Navigating the personality attributes among multigenerational healthcare professionals
Today’s multigenerational workforce has a significant impact on the rapidly-evolving healthcare industry. As a more comprehensively integrated system focused on population health begins to dominate, the healthcare industry, recruitment initiatives must also evolve. Part of that journey is ensuring effective collaboration among and between professionals from a variety of generations. This extends beyond physicians, nurses, and hospital administrators to laboratory technologists, technicians, and scientists. Integrated laboratory teams made up of professionals from a variety of generations that communicate and collaborate effectively are paramount to the success of this new healthcare era.
Not only must clinical labs work to bridge the gap between diverse age groups, but they must also learn how to tailor recruitment, onboarding, and retention strategies for professionals from the following four generations:1
- Traditionalists: born between 1925 and 1945. Multiple sources report that they comprise 17% of US population, 8% of the workforce, and 5% of workers in clinical labs.
- Baby Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964. Represent 28% of the US population, 43% of total workforce, and 19% of clinical lab workers.
- Generation X: born between 1965 and 1976. Represent 13% of the US population, but 20% of total workforce and 40% of clinical lab workers.
- Millennials: born between 1977 and 1996. Represent 26% of the US population. Although not all have entered the workforce yet, they account for 27% of total workforce and 36% of clinical lab workers.
So, how can clinical laboratories do this? Below, we explore generational characteristics and provide generation-specific recruitment, onboarding, and retention suggestions so that labs can effectively build age diverse groups, and leverage the benefits of multigenerational teams for gain.
Gen Xers are somewhat cynical. They place more value on their personal lives, as opposed to their professional lives. They do not rely on institutions for long-term security, making this population even harder to retain.
Born between 1925 and 1945, these professionals value privacy, hard work, trust, formality, and institutional leadership. They believe in authority, responsibility, and accountability, and are usually not very technologically-savvy.
- How to Recruit: Traditionalists are looking for exceptional opportunities to end their careers on a high note. Flexible and even part-time work arrangements are attractive, as are prestigious titles. Focus on formality and detail when recruiting. Emphasize the value that their experience and institutional knowledge will bring to your organization.
- How to Onboard: Onboarding for traditionalists needs to be intensive; plan (and budget) for additional IT support. Pair them with younger employees who can help guide them through the electronic health records maze. Set regular check-in meetings to ensure they have what they need and are assimilating as part of the team.
- How to Retain: Keep all promises you made during the recruitment process. Traditionalists want to know that your word is good. Provide them with mentorship opportunities so that they have the opportunity to shape the younger generation. Offer leadership roles and responsibilities and high compensation as they are motivated, in part, by financial success. Continue to communicate clearly and regularly to assess their satisfaction level and openly discuss goals and expectations.
The Baby Boomers
Born between 1946 and 1964, these professionals embrace optimism, prosperity, success, and family-friendly workplaces. Representing almost half of today’s healthcare professionals, baby boomers fill many clinical laboratory leadership roles and derive a sense of identity and self-worth from career success.
- How to Recruit: Baby Boomers are at the height of their earning potential so money is always a top incentive. The opportunity to lead or build a program or initiative is enticing. Other motivators include joining a team with a nationally- or globally-recognized reputation and the chance to do something they have not done before. During the recruitment process, baby boomers appreciate direct and concise communication; you should be prepared for extensive and thorough follow-up. In addition, they are looking to join an organization that demonstrates flexibility.
- How to Onboard: Baby boomers want clear and constant communications about expectations. They desire regular check-ins about goals and want to ensure that you will provide them with the support and resources necessary to be successful in the position.
- How to Retain: Baby Boomers value team-based approaches and are committed to climbing a ladder of success. Retention of these valuable assets centers around regular communication, financial rewards, and career advancement opportunities.
Born between 1965 and 1976, Gen Xers are somewhat cynical. They place more value on their personal lives, as opposed to their professional lives. They do not rely on institutions for long-term security, making this population even harder to retain.
- How to Recruit: Gen Xers value entrepreneurial spirit, independence and creativity, and information and feedback. By demonstrating that your organization is open to new ideas, innovative, and inclusive during the recruitment process, you will be ahead of the game. Additionally, they prefer email as their primary means of communication.
- How to Onboard: Gen Xers respond well to mentors who are similar in age and life stage. They desire regular communication, but prefer an informal style. They are more receptive to short pieces of information, delivered frequently. Talk in short soundbites and ask them for feedback throughout the process.
- How to Retain: Gen Xers are looking for “the next thing.” They want to know that they are being groomed or trained for advancement. In addition, they crave frequent feedback and want to be asked for comments and suggestions regularly.
Born between 1977 and 1996, this is the fastest growing segment of the workforce. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center analysis of US Census Bureau data, this group will make up 75% of the workforce by 2020. They are ambitious and collaborative, and prioritize work life balance. They value autonomy, positive reinforcement, instant gratification, and constant validation. Driven by empathy and a need for purpose, they are also extremely comfortable with technology and eager to learn.
- How to Recruit: Millennials look for how they can fit into, and make an impact on, the organization. Loan repayment, flexible scheduling and ample vacation time, signing bonuses, relocation services, assistance with housing loans, educational opportunities and responsiveness are all enticing to this cohort. They appreciate and respond to authentic corporate culture.
- How to Onboard: Onboarding should be inclusive for this group. You not only have to provide mentors and assistance to the technicians and scientists you hire, but you have to mentor his/her family as new members of the community as well. Many organizations appoint clinical lab mentors and a similar-in-age social mentor for the new employee. In addition, create a separate onboarding plan for the partner, spouse, or family to make sure they are personally connected, engaged, and happy.
- How to Retain: More than any other generational group, Millennials pose a flight risk. This is significant because according to the MGMA, the cost of replacing an employee is 50% to 150% of the annual salary for that position.2 To retain millennials effectively, consider a retention bonus, continuation of mentoring support, and frequent meetings during which feedback is given and received. Stave off boredom by offering them unique opportunities to showcase skills and provide encouragement and motivation.
Significant changes to healthcare’s infrastructure, delivery models, and measurement metrics dictate the need for well-trained, well-coordinated clinically integrated lab teams comprised of technicians and scientists at every level and age. While adjusting recruitment, onboarding, and retention strategies does take work, the payoff of a productive and satisfied multigenerational workforce is immeasurable. Clinical laboratory leaders who work to enhance relationships between generations will cultivate more effective teams, enhanced patient care coordination and, ultimately, competitive advantages.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor force statistics from the current population survey. Available at: bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11b.htm
- J Oncol Pract. Effective staff management. Available at: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793916/