unpaid internsAcross the senior care industry, employers feel challenged by a new generation of employees. Traditionally, senior care has recruited mature employees or workers with personal experience of care for family members. It has not had to turn to a young staff. That was true until a few years ago. However, the caregiver crisis, the boom in demand for senior care and the rise of a large generation is changing the demographic realities of the workforce. Senior care employers have to look beyond their traditional pool to expand their workforce and grow their business.

Who are the Millennials?

Millennials were born between the 1980s and 2000. The term “millennial” was coined as the generation born at the cusp of a new millennium. Millennials are sometimes referred as the “Y Generation” because they follow Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1984. However, the term millennial seems to be the one most often associated with the newest cohort of employees in our workplace.

The rise of the millennial workforce

Today, millennials are the largest generation. They represent 40% of employees in the U.S. workforce. By 2020, they will represent the majority with 52%.

No industry can afford to ignore the largest group of employees. In senior care, recruiting and retaining those young employees is now critical. They represent the answer to the caregiver shortage. They also are the frontline employees in food retail and hospitality.

One of the challenges presented by the millennial workforce is its sheer size. They follow a relatively small cohort of Generation X. GenX represents 25% of the workforce. The relatively small numbers of GenX employees allowed for a progressive integration in the workforce.

Today, for every Baby Boomer (born between 1945 and 1964) reaching retirement age, 1 ½ Millennial enter the workforce. Millennials are a tidal wave hitting the workplace. They cannot be ignored.

Characteristics of the Millennials

In addition to being the largest generation, millennials are also the most diverse. Fifteen percent were born in a foreign country. This is the highest share of foreign-born employees since the large immigrations waves of the early 1900s.

Millennials are of course the first digital natives. They grew up with computers at school and at home. They lived through the explosion of cell phone usage. They tend to be early adopters of technology and demand tech solutions to workplaces challenges.

Ask any supervisor how they perceive their millennial employees and it won’t be long before words like “lazy,” “entitled” and “unmotivated” crop up. Of course, those represent a reality but they do not label an entire generation. Millennials are young in the workplace. They require more handholding than experienced workers. The truth about the millennial generation is being written every day. It’s work in progress.

Once thing is for sure, their demands for better technology, a more flexible workplace, working with a clear purpose and need for on-going feedback are beneficial not just for the millennial cohort. They expect employers to be the best employers they can be and that’s beneficial to all generations in the workplace.