Maybe you’ve heard about the generation gap in reference to parenting, but did you know that it affects your workforce, as well? Right now, healthcare workers span four generations. Each generation has a different work ethic, values, skills and experience. A better understanding of what makes each generation unique can help you manage your staff effectively. It can also help you provide what your workers need to be happy, and this can add to positive energy and productivity. You can maximize the performance of your healthcare staff by understanding generational gaps.

The four generations of healthcare employees

It can be challenging, but the first step for employers to efficiently manage healthcare workers is by understanding the features of each generation. Consider the following:

  • The Traditionalists (1925–1945). Also known in the nursing world as the “silent” generation, traditionalists are the oldest members of the healthcare workforce. Many of them are retired, but some continue to work in their golden years. They account for 37 million people in the United States population. Traditionalists value hard work, loyalty and rules, and view healthcare as a commitment and a passion, not just a job. They have sacrificed a lot of time and effort to build their careers, and they expect the same from others.
  • The Baby Boomers (1946–1964). With a population of 77 million, baby boomers are usually the oldest and most experienced members of a healthcare team, since most traditionalists have retired. In contrast to traditionalists, this generation grew up in a time of economic prosperity and they expect that hard work will lead to personal fulfillment and increased status. They value rules in the workplace and are committed to working hard, and can be very competitive. Baby boomers are also concerned with helping in the growth of their organization and leaving a legacy.
  • Generation X (1965–1980). Generation X comprise 66 million members of American society. This generation is highly educated, independent and can be cynical. Generation X believes in work-life balance, and needs equal parts work time and family time. In addition to adequate time off, they value teamwork, a relaxed work environment, and the power to make their own decisions. Generation X also tends to question authority. They have grown up with the dawn of the Internet and advancing technology, so they work comfortably in a tech-savvy world.
  • Millennials / Generation Y (1981–1999). Though they are the youngest members of the workforce, millennials account for 80 million people in the U.S. population. They have grown up surrounded by rapidly changing technology and the Internet; therefore, millennials embrace the information age and all its evolving mobile devices, as well as social media. This generation experienced the economic recession as they first entered the working world, so they strive to advance and make an impact in their careers sooner rather than later. They seek feedback and teamwork. Like generation X, they also value a good work-life balance.
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How do these generational characteristics affect your staff?

The areas with the most conflict between generations are technology and work/life balance. Open communication about strengths and weaknesses will enable you to manage your staff in such a way that strengths of each generation compensate for other’s weaknesses.

  • Listen to your employees. Most workers will tell you what they need to be happy, so keep your ears open and listen. Maintain an open door policy and hold regular staff meetings and one-on-one reviews. Encourage everyone to share. This will also help employees learn to work with and respect each other.
  • Share the big picture. Older workers and generation Xers are more productive when they understand how their role fits into the facility’s goals. During your meetings, provide information about management’s plans and what’s to come. Help your workers understand how their daily contributions are helping the organization improve patient care or reduce spending.
  • Develop systems that ensure collaboration. With the continuous development of medical homes, the healthcare market is pushing the importance of teamwork and collaboration between providers. Generation Xers and millennials are comfortable with this concept, but traditionalists and baby boomers may not be. Collaboration becomes effortless when a work flow is followed that outlines how each job contributes to the finished outcome.
  • Offer flexible scheduling and time off. Your younger workers will look for this to help them maintain work-life balance. Also, offer the option to rollover a percentage of unused vacation time each year. This will help to accommodate the working style of your older employees.
  • Be smart about technology. As the healthcare world attempts to embrace technology and switch to electronic medical records, you can appoint tasks (such as records conversion) to younger employees that are more familiar with technology. At the same time, offer training options to older employees, who have a steeper learning curve.
  • Stay open-minded. Obviously, you can’t make everyone happy all the time. But by remaining flexible in your management style, you’ll be able to accommodate the work needs of most of your workers most of the time.

Create a work environment that celebrates diversity

Ultimately, differences in opinion can help to make your organization stronger, not weaker. Varying viewpoints will help you achieve new and different conclusions, ideas and work processes. Maintain a work environment that allows all voices to be heard, and consider everyone’s needs when developing rules and policies.

Find new healthcare workers to strengthen your workforce

Finding new healthcare staff can be difficult, especially as they are in high demand. To supplement your team, contact PT Solutions. We provide therapists and allied health staff for travel placement across the country. To learn more, contact a PT Solutions recruiter today.

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