Ethan Cole headshot
Ethan Cole
Ethan Cole headshot
Ethan Cole

Senior living may be going through the largest transition in overall survivability it has ever gone through.

Young leaders are being educated in post-COVID environment widely regarded as overregulated. They are graduating with little hope of owning property, as housing and interest rates continue to be at record highs, and we are finding them job-hopping to increase their earning potential rather than staying loyal to a single organization’s mission.

So how do we inspire such young leaders to stay with our companies and build them into the powerhouses our senior executives present today? Mentorship programs.

Recognizing the significance of mentoring in this current climate plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of senior living. In this article, I’ll provide some points of emphasis on why creating mentoring programs is important to the success of the future of senior living.

Business intelligence and wisdom preservation

Business intelligence and wisdom have an Achilles heel of tenure. Mentoring provides a structured channel for this wisdom to be passed down from seasoned leaders to their younger counterparts. By sharing insights into the unique challenges, successes and nuances of senior living, mentors equip young leaders with a valuable foundation to navigate the complexities of the industry.

Strong evidence exists that applicable residency, clinical or administrator-in-training coursework provides best-in-class learning opportunities. Our educational institutions believe that those standards are paramount, so why would we not try to foster similar programming post-graduation with emerging leaders?

Cultivating confident leadership skills

Mentors play a crucial role in building the confidence and resilience of young leaders by offering support and constructive feedback. This mentorship dynamic instills a sense of assurance, empowering young leaders to navigate obstacles with grace and determination.

Mentorship programs also have the ability to become organic in nature to not only build professionalism but also personalities that affect our greater communities. A mind that is well taken care of at work will be more likely to network and connect within their surrounding community. In other words, our internally owned mentorship programs can affect mentees’ willingness to give back to their communities.

Think of this in a similar way to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: If a young leader’s growth needs are met within the company, then this person is far more likely to stay with that company and thus expand and share his or her growth beyond the company into the greater surrounding community.

Effective leadership is a skill that evolves with experience and guidance. Mentoring provides a nurturing environment where young leaders can develop their leadership skills under the watchful eyes of experienced mentors. This hands-on learning experience allows them to hone their decision-making abilities, communication skills and emotional intelligence — all essential qualities in the senior living domain.

There is a limited window of time that an inexperienced leader may have to provide creative input that an industry-wise mind may have difficulty doing. There is significant value in this — simply put by Albert Einstein: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

Wisdom can create a box that is difficult to think out of. Inexperienced ignorance and creativity are not confined by this box.

Creating a culture of lifelong learning and engaging succession planning

As seasoned leaders prepare to transition into different roles or to retire, having a formal program of mentored young leaders ready to step into leadership positions ensures a seamless transition and preserves the organizational ethos. The post-COVID mass exodus from our workforce, fueled by early retirement and career changes, could have been mitigated substantially through proper mentorship and succession planning programs.

Mentoring fosters a culture of lifelong learning within senior living communities. It encourages young leaders to continuously seek knowledge, stay updated on industry trends and engage in professional development. This commitment to ongoing learning ensures that leaders remain adaptable and well-equipped to address the evolving needs of the older adult population.

In conclusion, common operational goals of reducing turnover, improving net operating margins, promoting a growth-minded culture and fostering five- and 10-year outlook plans all can be heavily aided by strong mentorship programs. Maintaining business intelligence and industry wisdom, and providing an outlet for those things to young leaders, is critical now more than ever. Organizations that prioritize those programs are far more likely to prosper in the coming years.

Ethan Cole, LNHA, CDP, is administrator of home health – North Region for Lifespace Communities, which includes Newcastle Place, Friendship Village of Bloomington, Oak Trace, GreenFields Geneva, Friendship Village of South Hills and Beacon Hill.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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