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4 Keys to Managing the 5G Workforce in Senior Living

February 11, 2016 | Mark Woodka

5g-workforce-senior-living.jpgStaffing is one of the top issues keeping senior living executives up at night.

One reason it’s such a big challenge is “5G,” a newly coined term that describes the working population that currently spans five generations. Stark differences exist among the generations, according to a recent white paper by University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School executives.

“Today’s workforce is decidedly multigenerational,” write UNC’s Dan Bursch, program director, MBA@UNC and Kip Kelly, director, UNC Executive Development. “It is comprised of five generations—Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (or Millennials), and a smattering of Generation Z—whose life experiences have left indelible marks on their values and work preferences. This rapid and unprecedented demographic shift has many business leaders wondering how organizations will adapt to the ‘5G’workplace.”

Many of the senior living executives I have spoken with describe the challenges involved in managing a multi-generational workforce. For example, what drives millennials and makes them happy at work can look a lot different than what it takes to keep a Baby Boomer engaged and satisfied.

That’s not to say there aren’t other operational challenges, but many tie back to managing across these five generations. Here are 4 keys to addressing multi-generational workforce challenges in senior living.

1. Understand the “5G” workforce.

Each generation has its own preferences when it comes to work. For example, Traditionalists (the oldest workers in the workforce today) view work as a privilege and have strong work ethic. Baby Boomers are motivated by rank and wealth and tend to be extremely loyal to their employers. Gen Xers prefer managers who are straightforward, genuine and “hands-off.” Millennials are known for being digital and educated and gravitate toward meaningful work. Finally, Gen Z is the most tech-savvy as the youngest workers in the 5G workplace.

Got all that? Start by understanding the 5G workplace and its different components. This will help you manage the challenges stemming from the differences among these generations.

2. Communicate appropriately.

Make use of technology to appeal to the younger end of the workforce, while gearing communications for the older workers as they prefer to receive them. According to Bursch and Kelly, this means giving Gen X communication informally and effectively and offering feedback opportunities to millennials.

3. Encourage flexible management.

Managing through workforce challenges requires a varied approach and is anything but one-size-fits-all. Effective leaders will be able to practice both hands-off and hands-on approaches, depending upon the workers’ preferences.

4. Create programs that lead to collaboration.

Start by understanding the ways in which the different generations bring knowledge to the workplace and encourage employees to share their knowledge with one another. “Baby Boomers and Traditionalists, for example, are used to a more ‘siloed’ knowledge sharing experience,” Bursch and Kelly say. Yet the younger generations prefer information that is shared transparently and freely. Ignoring these differences can lead to lost information and communication breakdown.

Studies show organizations lose time and money when their workers do not get along—often the case when generational preferences are not acknowledged. Follow these initial steps to help ensure your organization does not lose productivity due to misunderstanding or miscommunication.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About Mark Woodka

Mark Woodka is CEO of OnShift and has over 25 years of experience in enterprise software sales and marketing, having worked for startup organizations as well as Fortune 500 companies. He often leverages his extensive background in technology-enabled process improvements speaking at industry conferences as well as authoring articles on long-term care trends and issues.

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