From Millennials to Baby Boomers: How to create the most productive team with 4 generations

She brought her mom to the interview??  Picture this, mommy dearest sits patiently in the waiting room while her daughter is being interviewed for her first ever “adult job”.  Or better yet, mom calls the HR Manager to discuss their son or daughter’s salary, relocation packages and scholarship programs.  WHAAAATTTTTT, these things really happen?  Based on our research (a quick internet search) and YES these things really do happen.  So what affect does this have on the candidate’s ability to get a job offer?  What about the affect it has on the employer?  Is this a new thing now…and if it is, what does it say about the two generations involved in this process?

But I digress because ultimately the objective here is to point out the generational differences in the workplace and how healthcare leaders are facing a unique period in history where four generations have and will continue to be working side by side.  Baby boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z are each unique in their generational characteristics.  Each generation shares similar value systems and each have a lot to bring to the table.

Although each generation can be said to have a distinctive psychology of work, the concepts get even more complex when one considers the interactions between work colleagues of different generations. Inter-generational workplaces can fall prey to misunderstandings that would be relatively less likely in more homogeneous groups.

The million dollar question is how do you understand each generation’s needs and harness their potential in a professional environment?

Before we get to that though let’s review some stats.

The Data

More than one-in-three American labor force participants (35%) are Millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

In 2017 the Generation X labor force was down from its peak of 54 million in 2008. The decline reflects a drop in the overall number of Gen X adult’s dynamic work ethic.

According to Gallup, about a third of today’s workforce comes from the 75 million-strong Baby Boomer generation.  Filling the workforce gap will be a challenge as the Baby Boomers march toward retirement.  The ranks of the Gen X workers are simply not enough, while the many Millennials lack the needed work experience.

The Challenges and Respective Solutions

The challenges could be many but not ones that couldn’t be overcome with some simple solutions.  You have generations that value different things in the work place, so identifying each individual’s needs and expectations is crucial.  Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your workforce and then create collaborative relationships to develop a culture of innovation and inclusion.  Avoid negative stereotyping and avoid dwelling on individual differences.  As the Baby Boomers are transitioning out create opportunities for cross-generational mentoring.  This approach will facilitate each generation’s willingness to learn and grow in different ways. The older generation can learn new technological approaches to workflow and the younger generation can learn from the experience and wisdom of the older generation.

Don’t allow generational stereotypes and toxic narratives lead the charge in your workplace.  It’s not constructive or productive to pit generations against each other so communication, collaboration and inclusion are the keys to your success.  With proactive leadership the changes in the workforce dynamics can be productive rather than disruptive.


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