Generational Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce: A cardiac cath lab perspective
- 9 Sept 08
- Posted on: 9/16/08
- 0 Comments
- 5402 reads
Many leaders and experienced staff working in their “twilight years” are experiencing new challenges at work in the cath lab. These members of the baby boomer generation, who have been the biggest segment of the workforce for several years, are facing several challenges. The newest challenge for boomers is in understanding the newest generation in the workforce: the “Millennials” or Generation Y. After some time now of working with Generation X staff, the Generation Y staff bring a still newer workplace perspective. Knowing how to integrate an additional generational perspective and have an efficient team will be quite the challenge for tomorrow’s healthcare leader. This article will discuss how the cardiac catheterization lab’s diverse workforce, inclusive of possibly three generations, will produce more opportunities to learn from each other.
The Three Generations: Trends
Baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1963, have been optimistic economically, mainly due to not having experienced the Great Depression. Boomers are generally better educated than past generations; more women typically sought out a college education. During this era, more women started working outside the home while also raising children. The individuals at the latter end of the Baby Boomer era also feel more comfortable with technology. They are individualistic and have been known to have a tendency to reject authority. Busy lifestyles are common for baby boomers and many are considered workaholics, staying at work for long hours. Boomers are typically occupied with “getting ahead” and acquiring wealth.
The members of Generation X, born between 1965 and 1976, grew up very differently from previous generations. The phenomenon of “latchkey” children arose in significant numbers with this generation. Characteristics and traits of this generation include independence, resilience and adaptability. Generation X’ers do not want or need someone looking over their shoulder. Rather than remaining loyal to their company, they have a commitment to their work and team members. Generation X’ers would rather cut ties and start looking for work at another hospital if they are unhappy.
This generation prefers a less rigid work environment and enjoys a hands-off management approach. Motivating feedback on performance includes encouraging creativity and innovation. Gen X’ers work best when they are given an outcome along with some latitude to figure out how to achieve it.
Generation Y or Millennials
Currently Generation Y, or Millennials (born between 1977 and 1998) are entering the workforce. This group comes from the most child-oriented parenting of the three generations. Parents of Generation Y have given them a great deal of pride and sense of self-worth. Members are extremely technologically oriented with the rapid perfusion of devices not seen by other young people in the past, such as cellphones and ipods. Millennials are mainly team-oriented and work well in groups. They enjoy structure in the workplace, understand and respect positions and titles, and want a relationship with their boss, very different from the Generation-X style of independence.
The Importance of Mentoring and Generational Style in the Cath Lab
Mentoring provides an important opportunity to utilize the knowledge of previous generations, but only when hospitals recognize that mentoring is a large piece of the strategic plan in recruiting, retaining and increasing the knowledge base and skills of employees. By making mentoring a strategic business imperative, there will be positive experiences with an increase in productivity, employee retention and job satisfaction.
Effective mentoring can be a tremendous time commitment on the part of the employee and mentor, and should be factored into an effective staffing plan.
Hospitals need to work on blending the staff mix in the cardiac cath lab using mature employees who bring knowledge, education and experience, with the youth and technological savvy of the next generation. Often, the mindset in the cath lab is that physician leadership desires an experienced staff. Hiring the right mix of experience and youthful optimism, coupled with technological savvy, may be a better alternative. The positive attributes of teamwork and optimism with Generation Y may offer a refreshing change.1
Understanding there are important differences between mentoring styles amongst the generations can not be understated. The approaches that work best for Gen Xer’s might not work best for Millennials. As a mentor, Gen X’ers will want to work with the leader, not for them. Members of Generation X are eager to learn new skills because they want to stay employable. Millennials (Gen Y) generally are mentored better in groups, because they work so well in team situations. They enjoy being each others’ resource or peer mentor. Millennials also enjoy having things broken down into steps in order to complete each challenge.
Generation Y’ers also tend to react differently with management, respecting authority more than their predecessors, the X’ers. Generally, Gen Y staff are more similar to baby boomers than Generation X, in their respect for positions and titles.2
Typically, younger employees, if faced with frustration and poor feedback, are more likely to move onto another job in hopes of finding his or her “life’s work,” or a more enjoyable environment. Since these younger staff members are new to the workplace, they are very much in need of mentoring. They will respond well to personal attention. Gen Y appreciates structure and stability. This generation needs to have a more formal mentoring program, and with a more authoritative attitude from the mentor.
1. Thielfoldt D, Scheef D. Generation X and The Millennials: What you need to know about mentoring the new generations. Law Practice Today 2004. Available at http://www.abanet.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mgt08044.html. Accessed May 2, 2008. 2. Heathfield S. Managing millennials: Eleven tips for managing millennials. About Inc. 2008. Available at http://humanresources.about.com/od/managementtips/a/millenials_2.htm. Accessed May 1, 2008. 3. Raines C. Generations at Work: Managing millennials. In: Raines C. Connecting Generations: The Sourcebook for a New Workplace. Crisp Publications, 2003. Available at http://www.generationsatwork.com/articles/millenials.htm. Accessed May 2, 2008. 4. DeMarco D. Overcome a talent shortage: Create a Gen-X friendly workplace to retain key talent. Lookingfit.com, Virgo Publishing, LLC; October 1, 2007. Available at http://www.lookingfit.com/ articles/07a1market.html. Accessed May 8, 2008. 5. Healy, R. Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist. Twentysomething: 7 Ways to motivate your millennial. April 9, 2007. Available at http://blog.penelopetrunk. com/2007/04/09/twentysomething-5-ways-to-motivate-your-millennial/al. Accessed May 8, 2008.