Leading Different Generations in Your Practice
As the leader of your practice, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone who works with you thinks the same way, approaches work the same way, or cares about work-life balance the same way as you do. Our society is seeing a dramatic shift in who we see in the workplace, with Baby Boomers beginning to retire and primarily Millennials (their offspring) filling job positions. To be an effective leader, it is important to not apply a “one-size-fits-all” strategy in dealing with your people. Rather, you owe it to yourself, your staff, and your patients to understand some important generational differences.
Let us briefly review the primary working generations, and then we will discuss some recommended leadership strategies.
1. The Silents (born 1925-1946) are considered among the most loyal workers. They are highly dedicated and the most risk averse. Their values were shaped by the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar boom years. Silents possess a strong commitment to teamwork and collaboration and have high regard for developing interpersonal communications skills. Silents now consist of the most affluent elderly population in U.S. history due to their willingness to conserve and save after recovering from the financial impact of the postwar era.
2. The Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are the first generation to actively declare a higher priority for work over personal life. They generally distrust authority and large systems. Their values were shaped primarily by a rise in civil rights activism, Vietnam and inflation. Because of the fall of the dot.com marketplace, retirement savings of Baby Boomers were decimated and many now find themselves having to work longer than they had planned.
3. The Generation Xers (born 1965-1980) are often considered the “slacker” generation. They naturally question authority figures and are responsible for creating the work/life balance concept. Born in a time of declining population growth, this generation of workers possesses strong technical skills and is more independent than the prior generations. Because Gen Xers place a lower priority on work, many company leaders from the Baby Boomer generation assume these workers are not as dedicated; however, Gen Xers are willing to develop their skill sets and take on challenges, and they are perceived as very adaptive to job instability in the post-downsizing environment.
4. The Generation Yers, or Millennials (born after 1980), are the first global-centric generation, having come of age during the rapid growth of the Internet and an increase in global terrorism. They are among the most resilient in navigating change while deepening their appreciation for diversity and inclusion. The Millennials are also the most educated generation of workers today. Additionally, they represent the most team-centric generation since the Silents, as they have grown up at a time where parents programmed much of their lives with sports, music, and recreational activities to keep them occupied while their Boomer parents focused on work. At times, they can appear more demanding than previous generations.
As these four generations are all found in the workplace today, leaders cannot maintain old assumptions, such as: high pay, basic medical benefits, and a 401(k) will secure the top talent. As more Silents retire, Baby Boomers seek “postretirement careers,” Gen Xers demand challenging but balanced work assignments, and Millennials expect high perks in exchange for loyalty and technological savvy, you, as the leader, must find creative ways to recruit and retain talent. Following are three primary thoughts on which you can focus:
1. Reenergize your compensation and benefits. As more people retire later in life, many will want more time off as opposed to increased compensation. Younger people may value more flexibility, like assignments that foster new skill sets they can apply later in their careers. Older workers may want research assignments and paid sabbaticals during which they can engage in learning programs.
2. Expand your communication strategies. By making the same message available in multiple formats (thus increasing the number of times you communicate a message), you’ll ensure that you reach all workers. Silents and Baby Boomers may appreciate verbal communication about changes in policy or procedures, while Generation Xers and Millennials may prefer the use of email or instant messages.
3. Make mentoring a constant. As your more established and experienced workers head toward retirement, develop strategies to ensure knowledge transfer to keep your organizational memory alive. Determine younger employees’ goals and developmental needs, and then pair them with older, more experienced employees to create cross-generational dialogue. Consider various mentoring models, such as one-on-one sessions and group feedback opportunities. Remember, a leader’s primary responsibility is to ensure everyone in the organization understands that ‘working together’ is not negotiable.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.orgForward this article to a friend
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