Companies must engage the Millennial workforce

Understanding what young professionals seek is the key to long-term success

By Heather Keena 

Research regarding Millennials — those aged 18 to 35 — is abundant. Dozens of Millennial discussions and articles compete for attention.

The reality? Millennials already sit in the chairs of senior vice president roles and C–suite positions. They are collaborators, and they thrive in the environment where group-think is at its best. They are purpose-oriented and engage in the causes they believe in.

Young, adaptive, informed and purpose-driven: music to any manager’s ears. 

The question we face is how to engage this workforce in seniors housing, an industry with which many Millenials are almost entirely unfamiliar. The process begins with our approach to recruitment and to leadership.


Strong web presence makes the difference

Recruiting Millennials is about meeting them where they are: online. Millennials are “virtually” everywhere and seek efficient methods of getting there. This is a critical point to remember when it comes to recruiting. The corporate application process should be efficient. 

When Millennials consider applying for work, they don’t want to have to enter a lot of information already available on their profile pages or wait for long periods of time to download information. Applications that are not streamlined tell the Millennial job-seeker that the company is not on the cutting edge of technology and may not value the very thing they are good at: obtaining information and results efficiently.

The Millennial job-seeker is not just looking at an online application and posting a resume (which any of our Millennials will inform you should be able to post from a LinkedIn profile). They are looking at who you are in the world, particularly the cyber world. 

The Millennial is looking at your reputation online via tools such as Glassdoor and Yelp. They want to know if your senior executives are well-liked and if your team members have a sense of the corporate mission. Millennials needs to envision themselves within your corporate culture. 

Despite the popular thought that Millennials are looking at the seating arrangements in an office to determine your culture, this is not as important to them as you might think. What they are assessing is their ability to impact the company’s purpose and interface directly with the decision-makers. Researchers by birth, they will obtain all of this information before they even click the “jobs” button on your website.


What does this mean to recruitment? 

The days of relying solely on the mission statement on our websites to represent who we are as organizations are gone. Establishing an online identity and a corporate voice to define ourselves is no longer optional. 

We need to seek feedback and transparently represent our culture rather than wait for Glassdoor reviews. We need to share testimonials. Millennials are relational and to obtain their best talent, we need to be, too. The stories behind the company will be more important than the generic corporate mission statement. Know your stories and commit to sharing them. 

Your stories will grab their attention, but to fully recruit the Millennial to the senior care industry, we must educate them. Millennials are willing to be transient for the sake of experience; what they don’t know is that senior care offers these experiences without the job hopping. 

The senior housing and care industry encompasses a multitude of industries: marketing, healthcare, dining service, real estate, hospitality, development, engineering and plant operations, accounting, business administration, healthcare administration and the list goes on. We offer Millennials the opportunity to explore different career paths while remaining within a single company. We are unique in this sense. 

This enables us to go outside the senior care world to recruit from industries focusing on solely one of these areas. But to make our argument convincing, we need these experiences to simultaneously reflect a sense of corporate purpose if we want to attract Millennials. 

Here lies the real inherent value when recruiting Millennials. They seek to leave a footprint on the world. Ours is an industry built on compassion. Blend the compassion and values associated with our field with the attraction and innovation of a Google workspace, and you will get their attention. 


Recruiting done. How do we retain?

Once you have their attention, maintaining Millennial engagement depends on our ability to be transformational leaders. For years, the workforce has responded to engagement questions regarding whether or not team members feel their opinions matter. Given the size of their incoming workforce, Millennials have the luxury of making career decisions based on their response to such questions. 

One example is having a seat at the table to interface with decision-makers. Your table may not be the corporate board room, but a care plan meeting with caregivers will accomplish the same goal. Incorporate Millenials in your meetings — they want to be there. 

Leading a Millennial also means embracing their expertise. Even the Millennial without a degree in computer science seems to be an expert in technology. Their generation may be the first to enter the workforce educated in areas prior generations were not. 

Be a mentor to a Millennial and seek a Millennial as your own mentor as well. Openly discussing this two-way relationship informs your Millennials that you are aware of their expertise and their desire to grow. This relationship validates their skillset while still positioning the importance of what is gained by learning from an individual who has experience in areas they do not. In other words, it’s a win-win.

Leading the Millennial involves self-accountability. It is committing to asking the questions they will ask, before they ask them. For example:

• Do my business goals and outcomes align with my purpose? Is what I am asking of my team clearly understood? Are expectations aligned with our purpose and team feedback? 

• If not, has the team had an opportunity to weigh in? 

• Do my team members feel valued for their role in our decisions? 

• Am I challenging my team to think beyond what is done to what is done efficiently or in a manner that better represents our corporate identity? 

• Would I work here if I had the option to choose where I worked at that phase in my career? Why or why not? 


Respecting the Millennial lifestyle

Leading the Millennials also means recognizing their passion for work-life balance. They watched parents survive a recession. Yet they come into the workplace uninhibited by the experience of feeling the workforce is full of people able to replace them. This empowers them to evaluate work-life relationship.

A work-life relationship is the balance between “work hours” and “unplugged” hours. It recognizes that you are not “off” when you leave the office. They are experts at the always-on mentality; they have known little different. Our ability as managers to demonstrate our understanding of that mindset may be the Millennials’ measure of our leadership. 

But before taking any of these steps, start with the most important: Get to know the Millennials in your organization. Observe their interactions with their peers, engage their expertise and share yours. You may find catering a bit to what Millennials want won’t just improve your relationship with them, but also impact your entire organization for the better.


Heather Keena is the vice president of training and development for Senior Lifestyle Corp. She oversees the creation and implementation of the company’s training and educational programs.

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