Senior Living Articles

Female healthcare provider sitting outside with group of older adults looking at tablet.

Millennials: A Dominant Workforce That Will Shape Assisted Living For Years To Come

November 10, 2020

Few generations in history have been studied or viewed with a more critical eye than Millennials – the group of people born between 1980 and 2000.

There are reasons for this. One happens to be the fact that Millennials are now the dominant demographic of American labor, and as such, the senior living workforce. They dwarf the giant American Baby Boom generation by 15 million. Pew Research Center’s exhaustive analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data clearly shows that more than one-in-three workers today (35%) are now Millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.

Most of them are between the ages of 18 and 38; most caregivers are Millennials, and growing numbers are now emerging in leadership positions in communities across the country.

Another reason for the great deal of attention Millennials are getting goes back to 9/11 – a time when many were entering the workforce for the first time. The executive of a major university leadership program for long-term care executives puts it this way: “The most surprising is their work ethic and many work full- and part-time jobs while juggling coursework and massive college debt. Many are pursuing a more ‘mission’ oriented versus ‘earnings’ oriented career path. Based on 9/11 and all the violence we’ve seen in our world since, they clearly and intentionally are seeking careers that can make the world a better place.”

Some say Millennials are unfairly characterized for worshiping the so-called “YOLO” (you only live once) philosophy – a criticism other say comes from Millennials’ craving for a more balanced and full life of work and play. In any case, it has indelibly shaped the way they approach work and all that goes with it – including their dedication to being good workers to being responsible citizens of the world.

As if Millennials weren’t fascinating enough, they preside over a workforce today that incorporates five generations in total. This so-called “5G workforce” includes Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (Millennials) and Generation Z.

Here is a look at the key characteristics of Millennials, and how these characteristics present challenges for senior living communities today:

They approach career paths differently. In general, these paths are very specific, and have clearly defined milestones along the way, say professionals who study this group for a living. Providers who deviate too much from them do so at their own peril. Says one workforce management executive, “Providers must provide paths for employees to grow within the organization or they will grow out of it.” Millennials are keen on career and succession planning and tend to be more loyal with providers who practice it. As a group, assisted living providers don’t pay enough attention to that, experts say. One recent Deloitte survey, for example, found nearly two-thirds of Millennials believe their leadership skills are not being fully developed in senior living jobs.

They’re incentivized in unique ways. Surprisingly, many view things like rewards, recognition and stakeholder status as equally valuable as their paychecks. Providers that are sensitive to this are often rewarded with greater loyalty and dedication to care, observers say.

They value work-life balance and flexibility. Many Millennials in senior living today work multiple jobs. They also value social interaction and rejuvenating play and exercise. As a result, Millennials crave generous time-off and flexible work schedules. And more and more senior living providers today are stepping over themselves to provide both. More than 80% of Millennials surveyed by a major workforce management firm said work-life balance was a prerequisite to accepting a position with a company. Most assisted living providers today also offer mobile technological solutions that allow workers to view schedules and change and swap shifts with one another on the fly.

They should be monitored closely for the first 90 days. Few Millennials will be apologetic about it, but a more appealing opportunity that arises shortly after accepting a position could easily send them packing. About 98% of all new hires are said to be prepared to do just that. Providers would do well to keep new hires close during this time, providing and seeking constant feedback and making adjustments along the way. Given the attrition and turnover problem in assisted living and other long-term care sectors, this turns out to be good advice. As one workforce executive puts it, “There’s training and onboarding, but more important is engagement, like mentoring, rewards/recognition and referral incentives, which must be addressed out of the gate to drive long-term retention.”

They live on their smart phones. Nothing will ever change this indubitable fact. The challenge for assisted living and other senior living providers is obvious. That is precisely why software companies and workforce management companies have invested so much into apps that allow Millennials to manage their schedules and work life. Of course, senior care communities would do well to have reliable, secure and robust Wi-Fi service. Mobile tech also feeds Millennials’ insatiable desire to be engaged and connected socially – either collaboratively or privately.

They crave engagement. Millennials are by nature incredibly socially aware and active creatures. This spills over into their daily lives at work. The vast majority view engagement as valuable a commodity as their paycheck. They crave feedback as well as the opportunity to provide it. Much of this comes from the value they place in connectivity. Providers can actually use these employee centric strategies to their advantage to stem problems with retention and turnover.

Social justice and “causes” are important. Many say these are among Millennials’ most endearing qualities. According to one workforce management executive, a recent survey by the Intelligence Group found the vast majority of Millennials believe they have a moral imperative to make the world a better place. It’s easy to see how providing the highest quality health care to residents would be consistent with this value.

They are integral in the ongoing attention and attrition battles of the years to come. Attracting and retaining talent is a challenge that will likely dominate labor issues in the foreseeable future. Providers that understand and respect this major labor force will inevitably be those who succeed best in the tumult that lies ahead, say experts. Says one workforce management executive, “The Millennial generation is known for ‘knowing what they want’ and not settling. Creating and sustaining a strong employer brand and company culture to attract and retain top talent will be very important.”

Staffing is one of the largest challenges for senior living communities. ValueMed offers technology and tools to support your staff and reduce their burden; while our training leads to more confident staff, which improves outcomes and reduces turnover. Contact us at or 855-637-1755 to learn more.

Download PDF