Age-diversity among clinical workforce settings is at historic levels. Why? Because up to five generations are working simultaneously. Gen X (born 1965-1980) and Millennials (born 1981-1996) make up the largest percentage of the active nurse force, while many Boomers (1946-1964), and some Traditionalists (1928-1945), have reasons to work years beyond the typical retirement age. At the same time, Gen Z is already starting to make a noticeable presence in clinical units today.
Each generation brings different skill sets, priorities, and communication styles that affect teamwork and the delivery of quality patient care. Because of this, clinical leadership plays a crucial role in harnessing the best of each generational skill set to create strong, diverse teams and build adaptable unit cultures that can flourish in our current climate of rapid change.
Values of a multigenerational workforce
Ageist stereotypes can quickly diminish clinician value on each part of the age spectrum. But an age-diverse workforce is a great opportunity for leadership to embrace the collective strengths of skill diversity, professional performance, and quality of patient care.
- Skill diversity
Each part of the five-generation workforce brings a plethora of complementary abilities, skill sets, and networks to your unit. It’s commonly assumed that Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen X may be more receptive to developing technology, while Boomers and Traditionalists have the experience that guides weighted decision-making. But those assumptions aren’t always the case. Embracing all skillset differences without stereotyping each generation can help leadership understand how to best motivate and manage them.
- Professional performance and quality of patient care
Multigenerational collaboration increases two-way mentorship opportunities and promotes the transfer of valuable skill sets. The more skills mastered, the higher clinical performance and quality of patient care improves.
Challenges of a multigenerational workforce
Left unaddressed, the challenges of generational divides become contributing factors to growing tensions between clinicians. Ageist stereotypes and conflicting talent priorities can easily stifle collaboration, impact professional performance, and add to increasing turnover rates in facilities.
- Ageist stereotypes
Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, yet in an AARP poll, 45% of older workers in their 50s and 60s believe they could not quickly find another job if they needed to. Sweeping generalizations about age and competency cause older candidates to withhold their true wealth of experience for fear of ageism. Senior candidates want to work, are ready to work, and need to work. They should have the opportunity to be judged on merit rather than age.
- Varied talent priorities
Younger generations value flexibility and mobility benefits, and may not want longevity with one facility like the clinicians before them. For leadership, the challenge may be to create a sought-after work environment that attracts and supports all generations.
Opportunities for Intergenerational Collaboration
When managing a generationally diverse clinical workforce, age inclusion must be a part of your organization’s overall strategy. Implementing practices that embrace age-related differences and cultivate a positive age-diverse climate has great potential to help reduce generational divides and consequential turnover.
- Reassess your employee value proposition (EVP)
Does it appeal to all the generations that make up your facility’s workforce? The key to fostering intergenerational collaboration might be updating accommodations, communication practices, and policies to acknowledge the needs of all generations.
- Fine-tune your hiring process
Medical Solutions’ MSP service can help access a vast network of qualified candidates to support your workforce initiatives, but there are still ways that you can work to embrace the generational differences of your clinical workforce. For example, regular discussions with your leadership teams on ways you can identify generational assumptions, adjust perspectives, and embrace and support differences in your facility.
- Launch initiatives to champion intergenerational respect
Introduce initiatives that help remove the lens of age and embrace each generation’s abilities, skills, and experiences. This could be facilitating cross-generational mentoring with a two-way or reverse mentoring program to inspire intergenerational networking and communication. Or consider starting a program to assist clinicians re-entering the workforce after an absence.
While we cannot deny that generational differences exist in our clinical workforce, the valuable experiences, expectations, and styles of each can certainly be embraced as a source of strength for the current healthcare climate.
If your facility is considering using travel nurses and clinicians to help with generational diversity in your hiring process, reach out to Medical Solutions to start a conversation about how we can support your specific staffing needs.