South Florida Hospital News
Wednesday September 30, 2020

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December 2008 - Volume 5 - Issue 6


To Retain Employees ó Speak to Their Generation

"There are four distinct generations staffing todayís healthcare teams ó and each generation speaks its own language and sees the world in dramatically different ways," says Greta Sherman, Senior Vice President at TMP Worldwide Advertising & Communications. "The challenge is figuring out ways to get Veteran, Baby Boomer, Gen X and Gen Y employees cooperating, communicating effectively, and feeling actively engaged for better healthcare delivery," Sherman reports. How to understand these groups and tackle those challenges was the subject of her presentation in San Francisco at the 2008 Annual Conference of the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development of the American Hospital Association. The conference took place in September.

Sherman explains that a generationís unique viewpoint emerges out of seminal life events stemming from factors like wars, economics and technology. These influences cause individuals to view work and job satisfaction in ways that sometimes put them at odds with their coworkers. Nevertheless, hospital units ideally should be composed of different groups, as those very differences make for a rich working environment.

Take for instance Baby Boomers, born between 1947 and 1964. Boomers are characteristically workaholics, are married to their jobs and are the first generation to see education as a birthright. Women of this generation were told they could be anything they wanted to be. Therefore, career became paramount. Few in this group even want to stop working. Boomers compose the core of American workers (76 million), with nurses largely represented in this category. Sherman notes that Boomers are motivated by money and status. They value hard work above having a balanced life.

In contrast, Generation X, born 1965-77 cherishes the work and life balance and tends to clash horribly with Boomers. "Why donít they have a work ethic?" is the complaint Boomers frequently make about Gen Xers. These individuals grew up as latchkey kids. While left alone they formed strong bonds with television, computers and all manner of technology. Under those conditions itís easy to understand why theyíve come to expect instant gratification. GenXers also have a more entrepreneurial mindset and believe in breaking the rules to do things their own way.

The oldest of the four groups is Veterans, born 1925-46. These folks are the traditionalists, accustomed to conformity and respecting management. Veterans play by the rules and easily sacrifice fun in the name of duty. They want to be respected for their experience and prefer personal or written instructions rather than emails. Already a small segment of the labor force, this group is shrinking yearly. By 2015 Veterans will be out of the workforce.

Which generation is considered the perfect fit for hospitals? That would be those born 1978-2000, dubbed Generation Y. As the second largest group in the workforce (74 million), GenYs were raised by a village ó they enjoyed private schools, soccer camps and grandparents figuring prominently in their lives. GenYs have never been without technology. They can "hyper thread," which is the ability to mentally run up to 15 threads of thought ó for example, simultaneously taking a cell phone call, eating breakfast, searching online and text messaging. GenYs love their grandparents, are team players and will work for less money if it means improving their quality of life. More than sixty percent of physical therapists are GenYs, along with a majority of Pharmacists.

What are the implications for hospital managers whose teams are composed of these four generations? "How well you recruit and retain individuals from these groups hinges on the skills of your frontline hiring manager," reveals Sherman. "That person is the number one reason why employees stay or go. Managers must be trained to speak the language of each generation. When you can daily reinforce and connect with the unique values and motivations of each group, employees will feel engaged and satisfied with their jobs."

Sherman cites one example of how hospitals skillfully apply these generational differences on the Internet. GenYs are online all the time and will look for chat room discussions to find out if hospital employees are happy in their jobs. If employees are complaining online about low morale, that hospitalís attempt to attract talented professionals is killed on the Internet. Evidence that even recruitment methods have changed is in the new practice of using text messaging to reach GenYís, whose attachment to their cell phones is ubiquitous.

In summarizing her advice to hospital managers Sherman asserts, "There simply arenít enough healthcare professionals today. Know your audience, and the idiosyncrasies of the generations you are speaking to. Pay attention to these differences and you can attract the employees you want and keep the ones you already have."

You can reach Greta Sherman, Senior Vice President at TMP Worldwide Advertising & Communications, at

For information about the next annual conference of the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development, contact Alyse Kittner at or (312) 422-3888.

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