Being a role model is one of several strengths that young aged care managers offer the sector, writes Angel Ngang.
While there are challenges for young managers in aged care, there are even more strengths that Generation Z managers can bring for the future of aged care. Generation Z typically refers to people typically born between 1995 and 2009.
Based on my personal experience as an aged care manager of this generation, and that of other young managers in residential care I have listened to, I have observed many common challenges and strengths.
In my previous article, I discussed how building trust and respect is one of three challenges that Gen Z aged care managers might encounter working in today’s aged care industry (read more here). But I find there are even more strengths for managers of this generation in aged care.
1. Being a role model
It is well-acknowledged that aged care is not an attractive industry to the youngest generation of workers. Even for people who have an interest in health science, preferred working options more likely often include acute or primary care.
Certainly, there are multiple factors that influence this decision. But success stories from people who belong to the same age group can boost young people’s confidence in choosing a career in aged care. Gen Z aged care managers who are thriving in their roles can be a source of inspiration to their peers.
Gen Z managers are likely to be more optimistic about the performance and potential of their young team members. It could be noticed in the process of hiring that Gen Z managers may be more willingly to select younger applicants in view of a greater team chemistry through their common language and expectations on leadership style.
Young employees could also easily associate themselves with their Gen Z managers to follow in their footsteps and seek professional growth. This professional relationship might even extend to great friendship outside of work and again transform to a stronger team chemistry at work. Appointing some talented Gen Z managers as role models could be a positive first step for aged care organisations serious about attracting young members to the workforce.
2. Digital experts
Many leading aged care providers in Australia have committed heavily to integrate innovative technologies to enhance quality care outcomes, improve work efficiency and business sustainability. Organisations adopting technologies such as real-time care management systems, digital medication software, assistive technologies and virtual reality applications are just some of the examples in this business transformation process. Through the process, staff members’ level of digital literacy becomes increasingly important as it can have a substantial impact on the smooth introduction and adaptation of any new technologies.
During the recent rollout of a new care management system in my organisation, I had firsthand experience in providing training to staff across age groups. Younger employees in general adapted to the new software more naturally and effortlessly than their older counterparts.
They were more interested in exploring the different features and functions. It was definitely no surprise to me that there would be a noticeable variance in the levels of digital literacy among staff of the younger generation, who grew up in a more digitally advanced era and particularly Gen Zers, who are the first generation of true digital natives. Their ability to collect, analyse and cross-reference various data is more built-in from years of exposure to the internet, social networking and the ever-evolving mobile systems.
Gen Z managers possessing this ability is a strong advantage they can use to guide team members to improve digital literacy. They can facilitate a smooth technological transformation and increase adaptability. They are capable of leading their team to be in a better position to meet the increasing technological demand from the future aged care customers.
3. A culture of learning
According to Pew Research Center research published this year, Gen Z is on track to be the best-educated generation yet. Although their ways of learning may look nothing like the traditional definition of education , Gen Zers benefit from their ability to instantly access information at their fingertips anytime anywhere.
Their experience of being online always exposed to the latest information since their youth has cultivated a habit of continuous learning in pursuit of knowledge for both personal and professional reasons. This habit demonstrated through Gen Z managers can positively influence others at work to nurture a team culture of leaning and continuous improvement.
A culture of learning can lead to creativity and new ideas. As leading aged care providers are always looking for contemporary and innovative ways to support their customers, it is only through the ongoing acquisition of knowledge about the latest trends, best practices and relevant research that one can discover life changing ideas. It is all about staying current and connected. It is the learning habit of many Gen Zers.
4. Individuality, diversity and inclusion
Individuality, diversity and inclusion are some of the key words we often use when discussing the characteristics of Generation Z. It is important for the industry to understand what these characteristics mean and their implications for an aged care business in particular.
Speaking of individuality, members of Gen Z value individual expression and refuse labels. They are more eager for personalisation that highlights their individuality and less fond of mass production and undifferentiated services. Does it sound familiar?
The Aged Care Quality Standards have a strong emphasis on every consumer’s sense of self and person-centred services. It is a requirement for aged care providers to deliver more personalised services to value individuality and personal identity. It is a requirement that Gen Zers can understand very well. Gen Z managers are in a position to safeguard residents’ dignity and choice because individuality is in their blood.
Diversity and inclusion are extremely vital to the success of every aged care business. They are also the two things that many Gen Zers are passionate about especially when it comes to their workplaces.
I consider the aged care industry has generally done a great job on workforce diversity and inclusion. I have been fortunate to work with people across age groups from all different places and cultural backgrounds throughout my career. Gen Z managers in aged care can strengthen these values by building their workplace culture to be more inclusive and diverse free from discriminations.
Our aged care industry is facing many challenges. I hope that through better a understanding of the challenges and strengths of Gen Z aged care managers, we can all be encouraged to place more trust and respect in these young leaders and be assured of more confidence for the future of aged care.
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).