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People of all ages enjoy stimulating and interesting careers in the healthcare industry. Many writers have suggested that individuals are fundamentally different because of their life experiences which are impacted by when they grew up, matured and entered the workforce. They further suggest that these differences should be considered as people are managed at work. In this article, we’ll review this information and discuss its impact on managing Central Service employees.
Figure 1 reviews basic demographics about the generations in today’s workforce.
Figure 1 provides interesting information. The youngest traditionalists and the baby boomers occupy a large number of senior management positions in healthcare organizations. Many older generation X employees are also in the senior administrative ranks. Younger generation X employees and some older generation Y staff members are now advancing to middle-management positions, and older generation Y employees are now assuming early management positions.
Central Service managers can make mistakes when they generalize about (stereotype) people based upon nationality, ethnicity and other factors. It is equally inappropriate to suggest sweeping generalizations that apply to all persons of a given age group. However, there may be advantages to, when possible, modifying leadership styles to accommodate different groups of individuals based upon factors that motivate them. Other writers, however, suggest that this tactic may be ideal, but difficult to accomplish and, in fact, many managers use the same leadership style in most (all) situations.
Is the modification of one’s leadership style based upon employee age a good idea? This might be an appropriate tactic, and it is relatively easy to do when, for example, most staff members in a Central Service department belong to a specific generation. However, it is more difficult to implement when there are many employees of differing ages.
Central Service managers will benefit from learning about the generations and their differences because:
It is difficult for some Central Service managers to interact with different generations because this can challenge their own beliefs and values, force them to think about change and conflict, and require them to modify their communication skills. Figure 2 reviews basic information about the workforce generations that may affect their work interests and habits.
Differences between the generations become much more noticeable when one considers those at the mid-point of each generation. For example, think about differences between Generation X and Y in terms of those in their “middle 30’s” (generation X) versus those in their “early 20’s” (generation Y). Don’t think about those who are 30 years old (the youngest in generation X in 2008), and those who are 29 years old (the oldest in generation Y in 2008).
Baby boomers have been called the “me” generation. Their work incentives include money, position titles and recognition for the work they do. When they entered the workforce, baby boomers wanted to build a significant career to enhance their reputation. They challenged the “status quo,” and those in this generation are responsible for many of the opportunities now taken for granted in the workplace. They became the first “workaholics,” and they believe that hard work and loyalty is a good way to get ahead. Many baby boomers sense that “who they are” is connected to their work and career achievements.
Generation X employees are motivated by job satisfaction. They don’t anticipate remaining in one job or with one organization throughout their career. They believe they can “jump jobs” to attain desired compensation and other benefits, and to receive increased opportunities for growth and personal fulfillment. They want to provide input to their employers, and they have an interest in understanding how the company works because they know this will influence their growth opportunities. Personal acknowledgement and job satisfaction are very important for this generation.
Generation Y employees want to know the “why” of what they are being asked to do; they want to know “what’s in it for them.” They enjoy a pleasant workplace, and money is not a motivator because they believe they have numerous employment opportunities. They are also quick to voice their opinion, and are not responsive to the “do it or else” supervisory tactics that some hospitality managers use too frequently.
There are diverse opinions about how people should be managed. Some say, “Everyone should be treated the same.” Others say it is important to at least consider generational differences. Still others suggest that employees should be treated as individuals.
The following are several tactics that work equally well for employees in every generation, in every organization, at any time:
While different generations may appreciate different leadership tactics, the above are “best practice” techniques that typically work well with all staff members.
This column was written by Jack Ninemeier, Ph.D, CHA of the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University. Dr. Ninemeier is the editor of Central Service Technical Manual (5th Edition), Supervision Principles: Leadership Strategies for Healthcare Facilities (2nd Edition), and Material Management and the Healthcare Industry, all published by IAHCSMM.