Let’s embrace genuine workforce diversity, writes Marcus Riley.
It is fast becoming recognised that the challenge of developing an optimal workforce for the aged services industry is the main game in town.
Numerous well-evidenced reports have been published, various government programs and agencies have been established and frequent discussions have been convened, all aimed at identifying solutions to this challenge. It’s a challenge of critical importance.
Correctly, respective stakeholders are focusing on areas that if properly acted on can form components of an overall solution.
The fundamental issue of higher wages for aged care workers must be resolved – but of course, not in isolation. Career pathways must be contemporary and attractive, training must be of a consistent quality, aligned to evolving service models and consumer needs, and ongoing
Huge talent pools need to be created and powered by systems and infrastructure –technological and other – to put the right people, nay the best people, in the right place.
Great workplaces must be commonplace across all aged care environments. Effective migrant-worker pipelines will be essential in achieving what is required now and well into the future.
Further, there must be openness to a diverse workforce. The universal workforce challenge actually presents a wonderful opportunity to properly embrace diversity; being open to younger and older workers across all job areas, welcoming people of different cultural backgrounds, of different beliefs and hopefully with wide-ranging skills, qualifications and experience.
From direct experience, I can attest to the tremendous value BallyCara has realised from having diverse teams across all of our operations. More particularly, I have witnessed the benefit that people who enlist our services have derived through engagement with people of different ages, origins and capabilities.
Upon reflecting on the composition of BallyCara’s workforce, or The Bally Bunch as we are known, the mix was properly revealed.
The professional backgrounds across the care and service teams, as well as the central support areas, feature art therapy, teaching, trades, media production, dancing, those who studied politics and philosophy while performing care roles, those with a long history of aged care experience, and those completely new to such an industry.
A notable highlight from this internal analysis was the value provided by a combination of young and more mature aged workers. Youthful energy and enthusiasm are powerful, especially when combined with expertise and wisdom, both personal and professional.
Our percentage of team members aged 60-plus has increased significantly over the past six years. This is not because of our staff are ageing in place but rather as a proactive approach to engaging with more mature aged workers across many disciplines. Age is not a barrier to competency. Indeed, one of our leading care workers is just getting started at 82 years of age.
Organisations may surprise themselves by investing more time in recognising and understanding who makes up their workforce and learning more about the diversity of their team.
Leading sporting teams have been doing this more and more over the past decade and reaping the benefits, including developing their player pipelines aligned to the backgrounds of their more respected existing or past team members.
We have an opportunity to strengthen our teams now and into the future by tapping into the rich diversity of our people.
Whether it’s alumni, neighbours, ex-colleagues, family members, or social media followers; all of our good people have their own networks littered with other good people who can positively impact the lives of older people through careers in our industry, harnessing their particular skills and talents.
Embracing a more diverse workforce is not a silver bullet on its own for the challenges facing the aged care industry, but it can be a most valuable component of the overall solution.
*Marcus Riley is chief operating officer and executive chairman of Queensland aged care and retirement living provider BallyCara
This story first appeared in Australian Ageing Agenda.