Cara Silletto

Most leaders I know had a pretty great parent or two who raised them. Those parents worked hard in at least one job if not more while their children were growing up. 

Those parents also set the stage for what was expected of their children, and most of them grew up learning right from wrong, as well as what was appropriate behavior at home, at school and in the church pew on Sunday mornings.

So, why can’t today’s staff get it right? Don’t they know what’s expected of them? Why do they drive managers crazy by missing the mark on what “professionalism” looks like? What happened between then and now that makes staff think they can do whatever they want whenever they want, without regard to the impact on our business, or their reputation?

I hear these questions often as senior care leaders whom we teach complain about their staff who they say have no sense of urgency, lack the desired level of professionalism, have little or no work ethic, and are only focused on themselves. 

Well, this month, we’re going to provide insights on exactly why today’s new workforce sees the work world, their bosses, and their responsibilities in the building differently. 

Debunking “common sense” myths

No sense of urgency – Let me ask you, will staff make more money if they work harder? No. Typically, only managers or higher-ups are bonused on productivity or profitability metrics, not our front-line workers. And when we’re short-staffed and/or set unrealistic workload expectations to begin with, team members quickly realize they are not going to hit the unreachable goals set by the company anyway, so why try? 

I see housekeepers leave, for example, because they continue to be told they’re not moving fast enough, yet when I talk with them, there’s no incentive to move faster and they feel they’re never “hit the mark” on where they’re supposed to be at the end of the day because it’s an impossible task. How would you feel in that situation? No more money, no praise for what you HAVE accomplished, and a constant reprimand for missing the expectation. 

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment to determine more effective ways to motivate and reward staff for a QUICKER job well done if you’re seeking a greater sense of urgency from your staff. 

Lack of professionalism – Think about this; many of your current staff members did not have parents who got up early, ironed their clothes, worried about being on time each day, and set a good example of what you deem “professional” during their upbringing. If they walk into an interview or their first day wearing clothes you wouldn’t recommend, we need to realize they likely do not have strong mentors showing them what’s appropriate versus not. They see what their friends wear, and depending upon where their friends work, that could be the standard they go by (even if it says Juicy on the backside).

The best way to overcome this frustration and disconnect is to mentor new hires and those workers who are missing the mark of what’s expected by communicating exactly what you want and don’t want to see at work. Don’t just say “give me a status report” if the answer “fine” isn’t enough for you. Tell them you want to know the current status of each resident, any issues that have come up from the last shift, any changes that need to be made for the day, any roadblocks they’ve hit that need support, etc.

The need for mentorship has never been greater as the chasm that exists between employer expectations and employee behavior widens, but if schools and parents are not filling that gap, organizations will have to fill it instead.

To be clear, we’re not trying to make excuses for today’s new workforce. On the contrary, we’re sharing these insights about how younger workers were raised differently than previous generations in hopes of enlightening managers to better know their people and bring new perspective to the employee retention conversation.  

The next time you hear, think, or say, “that’s just common sense,” or other judgmental phrases such as “she should know better,” “I shouldn’t have to tell her that,” remember what you learned today about the backstory of today’s new workforce. Then consider how you can step up as a leader to mentor others more effectively, fill the professionalism gaps within your organization, and ultimately create a better place to work.

Workforce thought leader Cara Silletto, MBA, CSP, works with organizations of all sizes to reduce unnecessary employee turnover by bridging generational gaps and making managers more effective in their roles. She is the author of the book, Staying Power: Why Your Employees Leave & How to Keep Them Longer.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.