Leadership teams across the industry are facing a multitude of interesting demands. In the Healthcare space, executives are tasked more than ever with running their organizations with leaner margins, yet rising regulatory pressure. Truth be told, the same sentence could have been written twenty years ago (and probably was!). But today’s leaders have a new and nuanced issue to manage. They are responsible for the oversight of three, soon to be four, distinct generations of employees. In addition to the Millennials [born between 1980 and the early-2000s], there is Generation X [born during the early 1960s to 1980], and Baby Boomers [born between 1946 and the early 1960s]. Post-Millennials, known as Generation Z, are quickly approaching high school graduation and thus will soon be joining the workforce to create four generations to manage simultaneously. I recently lead a team that had an 18-year-old and a 75-year-old on the team. To say there is a difference in inspiring and motivating an 18-year-old and a 75-year-old is an understatement.

"All leaders, regardless of their generation, have to engage the younger generation in a manner that will truly reach them, whilst valuing the experience and wisdom of the older generations"

Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers and Gen X'ers alike need
to ready to accommodate the styles
and needs of the Millenials.

Millennials represent the largest generation in the United States, encompassing one third of the total U.S. population in 2013. Leaders cannot ignore this generation, or any other generation if they expect to be successful. “All leaders, regardless of their generation, have to engage the younger generation in a manner that will truly reach them, whilst valuing the experience and wisdom of the older generations.” For example, while leading a large home care company I saw a need to create a hospital re-admission reduction program. I pulled together a team that consisted of all three generations. I assigned one of the Baby Boomers as lead on the project. I tasked her with keeping the project on our timeline and for ensuring all of the vital elements of the program were included. I assigned the Gen X member a small sub-group to work with and gave him the resources to create content. I clarified the overall goal of the project, then let them create. I gave the Millennial members individual assignments on the project. I made sure they understood that what they were creating was critical to the project of helping patients stay home and not be readmitted to a hospital. I gave them the freedom to work on it at home or outside of the office. I followed up with the Boomer on a regular schedule either in person or by phone. I followed up with the Gen X group by email. I sent texts and emails to the Millennial members to follow up. The overall group was creative and cohesive. The end result was a nationally recognized hospital-to-home transition program that was successful in reducing hospital readmissions.

There are vast differences in the values, communication styles, work habits and world views of these three generations currently making up the workforce (see Table 1.1). Recognizing these differences will be fundamental for a leader in gearing the appropriate style and skills to the individual, not the organization.

Characteristic Boomer Generation X Millennial
Employment Goal Job Focused Work-Life Balance Flexibility
Values Value Security and personal fulfillment Value Independence and self reliance Value Work-Life Balance and Entrepreneurial settings
Key driver Stability Skeptical Praise and to be treated equally
Assignments Need Clearly Stated Goals Adaptable Needs challenging and meaningful work
Views on work Appreciates tasks, work is an adventure Resourceful, entrepreneur Does not like structure or confinement, needs fulfillment
Communication Style Communicate in-person, phone calls and emails Communicate with latest technology and phone calls Communicate instantly with text, tweets, IM and other social media
Project participation Likes to be in charge of a project Likes the autonomy to complete a task the way they best see fit Likes sharing ideas with a creative team working together
Communication methods Writes out complete sentences Uses abbreviations Uses informal language and colloquialisms

To effectively manage a multi-generational group, the modern day leader must allow each individual to work in the style best suited to make them successful. They must foster flexibility, different perspectives and openness with each team member. The end result will be a melting pot of different generations coming together and creating something greater than any one generation could do alone.

By Penny Lovitt, MSN,RN, Founder, OHEN Consulting on Friday, April 1, 2016