Your staff has generation gaps: How to bridge them

April 1, 2010

Medical practices around the country face continued challenges with managing a diverse work force that spans three generations.

This article explains the differences among your workers who belong to the baby boomer, Generation X, and Generation Y generations, what makes them tick, and what you can do to keep them motivated and productive.

Baby boomers

When Generation X and Generation Y entered the work force, they forever changed the employment landscape for both employers and their baby boomer coworkers. There is a big difference in how these younger workers think and what they want.

Generations X and Y

The Gen Xers were born between 1964 and 1980 and are generally fairly self-reliant. They are looking for structure and direction, and many of them see work as a difficult challenge and contractual. They prefer a casual and friendly work environment and dislike formalities. At the same time, they can be quite skeptical. Gen Xers are motivated by the freedom to do things their way. They are different from their seemingly workaholic parents and strive for a balance between work and family life.

Generation Y (born 1981-2000) is a generation that likes to have fun and socialize. This tenacious generation has mastered multitasking. They became adults in an electronic and instant world full of sophisticated computer applications, the Internet, blogging, text messaging, and social networking. They cannot remember a time when they didn't have immediate access to information and communication. It's no wonder their expectations are different from those of earlier generations.

These younger employees have wants and needs that are broader than those of their predecessors. Their outlook is different, and it is not uncommon for these workers to question authority. They want to know why something must be done a certain way and need to be convinced before they willingly accept change. These workers present new challenges and expect managers to earn their loyalty.

Feedback is vital to this younger generation. They want to know how they are doing at work, and they want to know now! It's incredibly important for them to recognize how their work is perceived and what sort of impact it's having-especially those who are ambitious and are likely to be our future leaders. This is forcing health care managers around the country to rethink how they discuss employee performance.

Giving formal feedback at the annual review is simply not enough. Gen Yers want frequent and candid performance feedback. In other words, don't paint a pretty picture. They want the truth and expect help where they don't measure up. Certainly, they are more vocal about their needs. They ask for what they want and they expect to get it-and most are willing to work for it.

It may seem like keeping Gen Y motivated and happy will be high-maintenance work, but staying in touch isn't all that difficult, and keeping employees motivated and happy is critical to staff productivity and longevity.

First, be clear in communicating your expectations, especially when it comes to training, and give frequent feedback. If there is a change in performance (good or bad), be timely in addressing it. When it comes to instant responses, keep communication clear, loose, and brief. Finally, hone those listening skills by obtaining employees' feedback and reading their body language.

Understanding these variations among the three generations-what motivates them and where they differ-is an important factor in improving productivity and fostering teamwork.

Employees are vitally important to our future, and it is critical to respect their differences. They are the face of the practice to the patients, and most medical practice leaders understand this. Successful urology managers recognize the importance of uniting with this varied work force in a meaningful way that creates mutual value, motivates staff, and improves business performance.

ModernMedicine
NETWORK

NEWS & UPDATES

A bill passed last fall means that smaller practices may be exempt from the "Red Flags" rule. Read:
http://www.urologytimes.com/exempt

EDUCATION

Practice management consultant Keith Borglum, CHBC offers some tips on saving money on supplies. See:
http://www.urologytimes.com/supplytips

Judy Capko is a health care consultant and the author of Take Back Time–Bringing Time Management to Medicine. She can be reached at 805-499-9203 or judy@capko.com
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