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3 Tips to a Generationally Balanced Workforce

With increasing healthcare worker shortages and increased patient demand, healthcare organizations are forced to seek ways to recruit young workers while retaining their older counterparts. Being the newcomers to the industry, Millennials are often expected to conform to “the way things have always been done.” At the same time, the healthcare industry is undergoing rapid technological advances that require new ways of doing things.


BalanceInstead of battling against stereotypical differences, healthcare organizations employing multiple generations should find ways for their multiple generations of workers to complement each other. The following tips are intended to provide you with the inspiration to create balance in your workforce.


It’s human nature to assign negative connotation to behavior that is unlike our own. Instead of being annoyed by other generations, rethink biases and imagine how different generational characteristics may benefit patients, staff and the organization. Here are some successful programs that resulted from rethinking generational perceptions:

  • Generational PerceptionsBeaumont Health System boasts improved collaboration by creating better understanding and communication among its intergenerational workforce through Generation Sensation, a course involving “safe” small group discussions and interactive exercises to combat real and perceived generational differences.
  • The Millennial mindset that “everyone on the team should get a trophy” taught Millennials to value others’ opinions as much as their own. This makes them superb collaborators. At Scripps Health, Millennial health care workers employed the team-oriented Lean process for continuous improvement to create effective procedures for fall prevention.
  • Manatee Memorial Hospital challenged the notion that Millennial nurses were disloyal by creating the Grow Your Own Program for nurses. The program has resulted in better Millennial retention rates by allowing nurses to move between units and expand their skills.


SimilaritiesAll generations in healthcare are subject to burnout resulting in turnover. In addition to providing all the necessary tools, implementing a solid employee retention program can greatly improve your organizational culture. Here are some examples of using generational similarities as a foundation for retention:

  • All generations want to be acknowledged for their contributions. Texas Health Resources has a high employee retention rate that coincides with its system of rewards. From thank-you cards to monetary incentives, all generations get the recognition they want in meaningful ways.
  • Work-life balance has become a common need among younger and older generations. Younger generations need flexibility around their young families, while older generations need flexibility to care for parents, grandchildren or themselves. Rated among the top five hospitals for nurses, West Virginia University Medicine offers 12-hour shifts and set schedules, as well as traditional 8-hour shifts, straight shifts, rotating shifts and four-week schedules.
  • Every generation needs to be heard, feel valued and be treated with respect at work. Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York implemented Crucial Conversations training to help employees communicate with one another instead of relying on managers to handle conflicts. The program resulted in a 54 percent improvement in the perception of how leaders handle disrespectful behavior, a 39 percent improvement in confrontation of disrespect and higher levels of patient safety.


Strengths WeakenessesOften where one generation is weak, another generation is strong. Assign employees tasks and positions that balance one generation’s weaknesses with another generation’s strengths. Here are some “balanced equations”:

  • While Generation Xers are independent learners, Millennials appreciate the constant feedback of increased supervision when starting out in a new position. Balance your Baby Boomers’ desire to impart their wisdom with the Millennial need for immediate and constant feedback. Genesis Healthcare retains new Millennial recruits through side-by-side mentoring with older, experienced nurses.
  • Tech-savvy, creative Millennials are good resources for designing and implementing incentive programs, telehealth and EHR systems. Toledo Hospital uses its younger staff, “super-users,” to train other staffers in electronic health records. They move around the training room, answering questions and providing resources to help others who are not as familiar with technology.


Special ValuePatients often prefer clinicians who are like them, so it’s important to maintain a diverse workforce. Besides, shortages in healthcare workers do not provide you with the opportunity to hire from only one generation. You never know, using these three tips to create a generationally balanced workforce may land you a “best in class award.” Simply look at key programs of the top nurse-friendly hospitals to see that excellent organizations provide special value to multiple generations. What do you do to win over your intergenerational workforce? Share your expertise with your peers on our Facebook or Twitter.

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