Profile Picture
The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

CW Ep. 38: Cara Silletto

To understand why today’s new workforce is quick to leave your organization, you must first understand their back story. On this episode of Bridge the Gap, Workforce thought leader, Cara Silletto, one of the oldest millennials herself, will give helpful insight on why the workforce evolved and how to adapt. For years, the baby boomers and then generation xers played by the same rules. With millennials now making up over 50% of the workforce, their wants and needs cannot be ignored. Spoiler: Understanding and adapting to today’s new workforce will KEEP THEM LONGER!

Contact Cara.

Welcome to Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m Cara Silletto from Magnet Culture. Last time we talked about why people leave. Why exactly is it that we have so much employee turnover? And is it really just for 50 cents more an hour, which we discovered it is not. So I hope you go back and catch that episode if you missed it. And today we are going to dive into the mindset and the evolution of our workforce. Now in future episodes, I’m definitely going to talk about making the case for getting more retention resources and of course, more retention strategies. But I want to make sure before we go down that path, that everyone really understands today’s new workforce. Now I sit in a unique position because I happen to be one of the oldest millennials. Oh, don’t cringe. Come on now. I was born in 1981, which if you do the math, means that I’m turning 40 on my next birthday.

So when we talk about millennials, that does not mean the brand new hires that have no work experience. That is gen Z. So that’s the next group, that’s about age 24 or so and younger. But the millennials now are 24, 25 all the way up to almost 40. So, all right. I just bring that up to make sure that we all know the difference and of course, the group right ahead of the millennials was generation X. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and Pew research agree that gen X was born between 1965 and about 1980. Now there’s no governing body that tells us who’s who, but just want to clarify that’s where I get most of my information for all the generational programs that we do, the workshops, the keynotes, and all of this stuff I’ve been doing for several years. We love to look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Now, if we go one step farther than that, of course, we have the baby boomers, born 46 to 64. This is still the group that holds most leadership positions, or at least the senior leadership positions. And then gen X is right behind them with a lot of the department director and management roles. Now we see a lot of millennials in management today, but they are, of course, the next generation of our senior leadership team. So let’s talk a little bit about how this evolution of the workforce changed. For example, from a time during the great depression, when workers were grateful. They were just grateful to put food on their table and a roof over their family’s head. Now, during that time, that was actually even before the baby boomers with the generation called the traditionalist or the silent generation and that group, it was primarily the men who worked and they were primarily a punch clock generation.

Well then came the baby boomers and the baby boomers said, “Whoa, wait a minute. If I work harder, I can have more.” So they actually started to work more hours and stay late and pull a double or go in on the weekends and, and things like that. Now I’m talking of course, across all different industries. This example isn’t specific to baby boomers that worked in senior care. But if we just think back to those, we know from that generation, we can see how, instead of clocking out at four-thirty or five every day, the boomers really changed the expectations of work ethic and that you stay till the job gets done. Now, my dad’s the youngest of nine and he’s a baby boomer. Well, when he was growing up, he never had his own room and he never got to go on a family vacation.

So when he started his career, he decided to launch his own business so that he could be in charge of his advancement, and his career, and his income, and the growth of his business. And he went all the way down that slippery slope and became a workaholic. Now he worked nights and weekends. And at first, you might say, “Oh, that’s sad for you, Cara cause your dad was never home. And he kind of neglected you didn’t he?” Well, no. What happened was, he was working long hours so that me and my sister never had to share a room. He was really focused on getting us up into comfortable middle-class and the ability to go on family vacations…. which he didn’t have as a kid. So we saw a huge change in the workforce when the boomers began and worked through their careers to really set high expectations on the workloads and what was expected of each individual to grow their own career or their businesses.

Now, gen X came in after the boomers, and a lot of people don’t realize that the gen X-ers were much smaller than the baby boomers. We’re talking 80 million boomers versus 60 million gen X-ers. So what a lot of the gen X-ers tell me is that when they enter the work world, they, for the most part, realized if they wanted to succeed, they had to play the boomer game. They had to stay until the job gets done. They had to work and walk and wear what their bosses told them to. And that was how they were going to succeed because they didn’t have the strength in numbers to push back on the way it had been done when the boomers built their businesses. So then came the millennials. Now, this was the game changer because there’s about 80 million millennials. So the Gen X-ers, I’m sorry, friends, but you kind of got squished between the giant bookends of the boomers and millennials.

Those two generations have kind of squished you in between, but the millennials are nail pushing back and have been my goodness for 15 years or so. We’ve been pushing back on the way it’s always been done because a lot of times we see ways to work smarter or that we are prioritizing things differently, such as that work-life balance, right? We’re not living just to work and to grow our careers, but instead many of today’s workforce really focuses on a better quality of life and that work-life balance or what I call work-life integration. So gen Z, that younger group, we haven’t really gotten a cutoff, but we know they start around 1996, 97’ is when they were born. And of course, we don’t know yet when the final number will be. So there’s going to be at least 70 million of the Gen Z group, which means we’re also going to continue to see a lot of pushback from that generation as technology and other things continue to advance over the years.

Now, here’s something interesting to keep in mind, is that just because you were born in a certain year and a bunch of research tells us that people born in the same time and place as others typically have a similar outlook on life and similar foundational principles in their life. There are certainly people who don’t fit in the buckets, right? So you probably know a baby boomer who is super innovative and not at all set in their ways or adverse to change and innovation. And that might be somebody who’s very millennial-minded, even if they’re in their sixties or seventies. Well, the same is true on the other end of that spectrum, which is maybe there’s a millennial or a gen Z, that they are of a more traditional mindset. Maybe they were raised on a farm or by a very conservative or religious family. Maybe they come from a different cultural background or have a military background in their family.

That creates what we call old souls. You know who I’m talking about… old souls. These are great hires because they are a baby boomer trapped in a millennial or gen Z body. Okay. They have a very traditional mindset about the hierarchy, the chain of command, respect for authority, work ethic, professionalism, which by the way, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, professionalism and work ethic are subjective. It is your opinion, whether you believe my purple hair is or is not professional. Okay. So what we need to keep in mind with these old souls and all of our workforce is don’t judge someone by their age. We have to really look at a mindset to get to know different people. Not only are there generational mindsets that people have, but we also have, come on, behavioral styles that are reflected in disc assessments. Not sure if you’ve ever done that, but our clients love disc assessments, the driving forces, motivators, different styles that people have in different motivators.

In addition to the generational differences and the different upbringing, different mindset that people bring to the workplace, okay. There’s tons and tons of diversity of all types. And we’ve got to get to know our people. Stop making assumptions and really get to know where your people are coming from, and what is that lens in which they see the world because everybody’s is a little different. With that said, we are judgmental people, okay? We judge all the time. Somebody drives faster than you on the highway. They need to be pulled over. Someone’s going slower than you in a construction zone. They need to find the gas pedal, right? And it’s the same in the workplace that if somebody works more hours than you, they’re a workaholic, they need to get a life. And if somebody works less hours than you, well, they have no work ethic and they need to work harder, right?

Or I could list for days different things that we judge people on, like their attire and, their style and the way they talk and all kinds of things. But you get it. We tend to judge. And as a leader, you really have to keep that in check and try not to make assumptions and jump to conclusions about people. But instead, really get to know folks and understand that you are Goldielocks. You think what you do and what you wear and how many hours you work and how fast you drive is normal. And everyone else is ridiculous. Or at least not as appropriate as you are. Okay. So keep that in check as best you can, and I wanted to share with you a few things that really make this new workforce, the younger workers that we’re bringing in, that really have changed in our society that have made their mindset quite different.

You know, I was teaching a workshop the other day and I had a leader very specifically stopped me during the generational portion and said, Cara, “Why in the world is it that this generation is so different? I feel like it just happened overnight,” right? He felt like it just hit him like a ton of bricks that he started hiring some of these younger people, and all of a sudden things were different than the way he had always done business. Now, this manager was 55 or 60, I would say, and very traditional-minded as we discovered during their workshop. And he owned that. He appreciated his perspective and it has worked for him for a long time. But luckily during that workshop, I was able to give him some inside scoop, you know, some insights on what really happened in our work world in particular, that shifted the mindset of most of our workers.

So for example, loyalty. Everybody complains that the younger workers aren’t loyal, they job hop, you know, there’s no commitment and whatnot. Well, several things come into play here. One is that pensions are gone. Also, the gratefulness in the past is gone because today, organizations can cut jobs. They can cut hours, right? If our occupancy is down, we cut hours. We might even close down a unit and cut some folks if we need to, to adjust for those occupancy changes and the budget. So even though we are certainly much more recession-proof or, you know, we’re immune to most of those ups and downs in the healthcare field, we still are not completely immune to that. And can, we can drop hours. We can drop those jobs. And so no one really trusts us that we are going to be there for them no matter what.

And it may be, even your organization has never laid off or rarely cuts hours and things like that. And you’re thinking, but that’s not us, but the rest of the world does it. So the promises that were kept for those folks in previous jobs, previous industries even, those promises were sometimes broken. So today’s work world doesn’t have as much trust coming into the organization that you truly have their best interest at heart, and that you’re truly going to fulfill the promises that you made for that job or those hours. Now, something major that happened that changed a lot in our society is that divorce peaked in the 1980s. So most of the millennials and younger have seen their parents or their best friend’s parents split and break one of those promises kept, a huge promise kept. But we’ve seen it right in front of our very eyes that someone made that promise and then broke it, even after for my parents 24 years. Now, I was about 11 or so when my parents split.

And then I lived with my mom through my teenage years and my mom is a corporate accountant. Now my mom got stellar performance reviews. Okay. Everyone loves my mom. And as a person and a worker, but she was laid off three times my friends. Three times before I graduated high school and never could a boss save her because her entire department was eliminated. In every situation, they were either outsourcing, offshoring, centralizing, decentralizing it, some crazy business strategy, not crazy, but you know, some extreme business strategy that cut all the jobs in her department, including her bosses. So no one could save her in those situations. Well, if you’re a kid growing up in that world of seeing your parents split and your mom get laid off, again and again, I got to tell you, I will never forget the day that I was 15 years old and my single mom came walking through our front door with tears and the box. Okay.

She had been blindsided that day by that layoff. And when she came to my shoulder to cry on, she was looking for me to be the rock that day that she needed, the support system. It gave me a whole different perspective on company loyalty. In fact, my mom taught me that I should never depend on a company or a spouse. That I had to stand on my own two feet, look out for myself, put number one first. She said, “life is short, Cara. There are no guarantees seize the day,” right? All of those kinds of mantras that were, keep in mind, very different than the way she was raised. Which was, “you should be grateful that you have that job, that you should be grateful that they let women work,” right? From her generation,

growing up was a very different time then, but she raised me differently. She gave me a different mindset on things. So that whole seize the day, you know, life is short mantra that she taught me, the millennials translated that into one. You might’ve heard of called Yolo. You only live once, Y O L O, and do not hashtag it cause it is no longer cool. Okay. So the reason that I still talk about YOLO and I certainly teach this in my programs is the YOLO mentality is still running rampant in our communities. It is absolutely the mindset of a good chunk of our workforce that says, “this schedule is not working for me. I’m out. This uniform not gonna wear that, I’m out. I do not care for this new supervisor that they just put on my shift, I’m out,” right? It could be anything as simple as that.

And if we don’t understand that mentality and how fragile that trust relationship really is with our employees, we could miss-step and lose talent that we can’t afford to lose. Okay. So that’s just a little insight on the loyalty perspective of the different generations. Now, when we talk about a spectrum of mindsets from a traditional mindset, all the way to a more millennial mindset, there’s no right or wrong on this. It’s just that people see things differently. And as a leader, it is imperative that you can see both sides. So if there’s anything in the workplace that you’re thinking, why? Why do they do that? Why are they that way? Right? What planet are they from? Even if you’re a younger manager and you think that about older people, right? Older workers, or those more seasoned workers, it goes in both directions. So I encourage you to ask that question.

Why, why do they see it that way? Where are they coming from? Another one that comes up all the time is entitlement, right? And by the way, if you go to, you can download this great little book called the millennial mindset. You can get the free ebook in there. Little digital copy. You’re welcome to share that with your whole leadership team or your whole staff. It talks about technology authority, work-life balance loyalty, and entitlement, which I’m going to get to. But yeah, that little booklet, it’s just like a little 10 minute read maybe, and it’s a great insight into how the new workforce was raised differently. So entitlement, if I can give you the inside scoop on that one, is that personal credit cards became mainstream for middle-class families to have and use in the 1980s. Hello, we’re back to the 1980s again, right when I was born and being raised.

So that meant our parents were the first parents who had credit card access. And when they had a bad year at work or didn’t get a holiday bonus, they could still spoil us for Christmas, get everything we asked for and they would just charge it. So I had no idea that my dad had some bad years at his company when I was a kid because my parents kept the status quo. They totally did the exact same thing for Christmas that year. And they did not want the kids to sacrifice. Now, looking back as a parent myself, I feel like maybe that wasn’t the best move, but they shielded me from that using the credit cards. So if you think about the eighties and nineties, that is when our society here in the States exploded in the commercialization of all holidays. And now we’ve got to buy gifts for our dog groomer and our babysitter.

You know, all these expectations that did not exist when it used to be about family, and food, the fellowship, and even homemade are more thoughtful gifts than the situation we’re in today. All right, so give people a little bit of a break. When we see young folks in particular that are more entitled or, you know, feel they deserve things, oftentimes that’s a great mentoring opportunity. That we really need to step in and not tell them that they’re wrong but help them understand a bigger picture. Help widen their lens as you widen your lens to see their perspective and how they were raised differently. As mentioned, I’m going to cover tons of retention strategies of how to attract and retain these workers in particular and workers of all ages, because let me tell you, the millennial mindset is trickling up. I know a ton of gen X-ers and even baby boomers that are saying, “yeah, I don’t want to work late either.”

You know, or even things about flexibility that they have. You know, some of those wishes and demands that folks have. A lot of our workforce is making those demands or has those wishes, even if they’re not telling you that. All right, now, keep in mind too, that some people just suck. Okay, forgive me for saying that. But I bring this up because there are certainly people out there that we really don’t want to attract and retain because they are all focused on themselves. You know, a lot of this, we can do some bridge-building to get past some of the generational differences and to bridge those gaps. But there are certainly people out there who don’t want to work, you know? I think we just use that excuse oftentimes when we don’t understand where a person formed their definition of work ethic or professionalism. Or we don’t even realize that they’ve never been exposed to parents or other people and mentors who had a stronger work ethic, or more quote-unquote professionalism, the way that you and I might see it.

Okay. So we need to give people, you know, cut them some slack, give them a break if they don’t know, and help to mentor them to meet our expectations. But also if there are people that just suck, then we don’t want them very long. So it’s okay if they quit. All right. Some turnover is good. So, one quick strategy that I wanted to share with you, that’s immediately actionable and very specific to the generational differences is that we must communicate our expectations. Your staff, no matter what their age, they cannot read your mind, friends. They can’t, and they don’t know how it’s always been done or what you expect of them if it is unwritten. So we really have to do a much better job at being super clear about setting those expectations. Now, just to give you a quick example, I started my career at a long-term care state association.

You’re probably a member of one. And I started working there in the office. There was just about 10 of us. We each had our own desks and little office spaces. And about three o’clock every day, I would kick off my cute little high heels, and I would walk to the copier barefoot. Well, I didn’t think that was any big deal. I knew all the people I worked with pretty well, and we never had unexpected guests or visitors. So I didn’t think anything of it, but there were two people in our office who absolutely thought that was ridiculous. It was inappropriate, unprofessional, immature, and you know who they told everybody except me. So it was very disheartening when I found out from a peer that if I wanted to be taken seriously in the workplace, I was going to have to keep my shoes on all day.

Now some of you were thinking, “Oh, Cara, come on. That is just common sense. Who doesn’t know that? Or, you know, these young folks, they should know better.” Well, guess what? We don’t. I didn’t when I started working and your newer workers today, don’t. They can’t read your mind and they don’t know the unwritten expectations. That’s why they keep wearing leggings. Okay. And by the way, technically leggings are pants. If you look up the definition of pants, it goes from your waist to your ankles and you put it on one leg at a time. So, we can argue that on a different day, but I’m just using that as another example to tell you, we are sometimes not as crystal clear as we think we are in our expectations, right? In communicating those expectations. So we have to explicitly say no leggings on our attire policy, if that is in fact, our expectation.

So back to the shoes, you can imagine how devastated I was when I found out everyone was talking about me behind my back. And I just wanted them to see the professionalism of my work and not focus on my bare feet. So what happened when my peer came to me and lovingly told me about the expectation? I changed my behavior. I started keeping my shoes on all day, and I even brought an extra pair of flats to put under my desk, just in case my high heels were hurting too bad in the afternoons. So if you communicate your expectations, it is a great way to bridge those generational gaps.

Next time on our session, we are going to talk about making the case to get more retention resources and a higher focus from the entire leadership team, including all department heads, of why we should work together to reduce turnover and gain the staffing stability that we need to provide the highest level of quality care. All right. But if you’re impatient and you want to learn more strategies, you can always grab a copy of my book, Staying Power, on Amazon. And again, this is Cara Silletto from Magnet Culture. Thanks for listening to this week’s Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday, let’s connect at

Comments are off this post!

CW Ep. 38: Cara Silletto