Supporting younger staff members is vital to how we engage and retain our next generation of talent. Understanding Generation Ys (aged 24-38) and Generation Z (under 24) is essential to the future of your teams, organisations, and aged care. Engaging and supporting staff is one of the most significant challenges facing Australian businesses today.
Appropriate planning for a well-supported and qualified aged care workforce is vital, given projections about our ageing population and workforce requirements. Some estimates suggest that, by 2050, the number of aged care employees will account for 4.9 percent of all Australia workers. Will we have the talent and the leaders to take on our challenges? Will they remain passionate about its future, and will our future leaders be ready to support our older consumers to live their best lives as they age?
Many organisations are getting this right. They are actively engaging a multi-generational workforce. Providing opportunities for staff who are older and younger to lead and manage at all leadership levels.
In contrast, I have had aged care Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and senior leaders explicitly state that they do not hire anyone under 45 - saying that young people just "don't fit the culture", or they leave too quickly. So it's just better for the team (and their bottom line) to not even try.
On the other hand, young employees continue to share that their age has significantly impacted on their ability to progress in their aged care organisations. Some have been put forward for leadership roles only be told that seniority takes precedence over skill sets. Others have asked supervisors for support and advice but due to limited time and resources - they’ve never received it.
Whether their young age is a factor or not - they believe there is ongoing discrimination based on age. Leaving them feeling under-supported, overwhelmed, under-resourced and actively discouraging others from entering aged care.
Now is the time to embrace new strategies and revitalise old ones, engaging all our emerging leaders to see our established leaders are ready to support us. So what can you do?
Let's begin with five strategies you can implement to drive engagement in your younger staff.
1. Create better conversations
Create the environment to explore the 'Why' - not the how or what.
'Why' creates conversations, it allows to see why we care about the outcome of our work, and the value we place on it. Every day. It's something that is commonly missed in our busy workplaces. Connecting with ‘Why’ helps us connect with the overall vision of our team, building connection and growing towards a common purpose. [Read Starts With Why by Simon Sinek for more insights into this]
2. Commit to Lunch Dates
It’s said that true leaders never eat alone. For many of us lunchtime is a way to escape and recharge. But what if once a month you committed to lunching with someone who inspires you? A young employee perhaps? Invite someone who's leadership inspires you. If you're a young leader, are you brave enough to lunch with a senior executive? Ask them about their 'why', and use this opportunity to build on your organisation’s and our industry’s vision of a brighter future.
3. Promote Growth
Only 49 percent of Generation Ys thought their organisations were doing all they could to develop their leadership skills - that's a significant shortfall in developing leadership in others. Take responsibility to share engaging articles, scholarships, and awards with at least five young people in your network. Personally reach out and show young leaders around you that you believe in them. Yes, your ability to use your influence and show you believe in those around you brings out the best in others. Whats holding you back?
4. Share Experiences
Include emerging leaders in discussions of impact. Invite them to shadow a meeting. Ask for their opinion. Reflect how you don't always get it right, and ask them to share their own experiences. Help them understand the different skills and experiences all leaders need to succeed. Help them see they are ready to be a leader of the future.
5. Embrace Mentoring
Mentoring is a fantastic tool for all leaders, opening opportunities that lay before us. Many young leaders understand the importance of mentoring, but when reaching out they lack confidence, direction, and at times the leaders they ask are too busy to assist.
Up to 65 percent of emerging managers in aged care cannot identify a mentor. Maybe it's time for you to step up and find your own mentee? They could be at your next conference or meeting.
Every person in aged care is responsible for leading our industry’s future direction. Generation Ys and Zs are looking for leaders like you; who inspire, share, engage, and mentor others to move forward in their careers. Are you someone who grows the positivity of our industry? Are you ready to step up?
Samantha Bowen is the Founding Director of Acorn Network. Her focus is to inspire us all to get involved and see the opportunities within our aged care sector. She is a Federal Advisory Board Member for NNIDR, an international speaker, an advocate for young leaders in aged care, and firmly believes that now is the time to count the leaders around us to build a future we all want to grow old in.