Bridging the gap: Millennials in LTC
The generation dubbed “Millennials” is a generation who is entering the workforce with full steam. Collectively, they bring a set of characteristics that is widely believed to complicate interactions, both professionally and personally.
A stereotype is that this group is confident, lazy, entitled and unwilling to work hard. The purpose of this article is to take away the negative connotation of the characteristics, find the purposefulness in the characteristics, and apply to actions in long-term care that generate satisfactory results in care, customer service and peer relationships. Embracing millennials and the characteristics that they bring to the workplace can be advantageous to your employee and shareholder satisfaction.
Millennials were raised to be confident individuals. This confidence can be off-putting to their more seasoned coworkers. They also crave instant and almost constant feedback. This behavior was initiated and reinforced in the school systems and in extracurricular activities, especially sporting events.
If you have a shift that is predominantly staffed by millennials, it works well to have a more seasoned mentor as well on the shift. This mentor should be someone who guides them, working parallel to them so that they are not aware of the full level of mentorship, and still maintain their confidence and independence, all while receiving the reassurance that they crave.
Supervisors also need to play a role in this feedback. “Millennials expect close relationships and frequent feedback from their supervisors and managers…They expect open communication, even about matters normally reserved for senior employees.” (Society for Human Resource Management [SHRM] 2009; Gursoy et al. 2008; Martin 2005; Remo 2006; SHRM, 2009) Maintaining an open door policy, making yourself accessible (on and off of their shifts), and inviting them to become involved in your daily decision making creates an environment of trust and empowerment that the millennials are looking for. This will increase their job satisfaction, therefore likely reducing your employee turnover rate.
Millennials are often defined as being lazy because they do not want to work as often or as hard as their more seasoned coworkers. Millennials are known for valuing a balance between work life and social life. Social life involves spending quality time with family and friends.
The value placed on time away from work is often misunderstood. This need for balance often inspires other coworkers or supervisors from other generations to tap into their values and make changes towards the value of family time. Feeling happier at home could carry over into workplace satisfaction. Also if other generations realize that their newfound balance between work and home can be attributed to their younger coworkers, then there is potential for a trusting relationship to be forged. Supervisors can support this value based ideal by offering and promoting flexible scheduling. Flexible scheduling is directly correlated to employee satisfaction.
‘There also are popular depictions of millennials' purported admirable attributes from organizations' perspectives, including beliefs that they are more accepting of diversity than were past generations, have capabilities with advanced communication and information technologies, have the ability to see problems and opportunities from fresh perspectives, and are more comfortable working in teams than were past generations (Howe and Strauss 2000; Gorman et al. 2004; Tapscott 1998; Zemke et al. 2000).'
To start, working in team-based groups throughout their years of education has programed millennials to work in pairs or groups. They feel most comfortable when allowed to work this way. Working in groups also promotes innovative problem solving techniques. As a supervisor, you can empower a millennial by acknowledging and/or implementing some of their innovative solutions. This feeds multiple needs for them while boosting employee satisfaction. Your residents and shareholders are also likely to have an increased feeling of satisfaction. To further promote empowerment and employee growth you can initiate a rewards based acknowledgment program or competition.
Another positive characteristic that millennials embody is their love and knowledge of all things electronic and encompassing the latest in technology. They are a generation that was raised with computers in the homes and the schools. They have had the privilege of always having technology at their fingertips. This is advantageous to a supervisor because long-term care is transitioning into electronic record keeping and telemedicine.
Your millennials will be most familiar and most accepting of new technology. They can educate other employees of the positive aspects of the change and aide in a smoother transition. It will also empower them to take a leadership role, as their knowledge of the upgraded technology will more than likely surpass their elder coworkers.
By changing your mindset and recognizing that Millennials bring a lot of opportunities for positive growth for all in the realm of long-term care, you can reap the rewards of increased employee and shareholder satisfaction while simultaneously reducing employee turnover. We already know that consistency and continuity of the care and the caregiver have a major impact on quality of care. By accepting millennials and capitalizing on their strengths, the positive benefits will likely carry over into excellent patient care.
Tara Roberts, PT, is the Vice President of Rehabilitation and Wound Care Services at Nexion Health.
Gorman, P., Nelson, T., & Glassman, A. (2004). The Millennial generation: A strategic opportunity. Organizational Analysis, 12(3), 255–270.
Gursoy, D., Maier, T. A., & Chi, C. G. (2008). Generational differences: An examination of work values and generational gaps in the hospitality workforce. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 27, 458–488.
Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennials rising. New York: Vintage Books.
Martin, C. A. (2005). From high maintenance to high productivity: What managers need to know about Generation Y. Industrial and Commercial Training, 37, 39–44.
Myers, Karen K.; Sadaghiani, Kamya. (2010). Millennials in the Workplace: A Communication Perspective on Millennials' Organizational Relationships and Performance. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(2)
Remo, N. (2006). The effects of the reciprocity norm and culture on normative commitment for generation Y. Unpublished masters thesis, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada.
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). (2009). The multigenerational workforce: Opportunity for competitive success. Retrieved July 26, 2009, from http://www.shrm.org/ Research/Articles/Articles/Documents/09-0027_RQ_March_2009_ FINAL_noad.pdf
Tapscott, D. (1998). Growing up digital: The rise of the net generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Zemke, R., Raines, C., & Filipczak, B. (2000). Generations at work: Managing the clash of veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in your workplace. New York: AMACOM American Management Association.