En­gag­ing Mul­ti­ple Gen­er­a­tions to Thrive

Modern Healthcare - - WORKFORCE -

Multi­gen­er­a­tional work­forces have al­ways pow­ered health­care. No or­ga­ni­za­tion con­sists solely of older work­ers or younger ones, and that’s a good thing be­cause each gen­er­a­tion pos­sesses unique strengths and dif­fer­ences.

To­day’s savvy health­care or­ga­ni­za­tions rec­og­nize that they can el­e­vate pa­tient out­comes, boost pro­duc­tiv­ity and even re­duce the cost of care by cul­ti­vat­ing gen­er­a­tional di­ver­sity to cre­ate a ro­bust or­ga­ni­za­tional cul­ture.

“Mil­len­ni­als are get­ting a lot of at­ten­tion th­ese days,” said Jen­nifer Ste­wart, a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at The Ad­vi­sory Board. “But in­ter­est­ingly, the three big driv­ers that re­sult in en­gaged em­ploy­ees are the same for all three gen­er­a­tions: be­lief in the or­ga­ni­za­tional mis­sion, be­lief that the or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­vides ex­cel­lent care to the pa­tient, and know­ing their ideas and sug­ges­tions are val­ued by the or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

The Value of Cul­ti­vat­ing a Multi­gen­er­a­tional Health­care Work­force

In to­day’s health­care en­vi­ron­ment, main­tain­ing a healthy bot­tom line is cru­cial for suc­cess. Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 re­port on “Man­ag­ing the In­ter­gen­er­a­tional Work­force” by the Amer­i­can Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion, ig­nor­ing gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences may drain dol­lars from an or­ga­ni­za­tion through high em­ployee turnover rates and in­creased ex­pen­di­tures for re­cruit­ment, train­ing and re­ten­tion. Fur­ther­more, poor clin­i­cal out­comes that re­sult from a dis­con­nect in in­ter­gen­er­a­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion styles can lead to pa­tient re­hos­pi­tal­iza­tions, in­creas­ing the cost of care and pos­si­bly trig­ger­ing fi­nan­cial penal­ties for not meet­ing re­im­burse­ment cri­te­ria.

A care­fully cul­ti­vated multi­gen­er­a­tional work­force can im­prove em­ployee sat­is­fac­tion and re­duce churn. And, fos­ter­ing team-build­ing across gen­er­a­tions within clin­i­cal units can im­prove out­comes, thereby re­duc­ing the over­all cost of care. Im­proved in­ter­gen­er­a­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion also en­sures a smooth trans­fer of in­sti­tu­tional knowl­edge from older, ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers to younger ones, which helps avoid the “brain drain” that can oc­cur when se­nior em­ploy­ees leave the work­force.

Start With a Work­force Eval­u­a­tion and Plan

Build­ing an ef­fec­tive multi­gen­er­a­tional work­force be­gins with as­sess­ing where your or­ga­ni­za­tion cur­rently stands in terms of its gen­er­a­tional pro­file. Eval­u­at­ing this data en­ables or­ga­ni­za­tions to de­velop a plan for re­cruit­ment, re­ten­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion to and be­tween th­ese var­i­ous groups. In its re­port, the AHA sug­gests every health­care or­ga­ni­za­tion start by:

• Con­duct­ing an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional eval­u­a­tion to de­ter­mine the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s work­force pro­file and de­vel­op­ing a com­pre­hen­sive plan;

• Im­ple­ment­ing tar­geted re­cruit­ment, seg­mented re­ten­tion and suc­ces­sion plan­ning strate­gies; and

• De­vel­op­ing tai­lored com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies that cul­ti­vate gen­er­a­tional sen­si­tiv­ity.

En­gage Each Gen­er­a­tion at Every Level

After es­tab­lish­ing its gen­er­a­tional pro­file, a health­care or­ga­ni­za­tion can be­gin to de­velop a com­pre­hen­sive gen­er­a­tional man­age­ment plan.

Cul­ti­vat­ing multi­gen­er­a­tional en­gage­ment re­quires re-ex­am­in­ing every as­pect of hu­man re­sources man­age­ment to en­sure they meet the needs of each gen­er­a­tion. Ex­am­ples in­clude:

• Es­tab­lish­ing mul­ti­ple meth­ods of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. For in­stance, Baby Boomers might pre­fer to re­ceive or­ga­ni­za­tion mes­sages by email, while Mil­len­ni­als are of­ten more com­fort­able with a so­cial me­dia ap­proach.

• Re­view work hour poli­cies and ad­just for flex­i­bil­ity. Give each gen­er­a­tion a choice in how they work. Some em­ploy­ees may strongly desire a man­dated eight-hour job, while oth­ers want flex­i­ble sched­ul­ing.

• Tai­lor feed­back. Many Mil­len­ni­als want fre­quent feed­back on job per­for­mance so they can make im­me­di­ate, in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments. On the other hand, Baby Boomers and GenX em­ploy­ees may view fre­quent coach­ing as dis­re­spect­ful of their knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence.

• Tai­lor re­wards pro­grams. Baby Boomers value pres­tige, which means they may pre­fer to have their achieve­ments rec­og­nized at a cer­e­mony be­fore their peers. GenXers and Mil­len­ni­als may pre­fer re­wards that take the shape of pro­grams to en­able work-life bal­ance or ca­reer ad­vance­ment.

• Of­fer in­ter­gen­er­a­tional staff de­vel­op­ment. Give em­ploy­ees the op­por­tu­nity to learn about the gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences in work styles so they can un­der­stand and re­spect each other’s meth­ods.

Dis­re­gard Gen­er­a­tional Stereo­types

When de­vel­op­ing a multi­gen­er­a­tional man­age­ment plan, it can be easy to make as­sump­tions:

• “Baby Boomers are in­flex­i­ble and can’t adapt to new tech­nolo­gies.”

• “GenXers are cyn­i­cal and will never work a minute of over­time.”

• “Mil­len­ni­als are flighty and self-cen­tered.”

“Much of this is not new,” said Seth Serxner, chief health of­fi­cer and se­nior vice pres­i­dent of pop­u­la­tion health at Op­tum Pre­ven­tion So­lu­tions. “It was no dif­fer­ent when the Boomers came on the scene. They were viewed as a lit­tle bit self­ish and not think­ing about the fu­ture. Who isn’t when they’re that age?”

To avoid in­cor­po­rat­ing such neg­a­tive stereo­types, or­ga­ni­za­tions can de­velop gen­er­a­tional com­pe­tency. In­crease sen­si­tiv­ity and un­der­stand­ing through train­ing as a step to­ward build­ing a ro­bust multi­gen­er­a­tional work­force that es­chews stereo­typ­ing.

Cre­ate High-Per­form­ing Teams

When mem­bers of each gen­er­a­tion un­der­stand their dif­fer­ences, they can come to­gether as a co­he­sive team. For ex­am­ple, if Mil­len­ni­als un­der­stand Baby Boomers hew to­ward a more au­thor­i­tar­ian man­age­ment style, they can re­spond to this be­hav­ior with­out judg­ing it. Con­versely, if Baby Boomer man­agers un­der­stand GenXers need a sup­port­ive, en­cour­ag­ing en­vi­ron­ment to thrive, they can adapt their man­age­ment be­hav­ior to ac­com­mo­date.

Equally im­por­tant, multi­gen­er­a­tional teams can lever­age the strengths of each mem­ber. A ma­ture mem­ber of the team might be able to use his deep in­sti­tu­tional knowl­edge to de­velop a highly de­tailed plan and then rely on the agile think­ing of a Mil­len­nial mem­ber to sug­gest in­no­va­tive im­prove­ments be­fore go­ing for­ward. By com­bin­ing strengths, the team can bring for­ward the best strate­gies and so­lu­tions for the ben­e­fit of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The multi­gen­er­a­tional work­force can have a clearcut ben­e­fit in the clin­i­cal set­ting. “The [Mil­len­nial] gen­er­a­tion of­ten per­cieves in­for­ma­tion found on the web to rep­re­sent wis­dom,” said Don Gold­mann, M.D., chief med­i­cal and sci­en­tific of­fi­cer at the In­sti­tute for Health­care Im­prove­ment. “But th­ese might ac­tu­ally be snap judg­ments with­out the ben­e­fit of ex­ten­sive clin­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. A clin­i­cian who has lived and ac­quired real wis­dom can give the younger col­league in­put that re­sults in mak­ing a bet­ter de­ci­sion.”

Ev­ery­one has some­thing to learn from some­one else. In the ever-chang­ing health­care space, when em­ploy­ers fa­cil­i­tate learn­ing, they can col­lab­o­rate to bring the best qual­i­ties of their gen­er­a­tion to the task at hand: qual­ity pa­tient care.

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