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Workforce is the lifeblood of care: opinion

Workforce is the lifeblood of care and our people are the nexus of thriving, meaningful relationships between older Australians, their families and friends.

It flows through the generations, particularly as we work to protect and support our elders, their families, communities and our passionate colleagues from the coronavirus pandemic.

Enabling and inspiring capable leaders who can highlight opportunities within our current workplace challenges is vital, because the pillars they can provide our staff can help us overcome today’s increasing pressures.

Attracting and retaining talented people has been further complicated by COVID-19, but the need to meet and exceed community expectations remains a priority set against a backdrop of changing regulations, standards and legislation.

Critical to advancing leadership is providing opportunities for staff to learn by example and through personal support.

Mentoring has given me an avenue to expand my understanding of the age services industry and how I fit into it.

I have had support to learn about different careers, spoken to people about the challenges they have experienced and learnt there is so much positivity happening around us, despite some negative media coverage.

Mentoring has been a fantastic opportunity to sit with someone to reflect on my experiences, learn from the insights of others and find resources I never knew existed.

While many organisations are working hard to promote leaders, their mentoring activities may be limited to internal leadership networks. These are not always visible to a wider range of talented staff and are often not promoted effectively or widely, resulting in deserving employees missing out on professional development opportunities that help them excel and lead with confidence

The rapidly changing and evolving environment challenges the organisation, its leaders and staff.

Growing and cultivating trust with employees fosters their growth and development but during challenging periods, there is limited time available within management and teams to support and monitor mentoring outcomes.

When I started as a mentee, I had some positive experiences, with some of my mentors still providing advice and support years on.

While I was taught a lot, I screwed up (a lot) but through this, I learnt the value of the lessons my mentors shared – the good and the bad.

I don’t necessarily want people to go through those negative experiences and say ‘mentoring is not for them’. I wished there was a resource that provided guidance. Often all I found were programs that provided a mentoring match and let you to figure it out alone. It left me feeling uninspired and afraid to make mistakes in front of others.

As I persevered, I learnt that you can reflect and learn from negative mentoring experiences, such as:

  • Anxiety can be normal and seek help if it becomes overwhelming
  • Value yourself and don’t be used solely as a free source of labour
  • Believe in yourself and don’t be intimidated by executives and industry leaders reaching out. They truly want to help!

Meanwhile, I also developed what are shaping up as lifelong friendships, where we have ended up mentoring each other.

While there are myriad personal benefits, the advantages for organisations are undoubtedly significant.

It can help managers recognise who is engaged and ripe for more development opportunities, while expanding their professional network and bringing innovation and best-practice techniques into the workplace.

There is growing evidence mentoring can help employees more readily adapt to change.

It can also streamline leadership succession planning at many levels, while providing support to talented staff during difficult times.

In a broader sense, mentoring can help leaders transcend organisational boundaries and promote leadership confidence across age services. Inspiring people to see our industry as a long term, life-changing career.

My three mentoring tips for organisations and leaders are:

  • Ensure staff have mentoring roles modelled by managers, executives and board directors through conversations, sharing examples and more.
  • Use structured programs to support better mentoring practices.
  • Mandating outcomes is unwise. Putting someone forward and saying ‘we believe in you’ and we want you to set your own goals is a recipe for success.

The LASA Mentoring Program is a resource that supports mentees to dive into mentoring with intent, support, online resources and so much more. It definitely won’t leave you to figure it out alone.

With only a fortnight left to register your current and emerging leaders for the second wave of LASA’s Mentoring Program, it’s time to think about who in your organisation might benefit most from being mentored by a leader in the age services industry. 

Reach out today to find out more about mentoring and how this program can support your organisation’s current and emerging leaders at [email protected]

Samantha Bowen is the LASA Next Gen principal adviser.

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