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The Art Of Attracting Next-Gen Leaders To Senior Care

Attracting next-gen leaders to senior careLeadership development in senior care is critical for a couple reasons. First, it’s crucial to help the industry fill the shoes of the 70% of executives set to retire over the next decade. And second, providers need to offer some form of career pathing to appeal to today’s mostly millennial and generation Z workforce. When you look at it this way, leadership development programs can help your organization thrive in more ways than one – by filling the gaps in your c-suite and attracting and retaining the workers you need. 

I myself started out as a nursing assistant through a vocational program. Simply being exposed to the industry and the difference I could make in people’s lives had me hooked. I went on to get my nursing license and eventually moved into operational roles.

I worked hard to get where I am today and am so thankful for the opportunities that were presented to me throughout my career. I do, however, owe much of my success to my mentors and leaders. Their guidance and faith in me are why I’m so passionate about my role at OnShift, where I get to empower organizations to build a more employee-centric culture. 

Honoring A True Senior Living Legend

One of my mentors in particular, the late Granger Cobb, had a profound influence on me.  He’s known as a pioneer of senior living – having gone from the owner of one community to the CEO of Emeritus, as well as a Brookdale board member.

He taught me and many of my colleagues to always do the right thing, put people first and learn from every opportunity. He also preached the importance of investing in and inspiring your team. Many of my mentors adopted his approach and you really saw it transform their organizations. You could feel that each layer of leadership cared deeply about the residents and staff. I know that his wisdom and sprit live on in all of us today.

To honor his legacy, Washington State University’s Carson College of Business is in the process of renaming their Senior Living Management program the Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living. OnShift is a proud founding partner of the program and I recently connected with Scott Eckstein, the program’s Clinical Assistant Professor and Senior Living Executive-In-Residence, to co-host a McKnight’s Webinar on developing future leaders in senior care.

Scott is an industry veteran himself, having worked for several senior living operators over the years. I wanted to share a few of the highlights from the webinar to help in your succession planning efforts and to give you more information about what Washington State University is doing to bolster the senior living workforce.

Changing The Convo & Raising Awareness About Careers In Senior Care 

We kicked off the webinar with a hard-hitting stat around the state of the labor market: There has been a 129% increase in open direct-care jobs since July 2017. That doesn’t bode well for an industry facing high turnover and the need to source 1.2 million workers by 2030. There is a definite need to recruit people – and lots of them – to the senior care industry. 

Unfortunately, a survey revealed that 60% of people would not consider a career in senior care. This is unsettling, but a light at the end of the tunnel is revealed when we look at the data a bit closer. If the responses are broken down by age group, we learn that millennials are almost twice as likely to consider a career in senior care.

And, more good news: when we ask the same question to those who have had exposure to the industry, we learn that interest rises with awareness and familiarity. 32% of people with firsthand family experience would consider a career in senior living versus 13% without that experience. We also learn that millennials were more likely than older respondents to cite their overall impression of the industry as a reason for non-interest.

This tells us that exposure is key to attracting the next generation of workers. And Scott has proof. When he takes his students to visit a senior living community, several who he admits are taking his class to fill a credit requirement, they are blown away by what they see. This shows there is a definite opportunity to educate the public and our target workforce to clarify understanding of the senior care industry and what it offers in terms of careers.

The Institute for Senior Living is working diligently to spread the word about careers in the field and attract the next generation of industry leaders. Some of the initiatives they have in place are:

  • Partnerships with high school guidance counselors & vocational schools to start the conversation much earlier
  • Undergraduate, graduate & online classes
  • Research & outreach programs
  • Intergenerational programs
  • An MBA program in senior living management

Scott says that one of the program’s biggest competitors is the hospitality industry. Top brands like Hilton are successfully communicating and offering career paths to the millennials and gen Zers and we need to borrow a few pages from their playbook to compete.

Watch the webinar, Attracting Next-Generation Leaders to Senior Care, to learn what the Hiltons of the world are doing to attract and retain today’s workforce, as well as simple strategies for improving culture at the community level.


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