Today’s senior care thought leaders are starting to wake up to the fact that we have a talented, creative and industrious new generation of employees coming through our doors.

By Susan Saldibar

If you are “of a certain age” and you played any sport, you remember that moment at the end of the season, when someone would get a trophy for MVP. And, if you weren’t as talented on the field, you might hope for the “good sportsmanship” award. But that was it. Almost everyone went home with empty hands, but with hopes to work harder next year.

Flash forward to the world of Millennials. To look at their bedroom shelves you would think they were all Olympic medalists. Trophies, ribbons and plaques abound. For what? In most cases, for just showing up.

Stereotypes are never fair, however. So, while the impression persists for many that Millennials are spoiled and feel entitled to accolades that they may not have earned; that narrative is rapidly changing. And it’s the Millennials themselves who are changing it. Today’s senior care thought leaders are starting to wake up to the fact that we have a talented, creative and industrious new generation of employees coming through our doors.

There is a huge opportunity to engage and recognize Millennials. Don’t blow it.

Sodexo, a Senior Housing Forum partner, recently published their annual report in which they provide new strategies for engaging a new generation of workers. While these individuals may have grown used to recognition and awards, they are no longer seeking gold stars and blue ribbons. What they do want is different; and, in many ways, more impressive. You can click on the download below to view their annual report.

Here are three ways to create recognition programs that tap into a new set of motivations and which will energize, not only younger workers, but everyone:

  1. Use technology. That doesn’t mean to abandon the “congrats” memo tacked on the central bulletin board. But technology is here and now, not later. And it allows both managers and peers to use cell phones to send mobile messages when an employee reaches a goal or is caught doing a good deed. Chances are, these messages will be passed along to family and friends and may even get posted to their personal Facebook pages. That benefits everyone, including the community.

  2. Reward actions that tie to healthy living goals. Here’s an example from Sodexo. Instead of rewarding an employee for attending a session on nutrition, why not reward them for actually eating healthy meals? It encourages real life adoption of healthy habits, not just sitting in on a lecture.

  3. Attach rewards to things that the employee cares about. What is their personal cause or goal? Can you make a contribution to it? Studies show that Millennials are much more apt to engage with an organization that reaches out and supports important causes. Recognizing a cause in addition to an individual, makes everyone feel good. 

Generally speaking, Millennials are motivated by career growth opportunities and flexible scheduling. Baby Boomers value public recognition, awards and similar perks. 

Yet there is more to recognition than awards. And it’s rarely discussed. But the truth is, traditional forms of recognition, however well-intentioned and sincere, may not be sufficient to drive engagement without this crucial component: RESPECT.

Be authentic in recognizing and rewarding employees. There is a fine line between a fresh, effective program and one that comes across as forced and contrived. Some people are naturally good at positive feedback and spontaneously rewarding an employee as they pass in the hall. Empower those individuals to share their enthusiasm and spread their goodwill. That will help everyone get on board.

Like everything else, truly successful programs start from the top. It’s time for leaders to make friends with change and, in so doing, with a vibrant new generation. Sodexo urges us to celebrate Millennials as our “think different” generation. The opportunity to harness their out-of-the-box thinking, when applied, can be a game changer for your organization. There are seminars and plenty of articles on how to engage Millennials. Arm yourself with knowledge. Become an evangelist for the way you engage and recognize your team. Everyone, including your residents, will benefit.