Today’s workforce is diverse and includes employees of varying ages. Staff members from distinct generations bring different perspectives, ideas, skills, and strengths – and understanding those differences is key to drawing in new employees and keeping them around in the long-term.
So, what does your staff look like? Let's look at the different age groups that make up the workers of today and how that impacts preferences in terms of their jobs.
There are currently three generations in the workforce today*: Baby boomers, generation X, and generation Y – more commonly called millennials. Let’s take a look at the typical characteristics of each group.
Baby boomers make up the oldest group of today’s workers. More traditional than other generations, boomers are typically motivated by company loyalty, teamwork, and duty. They are optimistic, competitive, hard-working, and team- and goal-oriented – and believe in making personal sacrifices for their own success.
Generation X follows the baby boomers; thought to be a group motivated by diversity and work-life balance. These employees tend to put their own personal and professional interests over those of the company for which they work. They are independent, skeptical, flexible, informal, resistant to change, and quick to leave a job that doesn’t meet their needs.
Millennials are a largely competitive, civic-minded, open-minded, and achievement-oriented group. In a work environment, millennials are motivated by responsibility, the quality of their leadership and unique experiences and opportunities. They desire challenge, growth and development; seek a fun work-life balance; and just like those from generation X are likely to leave an organization if they don’t approve of internal change.
*It’s important to note that you may increasingly come across potential employees that fall into generation Z (born after 1996). While we won’t focus on them in this post, keep in mind when employing a member of this age group that gen Z is the most diverse and the first digitally native generation, with little to no knowledge of the world before smartphones. While they are a risk-averse group motivated by job security, they tend to value salary less than any other generation.
A one-size-fits-all approach won’t appeal to all of these age groups when it comes to inviting them to apply for a job at your practice. Be strategic in how you advertise job openings to each generation.
Considering the common characteristics and preferences of baby boomers, traditional media formats are more likely to capture their attention and interest over digital channels. Promote job openings in the newspaper and local church bulletins, and try online job boards, as they are not as big of a leap from the conventional job boards this group has been accustomed to throughout their careers.
It’s not just where you post a job that matters; it’s also how you advertise it. For baby boomers who value company loyalty and teamwork, include any industry awards or recognition your practice has received in the past, as well as internal, practice-wide initiatives. In terms of benefits, stress health care and life insurance coverage options.
Gen X workers may turn to some of the same traditional channels when looking for a job as baby boomers do, but they are also more likely to be attuned to digital job search platforms as well. Use a combination of both to appeal to candidates of this age group.
Within job postings, promote the flexibility your practice provides that allows for more work-life balance, in addition to any executive mentor programs available to your staff. Candidates from generation X likely hold benefits like paid family leave, 401(k) options, and long-term care solutions as most significant, so be sure to mention these as well.
Millennial workers almost exclusively use digital media when looking for a new role. Post open positions on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other such sites to make sure they’re seen by millennial job seekers. Beyond the job posting itself, millennials look at a company’s overall online presence and do their research when considering a role. Having an up-to-date website, profile (with consistent activity) on major social media platforms, and positive reviews on sites like Glassdoor add to your appeal in the eyes of a millennial employee.
In the job description, stress your company’s values and mission statement, along with any flexibility and career growth opportunities you offer your staff. Participate in any social causes? Be sure to mention those as well. Perhaps you hold annual holiday food or toy drives or quarterly volunteer outings – showcase them, as millennials are more invested in community and want to work for organizations that support important causes. As far as benefits, describe perks that appeal to their specific interests. Think vacation days, parental leave, and assistance for college debt payments.
Employee turnover can cost your practice tens of thousands of dollars, so holding on to the employees you have – assuming they are responsible, motivated, productive, and have a good attitude – is of utmost importance.
As with attracting employees, members of your staff from different generations will prioritize different things in terms of job satisfaction. In order to make everyone feel valued, and therefore encourage optimal performance across the board, consider how to respect each individual’s differences and meet their expectations.
Keeping in mind that baby boomers appreciate teamwork and company loyalty, offer staff of this age group opportunities to represent the values of your practice by mentoring younger or newer employees, both professionally and personally. Communicate with them face to face as much as possible, whether you’re discussing their work performance or asking them to complete a quick task.
As these workers approach retirement, team up to create a plan and path to help them get there and achieve their goals along the way. Taking their lifestyle into account, extend flexibility for snowbirds if you live in a colder climate, as well as time off for them to care for grandchildren or aging parents.
While Baby Boomers look for mentorship opportunities internally, members of your staff from gen X may prefer and better benefit from outside professional mentors or coaches. Offer personalized learning programs that will support their efforts in gaining certain knowledge and/or skills. As this age group is especially concerned about their own professional growth, consider these employees for leadership positions that open up at your practice over time.
Use a combination of digital and traditional channels when communicating with your generation X employees, depending on the topic of discussion.
Unlike their predecessors, millennials are usually more comfortable with digital communication, so unless discussing something serious, email or text messages will suffice. However, remember that these employees appreciate – and perhaps expect – regular feedback and performance reviews that acknowledge wins as well as areas that require improvement. Consistently communicate the purpose and impact of their work and provide them with varied responsibilities and continued education classes to contribute to their career growth.
Finally, participate in charitable giving activities throughout the year. Let millennial staff members take ownership of these initiatives, planning volunteer outings, informing the rest of your practice, and getting them excited for the cause.
While one generation may prioritize certain benefits over another, remember that whatever you offer one employee should be extended to all (or something equivalent), or internal conflict may arise. Don’t put each “group” in its own silo. Observe, recognize, and appreciate everyone’s strengths to determine where and how they can teach and learn from one another.
Employees from different backgrounds and age groups vary in their work preferences and priorities, which can complicate business functions from time to time. However, seeing these differences as opportunities rather than obstacles will bring new ideas and possibilities to the way your practice operates.
Understand that the generational characteristics described in this post are generalizations. Maintain open communication with every employee to ensure their individual needs are being met.
Keeping your staff engaged is critical to the success of your practice, whether you have just a handful of employees or dozens. You want your employees to be happy at work, productive, and provide nothing but the best experience for your patients.