As average retirement age climbs with the health, vitality and economic necessity of the Baby Boomer generation today, many ASC leaders are challenged to manage a workforce that includes employees age 18 to 80. Motivating workers across a multi-generations – including Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials, each with distinct attitudes about work and career – takes finesse, and a solid understanding of differing experiences and expectations.
“Getting the best from an age-diverse workforce means finding ways to engage each employee in a way that is meaningful,” says Tom Jacobs, MedHQ’s Chief Executive Officer. “Managed well, a multi-generational workforce can infuse an organization with the wisdom of experience and the energy of new ideas, to achieve more success than would ever be possible with a homogeneous workforce.”
‘Managing well’ is the challenge, however. While employees of any age want to be engaged at work and to enjoy success against specific career goals, research suggests real differences in the concerns and needs, learning styles and life goals of employees from different generational groups. To help ASC leaders optimize productivity from today’s multi-generational workforce, MedHQ advises a shift in management mindset from ‘boss’ to ‘coach,’ and offers three touch points to guide effective leadership.
Many studies point to differing preferences for training across generational groups. One such report, “Tapping into Talent,” published by The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), suggests Millennials and Generation X preferring independent, online training resources, while Baby Boomers and Veterans prefer more traditional classrooms and books. In an ASC environment, using a mix of both training approaches can help improve the capabilities of individuals while strengthening teams, creating an environment of continuous learning, initiative, and innovation.
Jacobs says MedHQ’s own research underscores the importance of changing the conversation about goals for training, especially when it comes to Millennials (but increasingly for Boomers working hard to stay current, too) to focus on ongoing development rather than a more static approach geared toward job satisfaction.
“Every employee is different, so one goal of training should be to identify and develop those differences, to enable the full potential of each employee,” Jacobs says. “There are generational differences in the way people learn best, but in general, training that takes people a bit outside their comfort zones and helps them stretch makes workers feel engaged and supported in their growth.”
Accommodate Work/Life Styles
Millennials’ penchant for workplace flexibility, work/life balance and career growth opportunities, even over financial rewards, is well documented. But when it comes to managing an effective multi-generational workforce, these kinds of cultural “perks” can help engage workers of any age. According to Jacobs, shifting the conversation from being concerned with an employee’s job or career to one of concern about their whole life is an effective way to coach Millennials, and appeals to other players in the workforce as well.
“If we can overcome our unconscious bias about age; if we can stop thinking of Millennials as ‘tech-obsessed,’ or of older workers as ‘stuck in their ways,’” we take big strides toward an effective, multi-generational workforce,” Jacobs says. “The key is to create a culture for all that encourages workers to be themselves, and helps them feel valued and challenged, trusted to pursue both organizational and personal goals, with freedom to experiment, fail, and grow.”
Rethink Performance Management
Traditional performance management systems, centered on a set of pre-determined goals and an annual review, are less effective with a multi-generational workforce. Instead, companies like GE, Adobe, Accenture, IBM have found that moving to an approach focused on real-time feedback is more motivational and in tune with employee’s needs in today’s world.
For ASC leaders, Jacobs says rethinking performance management may mean seeing each employee as an individual, and encouraging ongoing dialog about how he or she is doing in roles that fulfill the ASC’s mission. Empowering functional managers to coach each individual on both personal and organizational objectives can bring more focus to the areas of contribution each employee enjoys most, and result in the best use of their strengths.
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