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There are a number of potential avenues to take to address the staffing needs in home-based care over the next decade.
But one that will absolutely have to be taken is the one that leads to more millennial and Generation Z workers entering the space.
To do that, home-based care providers are doing a few things, including: establishing transparent lines of communication to these generations, offering competitive benefits and recruiting through non-traditional channels.
“Millennials and Gen Z are looking for transparency in their employer; they’re looking for a purpose in the work that they do,” Best Life Brands CEO J.J. Sorrenti told Home Health Care News. “They want an open culture that is also okay with having fun, and I think we kind of focus on all those things. Those are all part of our values at ComForCare.”
Best Life Brands is the umbrella company of multiple home-based care entities, including ComForCare, At Your Side and Boost Home Healthcare.
In July, ComForCare-At Your Side – one home care franchise that operates under two names based on geography – was recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the best workplaces for millennials for the second year in a row.
Home care franchise Senior Helpers also landed on that same list.
Focusing on hiring millennial and Gen Z employees has been a plan in motion for at least five years, Senior Helpers CEO Peter Ross told HHCN.
“The younger injection of people into the home has been a really interesting dynamic for seniors, and I think they’ve gotten a lot out of it,” Ross said. “I’m not saying the older caregivers are not good, because they’re fantastic. But the younger people coming in bring a new dynamic that’s a little bit different.”
How home care agencies are recruiting younger
In order to recruit from a pool of applicants that the industry wouldn’t typically expect to be caregivers, providers need to think outside of the box, leaders say.
“We’re all over social media,” Ross said. “We recruit everywhere, and we’re constantly putting messages out. We actually have done TikTok videos, and our Instagram presence has grown almost 1,000% over the last three years. So these are the kinds of things we’re doing to reach out to these folks.”
Shifting some of its traditional marketing and advertising strategies has helped Senior Helpers recruit younger talent.
On ComForCare/At Your Side’s end, it makes clear in its messaging that mental health and work-life balance are priorities at the company.
“Having a great job and being paid a lot of money is just one thing,” Sorrenti said. “Having a great job and having the mental balance, and allowing that flexibility in your work-life balance, is something much more important, especially for millennials and Gen Zers.”
Creating an environment for young employees where they know they are supported and heard is a great way to retain as well, Sorrenti said.
“Offering a living wage and all those other benefits, I think, creates automatic retention,” he said. “Engaging with folks, making sure they understand why we’re doing what we’re doing, those are just as important components to retention.”
Ross echoed that idea, saying that he’s found that younger people generally like to know exactly what they are getting into when it comes to training and on-the-job activities.
“From my experience and the research I’ve done, millennials want task clarity,” Ross said. “They want to know exactly what they are doing, and obviously they want to be paid fairly.”
The Center for Excellence training program at Senior Helpers is credited with giving new caregivers that clarity, Ross said.
“That’s why we retain our caregivers better than most, because we’re always trying to improve on their skills,” Ross said. “We give them rewards when they go through training and when they get their training certificate, we actually give them a raise for it.”
The challenges and opportunities
One of the challenges that comes with recruiting younger generations is the expectation millennials have for their career trajectories.
Many of them — Gen Z included — are not known to stay with one employer for a long time, CareAcademy CEO and founder Helen Adeosun said.
“This is a set of direct care workers and employees who want to have purpose and want to have alignment in terms of what the future opportunities look like for them to progress in any given career,” Adeosun said. “In their career arc, they expect to be with several employers. What we provide at CareAcademy enables folks to learn about the opportunity of caregiving.”
However, Ross doesn’t see that as a challenge unique to younger people in home care.
“I think as an industry, caregivers bounce around, whether they’re millennial or not,” Ross said.
Another challenge, Adeosun said, is showing younger people what caregivers do. People know what cashiers and waiters do because they interact with them often enough. The same can’t be said about caregiving.
“Generationally, people are not typically interacting with caregiving as a career,” she said. ”It’s incumbent on employers who are looking at these two generations to make sure they’re showing them actually what this care looks like, engaging with them and interacting with them.”
Reaching younger people who have experience working as family caregivers is also a huge opportunity for home care agencies, Adeosun said.
CareAcademy has also used social media – like YouTube and TikTok – to engage younger generations and help them understand caregiving. It’s also a way to let them into the world of home-based care in a digestible way that’s familiar with a younger audience.
“I think that this is an opportunity, generationally, to start positioning caring as a profession to a whole new generation of folks,” Adeosun said.
Not only can these younger people be caregivers, but it’s very likely that a majority of back office leadership roles will be filled by millennials in the next 10 years. In order for the industry to capitalize on this trend, the outreach and focus should start now, she believes.
If certain home care agencies don’t act now, they may fall behind.
“Most of our competitors wouldn’t even talk to them,” Ross said. “They want someone with experience. Whereas we’ll bring them in in droves, ‘Come on in. We’re not only going to talk to you, but we’re going to train you on how to be a great caregiver.’”