Like within many other industries, healthcare leaders are noticing as many as four different generations of providers—the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials—working together within organizations. In fact, three out of four leaders across various industries indicated in an Ernst and Young survey that managing multigenerational teams in the workplace poses a significant challenge.
That said, it is essential for leaders to learn how to enhance medical staff relations and effectively manage diverse perspectives, expectations, and nuances to keep operations running smoothly while sustaining quality care.
So what can leaders do to prevail in this balancing act? Instead of falling off the administrative tightrope, consider adopting some of the following approaches and ideas to facilitate and optimize cross-generational interaction.
Educate Providers on Generational Differences, but Also Find Common Ground
One way for leaders to approach this diverse landscape is to teach staff members about the general traits, strengths, and opinions common to each generation in order to foster respect and understanding. For example, some organizations offer informative generational sensitivity courses, plan retreats to improve communication, or host conferences to increase cross-generational awareness.
But efforts shouldn’t end there—it is equally important to highlight organizational goals and values as a way to find common ground, irrespective of generation or experience level, since focusing too heavily on differences may unintentionally create tension and division. So instead, leaders may choose to communicate the “what” and “why” for organization-wide expectations, to encourage a joint effort that still allows flexibility for individuals of different generations to determine “how” to reach them.
Create Traditional Mentorships, but Also Reverse the Roles
Each generation brings different viewpoints to the table. By forming intergenerational workgroups or partnerships, providers are given the opportunity to teach and learn from one another. This kind of instruction and collaboration can not only be practiced in a traditional mentor–apprentice partnership, but also in reverse mentoring practices where younger generations serve as the mentor.
In actuality, a 2012 study found that reverse mentorship fosters cross-generational learning and aids in the development of leadership skills in young personnel. This illustrates the importance of giving young staff members the opportunity to not only simultaneously teach and learn, but also gain a necessary skillset needed to excel in and improve the industry. One-on-one mentoring and workgroups are both ways to dismantle biases and the chain-of-command mentality, while giving staff members purpose and direction in an organization.
In an evolving industry, reverse mentorship or multigenerational teams can be effective ways to keep all generations up-to-date with new approaches and advancements, as well as build expertise—all while allowing for providers to form interpersonal relationships with one another.
Accommodate Providers’ Communication Needs, but Also Set Clear Guidelines
Generally speaking, each generation has their respective communication preferences: Older generations often use formal, direct face-to-face communication, while younger generations typically enjoy communicating informally or via technology. This in mind, mixing communication across various channels and formats can prove a proficient way to collectively inform and educate staff members. As a supplemental component, leaders can also seek input through surveys or open forums to gain insight on communication preferences specific to their organization’s staff members.
Finally, leaders may also find it useful to set clear criteria for communication to steer clear of conflict and misinterpretation. For example, by establishing guidelines for communication that touch on items such as the expected levels of formality and appropriate channels for specific situations, leaders can ensure staff members are aware of when and which communication methods are appropriate depending on the circumstances.
Don’t let the mix of generations in practice cause you to lose your footing. Try some of the aforementioned strategies to give providers the opportunity to teach and empower one another in spite of generation and experience.