3 key challenges for Gen Z managers in aged care

There are three key challenges for young aged care managers, writes Angel Ngang.

There are three key challenges for young aged care managers, writes Angel Ngang.

While the Royal Commission is hearing about how to attract Millennials into the aged care sector, some high achievers of the following generation have already begun filling the manager roles in aged care homes.

Millennials, which is also referred to as Generation Y, are roughly born between 1980 and 1995. They are followed by Generation Z, which are people typically born between 1995 and 2009.

Angel Ngang

All aged care stakeholders should take an interest in the Gen Z cohort as they are increasingly being placed in a position to lead in aged care.

Based on my personal experience and of the other young managers in residential care I have listened to, I have noted the following three key challenges.

1. Building trust and respect

Managers are likely to encounter issues of trust and respect at certain stages throughout their careers regardless of their age.

But  Gen Z, which include grew up completely after the birth of the digital era, is in many ways uniquely distinct from the generations before it.

Those distinctions, which include traits such as individualistic and autonomous, are often not viewed preferably in a highly-regulated industry that values teamwork, selflessness and compliance.

Furthermore, Gen Z managers in aged care need to gain trust and respect not only from colleagues but also from residents and their family members. This task isn’t easy, yet it is significantly important that should be prioritised.

The responsibility lies with the Gen Z leaders to show their strengths and prove their capabilities in establishing meaningful relationships, managing teams and enhancing services delivery.

2. Hierarchical needs in team management

Although an organisation’s hierarchical structure is largely determined by the senior executive management, Gen Z managers can still have an impact on the operational culture of their particular homes.

One of the well-recognised characteristics of the Gen Z cohort is their little preference to the style of a strong hierarchical top-down management approach with clear chains of command.

This hierarchical approach is considered to limit involvement in decision-making and hinder collaboration. Thus, Gen Z managers are likely to be more approachable, less micromanaging and have higher expectation for self-initiated collaboration among team members.

Unfortunately, the ideology of developing a flat organisational culture in residential homes can be more difficult than one may expect.

The aged care workforce is diverse in age and cultural background. It is undeniable the value of diversity to the business but it also means that Gen Z managers need to be more thoughtful of the needs for the conventional hierarchical management style that might be highly regarded by other members of the team.

It can also be hard to ignore hierarchical approaches for a team that has been used to micromanagement and possibly yet to develop the ability to collaborate without instruction.

This may lead the team to have an unnecessary desire for more staffing hours while not realising their full potential on effective workload management through strong collaboration.

This is an acknowledgement to some of the headwinds that need to be overcome rather than a conclusion of whether a flat organisational culture at the site level can be achieved.

3. Generation gap

There have been many questions about how well young managers can fit the aged care industry, such as:

  • Are young aged care managers at their late 20s able to meet the emotional and psychological needs of their residents who mostly in their 80s?
  • How can young managers possibly establish meaningful relationships with their residents?
  • Do young managers have a genuine interest in aged care?

The eight aged care quality standards have clear guidelines on aged care providers’ quality of care and services covering all aspects of consumers’ needs. It can be perceived as a requirement for aged care managers to demonstrate their competency at the highest level. With a diverse workforce of healthcare professionals across all age groups, Gen Z managers are blessed with the resources at their disposal to meet the expectations.

For grey hair is a crown of glory, it is gained by living an abundant life. Gen Zers are able to bridge the generation gap by showing admiration, appreciation and gratitude at a level of personal connection.

As for my experience working in residential care over the past 10 years, some residents have taught me patience, guided me by their wisdom and loved me with their kindness.

Many have amazed me with the richness of their experiences.

I always appreciate the words of encouragement, unconditional support and moments of inspiration that residents have generously given me. I believe it is also  gratifying to the residents  to know that the younger generation is here for them when needed.

It takes courage for the senior management to appoint managers of the Gen Z in aged care today. It is also an act of bravery for the earliest Gen Zers to start embracing their responsibility to step up in aged care leadership role.

I argue that with a clear understanding of the challenges and firm determination to overcome weaknesses, Gen Z managers can avail their unique strengths and thrive in the role to better shape aged care going forward.

Angel Ngang, who was born in the 90s, is a nurse practitioner candidate and residential services manager for Labrina Village and John Paul II Village at Southern Cross Care (SA, NT & VIC).

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Tags: demographics, generation-z, management, opinion,

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