Dan Gregory, a regular on ABC TV’s The Gruen Transfer, believes the aged care industry needs to think about how to make itself “more sexy”.
“Or how to make itself more relevant,” he adds. “You’ve got an ageing workforce and we’ve got an ageing population which means we’re going to need more people to work in this industry and we’re going to have to attract more new blood in,” he says.
Mr Gregory is a keynote speaker at Aged & Community Services Australia’s (ACSA) national conference on the Gold Coast this week.
With more competition in the marketplace, he claims the aged care industry is continually “competing” with hospitals which may have “sexier [worker] profiles”.
According to Mr Gregory, 50% of workers are not engaged in the work they do, adding there are many people looking for more meaning in their careers.
“So, how do we get sexy back in the aged care sector?” he asks. “Be more creative, connected and courageous.
“Allow people to be creative and don’t kill their ideas in its infancy. We need to start seeing with new eyes and hearing with new ears.”
To mark the beginning of change, Mr Gregory recommends the sector first create a “compelling identity”.
“The thing which drives all human behaviour is identity – that’s why it matters what the aged care industry represents.
“We don’t see the elderly as part of whom we are anymore and that’s a challenge for this industry because, if I don’t see the aged care industry as part of my identity, it’s going to be really difficult to get support and really difficult to attract workers – so we need to create a competitive identity.”
According to Mr Gregory, every industry he has spoken with has been familiar with its product, but “unfamiliar with whom they are engaging with”.
He believes Generation Y is fundamentally “driven by social good” – and the aged care sector should take advantage of this.
“Think about all of the activities Gen Y is engaged in – and a lot of them are social.
“[Gen Y] care for abandoned animals, children in the third world and they care for the hungry and homeless. [We need to ask] what will it take for them to work in aged care?
“That’s the message we should be putting to a generation that is socially motivated. It’s all about reframing what you do so they value it through their eyes.”
ACSA’s chief executive, Professor John Kelly, says the conference is an opportunity to debate the challenges the sector faces and prepare staff for the future.
“Reform has been a long time coming. We know there are great challenges facing the sector now and in the times ahead.
“We’re operating in difficult times… and it is vital we get aged care right to ensure sustainable quality care in the future,” Professor Kelly says.
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