In light of both an aging work force among baby boomers as well as new employees entering the senior living business, operators are developing new solutions to accommodate both populations along with their different learning styles and preferences when it comes to training and communications.
Largely, they find, training and communication with employees requires more than a single approach.
And for large providers, that may also mean a third party to help with resources.
“We take a layered approach,” says Natalie Cardenas, director of employee development for Senior Lifestyle Corp. “Very few trainings are one dimensional.”
For Senior Lifestyle Corp., that means approaching the company’s 6,200 employees through multiple channels and always having some form of back-up training in place. The company does some training online, for example, and keeps a hard copy option in place in the event that an employee either isn’t comfortable with the technology or has other problems with a web-based platform.
“We couple [online training] with a hard copy document,” Cardenas says. “The onus is then on the executive director or human resources person to enter the employee’s information into a computer.”
In some cases, Senior Lifestyle Corp. will also help the employee develop the skills needed to complete the online training on a computer.
“If folks are going to continue to be successful, they’re going to have to get familiar with the system in addition to back end training to get the basic computer skills needed,” Cardenas says.
Third party training providers are also noting the multi-generational approach that senior living providers require today, as some employees are more tech-savvy than others when it comes to working in senior living communities.
“As the workforce is turning over, we’re still trying to train [current] clinicians, but now we have the younger Gen X and Gen Y employees,” says Eric Masters, Relias Learning vice president of marketing. “We need to provide relevant content.” To cross generations, that may involve requiring a lunch to discuss training material or creating a book club around a mandatory training, he says.
The younger generation also presents some challenges from a training standpoint, though not generally in terms of technology adoption.
“The older generation may take more time to get the information, but rarely fails to meet requirements. They get it done completely and accurately. With the younger generation, we often have to remind them,” Cardenas says.
Reminders may take the form of email or even text messages, which the company employs regular to communicate with its workforce. Yet still there is room to improve when it comes to adopting technology in a business that historically, has not been on the forefront of going high-tech.
“Because we’re in a bit of an antiquated business, some of our mindsets are different,” Cardenas says. “We depend on our employees to keep us current.”