The concept of a multigenerational workforce is nothing new, but with millennials now populating the workforce in droves, many leadership teams are eager to learn how to best tap into the strengths of this new generation of industry professionals. The truth is, managing a multigenerational workforce is a challenge for all industries, but it's never been more important to do so successfully than it is today — particularly in healthcare.
In fact, according to a 2014 report from the American Hospital Association (AHA), oversight of generational differences can actually impact the monetary bottom line of an organization by resulting in high employee turnover and increased expenditures for recruitment, training and retention. Specifically relating to healthcare, patient outcomes can even suffer as a result of disconnects in generational communication styles.
The most effective health information management (HIM) and other healthcare leaders understand the importance of respecting the unique characteristics, life experiences and expectations of millennials and find ways to bridge the generational gaps between those who populate today's workforce, according to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
With that in mind, we took a deep-dive into the facts at hand to explore important generational differences in today's workforce and the benefits of multigenerational organizations. We even gathered some tips to help cultivate a healthy workforce that successfully crosses generational divides. Take a look at what we found.
Many of the discussions surrounding intergenerational workforces center on the differences between two pivotal generations of professionals: baby boomers and millennials. While the boomers were statistically the larger of the two, millennials are beginning to outnumber them in the workforce as the former eases out of working age.
Some of the key generational differences as they relate to the workforce were explored in a panel discussion hosted by Leading Age. It was revealed that one of the primary differences that can cause a divide in the workplace is different generations' attitudes toward work. Baby boomers, for example, commonly operate from a 'live to work' mentality. Careers were often built on a foundation of paying one's dues. This concept can serve as a source of conflict for the younger, more forward-thinking generations that are slowly taking over the workforce.
Older generations have generally been more willing to stay at one job for extended periods of time in hopes of gradually moving up the ladder. On the other hand, younger generations are often less hesitant to toe the line of potential conflict by speaking up about new ideas or about elements of an organization they believe could be changed. In many cases, if they don't see the progress they're hoping for from one organization, they won't hesitate to pack up and move on to the next opportunity.
It is also thought that the age-old sense of automatic respect of authority is less inherent in millennials than it was in baby boomers. This can be misconstrued as arrogance by some, while others agree it's a step in the right direction toward the type of transparent communication that can help organizations improve and thrive. Regardless of industry, organizations are beginning to encourage open and constructive disagreements in hopes of fostering healthy communication that promotes overall growth.
AHIMA has also explored the aspects that are considered most important to this rising generation of industry professionals, concluding that millennials value flexibility, meaningful work, opportunities for advancement, job satisfaction, financial security and work-life balance. According to AHIMA, these tech-savvy risk-takers want to make the most out of the tools at hand and secure their role in propelling their organizations forward. Many consider this mindset to be beneficial as HIM professionals work to expand their role in health information technology.
Exploring the aspects that make each new generation of professionals unique is important because of the sheer benefit a healthy multigenerational workforce can bring to any organization. "The healthcare industry, along with other complex industries that successfully cultivate a multigenerational workforce, will strengthen their organizational intelligence, enhance organizational performance and sustain a competitive edge," explains Tamara Thorpe, leadership and organizational development consultant.
"College graduates entering their field have been educated and trained in the latest approaches and technologies," she continues. "They bring with them knowledge of the most recent and up-to-date innovations, as well as fresh and new perspectives, skills and attitudes. When you combine that with the experience and expertise of more seasoned professionals, you have a perfect recipe for increasing organizational [success]."
Generational diversity is important to any industry, as diversity of thought enhances success. "The healthcare industry can benefit from a multigenerational workforce because it can often reflect the population it serves," explains Jennifer Mensik, Vice President of CE programming at OnCourse Learning.
When an organization employs a diverse range of professionals, not only is the potential for success increased, but it can also help foster a collaborative culture filled with opportunities for team members to mentor and cross-train. Each individual's professional development is given important consideration in thriving environments like this.
"High performing teams that build sustainable communities of knowledge give themselves an edge over their competitors," Thorpe explains. "It is well worth the investment of time, money and resources for any industry to support the collaboration and cooperation of a multigenerational workforce."
Successful organizations are the ones that can take the strengths that each generation has to offer and use them to create collaborative solutions to increase productivity and overall organizational intelligence.
A top concern many have with employing millennials today is their level of commitment as it relates to loyalty and retention. But organizations that can find ways to bridge gaps and promote intergenerational harmony are often able to continually appeal to younger generations by fostering creative, collaborative and forward-thinking environments sprinkled with the seasoned wisdom of generations prior.
AHIMA offers the following 10 strategies for attracting, managing and retaining millennials:
• Encourage department communication, engaging employees for ideas and feedback.
• Set achievable goals that contribute to the big picture.
• Empower millennials with the latest technology and tools they need to succeed.
• Work to understand the priorities, perspectives and ideas of all employees.
• Avoid perpetuating generational assumptions or stereotypes.
• Openly provide opportunities for advancement and career growth.
• Be willing to address challenges up front, setting clear expectations and offering encouragement.
• Regularly celebrate achievements, sharing information among the larger team.
• Offer professional development and learning opportunities, including leadership training.
• Promote healthy work-life balance, including flexible hours and opportunities to work remotely.
There are also steps you can take to help promote retention and employee satisfaction as early as the interviewing process, according to AHIMA. Managers should fully explore a job candidate's career goals, advancement expectations, work-life balance needs, specific areas of interest, communication style and collaborative abilities before making any hiring decisions.
It can be helpful for multigenerational workplaces to host training sessions that help promote a healthy level of generational competency, increasing sensitivity and understanding. "Mentoring and cross-training are great strategies for cultivating a successful multigenerational workforce," Thorpe says. "Many organizations have formal or informal programs to support knowledge transfer through mentoring and training and find very positive results with increased engagement and retention, as well as effective succession planning.
Today's savviest healthcare organizations understand their ability to elevate patient outcomes, boost productivity and even reduce the cost of care by fostering generational diversity to contribute to a robust organizational culture. When harmony can be achieved with the bold, forward-thinking nature of younger generations and the seasoned wisdom of generations prior, that's when organizations can truly thrive today.
The most effective way for any organization — HIM or otherwise — to promote the cultivation of a healthy multigenerational workforce is to have high quality and competent professionals in management or leadership roles. Programs like the Master of Science in Health Information Management at The College of St. Scholastica specialize in training professionals to seize the leadership opportunities that await within the field of HIM. You can learn more by visiting the program page today.