As Head of Innovation for Hallmark Care Homes and Savista Developments, Claire Johnsen says her goal is fostering a culture of innovation in a family-run company that is just hitting the quarter-century mark. Hallmark Care Homes operates 19 eldercare facilities across England and South Wales which are built by a sister company, Savista Developments. 

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Claire Johnsen, Head of Innovation, Hallmark Care Homes and Savista Developments

The homes are recognized in the industry for their high-quality care and innovative facilities. In 2021, Hallmark and Savista launched a Care Accelerator program which involved 17 employees who were recommended by senior management. They focused on three future-oriented projects, some of them related to reducing the companies’ carbon footprint. 

We spoke with Johnsen as part of our Member Spotlight series.

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Describe your role and your day-to-day responsibilities.

My job is to keep the company alert to new ideas and trends…to encourage intrapreneurs. [A] third element would be making a safe place for people to do risky things. It’s a very wide brief, and I’m [in a] new post; it was a new post two years ago. That’s another fun element. I’m walking into a greenfield site in terms of an innovation department, although the company has always been very innovative. 

I’m everywhere, really…press, media, blogs, podcasts, traditional newspapers, anything, because it’s just being in tune with what’s happening…Obviously, with COVID, it has been less easy, because traditionally, you’d have physically visited places…But actually, you get over that. You realize you can network online and you just get on with it. It’s [important to invest in your] network, making it bigger, making it wider. 

To come up with an idea is one achievement, but making it happen is the next piece.

How do you encourage entrepreneurs?

This time last year, we opened the Care Accelerator, and we set three challenges. And then three teams were selected to work on these ideas. Crossing the chasm— it’s not easy, necessarily. To come up with an idea is one achievement, but making it happen is the next piece. And how do you make it happen? This was the magic, I think—we trained [the teams, giving them] leadership and development and personal development skills, so that they not only came up with a good idea, but they were able to implement it as well.

What do you like to spend your time doing outside of work?

I’m a people person. And I love my friends…I think [that’s] why I like innovation, because it’s so involved with people and what they want to do. And I love comedy and I really do love stand-up…I go to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe every year, and I have a week of wall-to-wall stand up comedy and humor and I absolutely adore it. I love that. 

I’m a terrible beekeeper. But I love it. 

Another thing I like to do is bicycling. I’m a really keen cyclist. I actually rode across the corner of Mongolia just before lockdown with a girlfriend. 

I keep bees. I have done [that] for a while, and I’m a terrible beekeeper. But I love it. I get stung regularly and I make a terrible hash of it. I’ve created a local group in the village where I live, and we have a bee community and we have a honey bake-off.