind the scenes with our prominent business leaders.

As the CEO of an organisation dedicated to creating inclusive communities, a pandemic that forced us all into isolation is close to the worst-case scenario for genU CEO Clare Amies.

Despite these challenges, Clare has led the way for genU to adapt and pivot the organisation to continue supporting and protecting our must vulnerable citizens during a pandemic.

genU CEO Clare Amies.#1: What has been genU’s greatest achievement in 2020?

2020 has been a totally unexpected year for everyone.

genU’s greatest achievement has been our commitment to what matters most – maintaining meaningful connections to clients and their families right across our organisation’s many services.

genU has been able to focus on what we can do rather than what we have to stop doing, and it’s been great to see how all our people came together to find ways to safely continue to provide services during COVID-19.

We were also able to demonstrate how agile we can be and how we can find new and innovative ways of working that kept people connected.

Examples of this include embracing online video technology like Zoom, and the genU Letter Project which had volunteers, staff and schoolchildren produce more than 600 letters for aged care clients feeling isolated and lonely through COVID-19.

#2: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted genU in the long term?

COVID-19 has forced us to look at new ways to deliver services, and in many instances, this has resulted in better ways to connect with our clients.

Our education and training division, genU Training, had spoken about moving more of its courses online. When COVID-19 hit, the Training team was able to create virtual classrooms for almost all its courses, and this led to more students taking part in education from the comfort of their own homes.

Our aged care teams have also kept our most vulnerable clients safe and well through COVID-19, and we envisage stricter restrictions in this sector remaining well into 2021.

The major focus remains on our clients and giving them choice and independence in the way they receive their services. We will continue to incorporate new ways of engaging with our clients, and we are confident we can respond effectively to whatever challenges await in the future.

#3: What is one piece of advice that has motivated your personal success?

Stay true to who I am. Be my authentic self. It has been very important to know and behave congruently with my values. To never compromise who I am and what I believe.

I have always had a strong commitment to social justice and the importance of taking the opportunities that I have had and use these to give back. The people I have worked and collaborated with have influenced and shaped me to genuinely consider diverse perspectives and opinions.

I believe that there is always more to learn particularly if you keep an open mind and stay curious.

A key component of my personal learning is to continuously reflect on our own impact - to ask for feedback that is not just the positive but to hear and think about feedback that might challenge me. This helps me grow and search for opportunities that enable me to contribute and continue to give back to the community.

#4: What excites you about the future?

As a business we have had to adapt, and that means we now can think differently about how to engage with our clients to offer them more options. Importantly, will be our client’s voice and their partnership in shaping this next phase of service design.

Having our services available online opens more possibilities in terms of the people we can reach in every location in Australia. It is truly exciting that we can replicate what we have done (predominately in Victoria) right across the country.

We also have some large projects ready to go which include our St Laurence Master Plan. This includes the redevelopment of existing retirement accommodation in Lara (just outside Geelong), while also building new accommodation.

We are also redeveloping supported accommodation in Geelong, and we have a development at McCrae in southern Melbourne, which will provide supported accommodation for six people with a disability.

#5: What is genU doing that is unique?

genU is unique in that it provides a wide array of services including disability and aged care services, education and training, employment services and professional recruitment as well as a childcare and kindergarten centre in Lara.

We are at times a complex and varied organisation, but at the same time we are guided by a unified set of values, and a clear vision and mission.

Our vision is to create inclusive communities, and our mission is to deliver innovative services and supports that empower people to reach their full potential.

Every single person who works for genU is focused on improving the lives of our clients and their families. We never lose sight of that goal, and we are proud of the impact we have had across Australia from more than 65 years. 

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