Instead of complaining about engaging our next generation of caregivers, take actions to successfully engage and integrate millennials into the workforce!

By Susan Saldibar

Why are we still talking (and writing) about the challenges of managing Millennials in our workplaces? As though they are aliens at odds with our “normal” world!

Instead of complaining about our next generation of caregivers, it’s encouraging to hear that many organizations, including those servicing our senior living communities, are taking actions to successfully engage and integrate Millennials into the workforce.  

Developing a Culture of Mentorship

A recent article from the McKinsey Quarterly, references organizations that have been leveraging data, transparent communications, professional development and mentoring to “shift business from usual” and create an inclusive environment that resonates with younger employees.    

For more than a decade, Sodexo, a Senior Housing Forum partner, has been leveraging their “Spirit of Mentoring” initiative to onboard and develop employees through both one-on-one and group mentoring. They call these “mentoring circles”. These group mentoring experiences have proven to encourage rich connections across generations, cultures and other dimensions of diversity that deepen learning about their organization while building skills, a sense of connection and even greater confidence.    

What Sodexo and other savvy senior care providers are doing is developing, within their organizations, a culture of mentorship. So it’s more than just talking the talk.

Millennials: The “Most Valuable” Generation?

Part of the problem in energizing and engaging Millennials in the workforce is that many fail to recognize the value they bring, including:

  • A realistic outlook. Remember, this is a generation coming of age in the middle of a global financial crisis. Chaos is a norm. They have developed a sharpened ability to find meaning in small places many of us miss.

  • Hyper-connected. Their natural connection to technology creates a continuous circuit of connectedness to others. Multi-tasking comes naturally. They can do more with less time on their hands.

  • Multi-ethnicity and multi-national awareness. Their global outlook has exposed them to other cultures and ethnicities far more than the generations before them. They are not as liable to shrink back from people who are “different”; in fact they are more liable to engage.

  • Technology adept. This is a no brainer. They are quickly able to grasp new apps and automation systems. No manuals needed.

Three Ways to Start Developing a Culture of Mentorship

A culture takes time to build. And you can’t fake it. So putting together programs without doing the groundwork is often fruitless. The desire to change culture has to start from the top down. Here are a few ways to begin the journey.

  1. Help older, seasoned employees understand the value Millennials bring to the workforce. Rather than underestimating or failing to identify strengths younger employees can offer, acknowledge their talents.

  2. Foster a supportive, flexible culture that leads to higher levels of engagement and commitment. Be mindful and hold leaders accountable for doing the same.  

  3. Cultivate a mentorship mindset. For example, hold impromptu Q&A sessions that encourage intergenerational dialogue, and “when you see it, say it.”  Acknowledge when a more experienced employee lends a helping hand to a younger employee, and don’t forget to do the same for a younger employee who shares their knowledge or skills with a more seasoned colleague (it’s called reverse mentoring).  

There’s Room at the Top

Millennials need to believe they are on track to becoming the future leaders of your community. We all are witness to the stories of entrepreneurs reaching success before they’re 30!

Today it is important to offer younger workers more than a vague reference to a career path in an interview. It needs to be integrated into the daily routine. Providing young employees with temporary projects that can be taken on over and above daily duties is one way to start grooming them for the future. Rotating assignments is another way to acquaint young employees with the work others are doing. Think “manager for a day” but with true authenticity.

Through their “Spirit of Mentoring,” Sodexo continues to build a culture that helps employees recognize their value, fosters a supportive, flexible culture, and cultivates a mindset that draws on each individual’s talents and strengths. They recognize how this becomes possible by demonstrating commitment and passion that starts at the top and permeates the organization at all levels and throughout each generation.

For more information on Sodexo’s “Spirit of Mentoring” and other workplace programs, download the new report on Workplace Trends 2016 here.