The Benefits of Blending the Different Generations in Your Staff

March 14, 2018
Lisa Grabl
Lisa Grabl

Lisa Grabl is president of CompHealth, the nation’s largest provider of locum tenens physicians and founder of the traveling physician industry. She joined CompHealth in 2001 as a sales consultant and served in a variety of management roles prior to being named president in 2017. Lisa is passionate about building lasting relationships and helping her team members reach their highest potential.

Chicken noodle soup for the medical practice staff soul. Here are ways to bring together different age groups.

I love to cook. There is just something gratifying about taking individual ingredients and turning them into something great. This time of year, one of my go-to recipes is chicken noodle soup. I have been making it for years, but this year decided it was time to try something new.

I found a chicken noodle soup recipe by Anne Burrell. It had the standard ingredients but also included cinnamon, lemon juice and cilantro - none of which seemed like they belonged in chicken noodle soup.

But I got over my initial trepidation and made the recipe, and it was spectacular. I think it is the best chicken noodle soup I have ever made, and my family agreed.

Bridging the generational divide

When I was working with all those different ingredients, I started thinking about the workplace. When I look around my office, I see a huge range of ages. We have millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers.

Though they are all a bit different, each generation brings diverse strengths and perspectives that benefit the company. Each generation has its own priorities, goals, and expectations. For example, our Baby Boomers prefer hands-on training with new systems and appreciate being given the time they need to understand them. They also feel empowered by opportunities to mentor new employees and younger staff members.

We find that our Gen Xers want to share their feedback, either in one-on-one settings or anonymous surveys. They also prefer flexibility in their work shifts so they can schedule work around family obligations.

Our Millennials expect up-to-date technology in the workplace and are apt to make suggestions for improving processes that they see as outdated. They also want to make a difference in the world and appreciate a workplace that allows them to balance volunteer time, work, and play.

So how do you make sure all of these diverse groups are happy, engaged and connected to each other?

Start by listening

Obviously, any generation is just a collection of individuals, with individual personalities. The best way to determine a person’s preferences is to simply ask them and pay attention to the answers. Good leaders are proactive listeners, whether that’s through one-on-one interactions, surveys, or focus groups.

Here are a few things you could ask:

What do you find most engaging about your job?

What barriers stand in the way of your success?

How do you prefer to receive feedback?

How do you like to be recognized?

Listening to employees and receiving this type of feedback will help you determine better ways to communicate, how to make your workplace more productive, and allow employees to see that their feedback matters.

Create more opportunities for leading

Listening to your employees will allow you to identify what different generations want at work. We have found that many of our employees, regardless of age, have a desire to personally grow and develop and have an interest in formal or informal leadership - whether that’s leading people or leading projects.

Leadership opportunities create a great way to bring different generations of employees together. For example, creating a mentorship program helps both the mentor and mentee grow their careers, get to know new people, and is a great way to build empathy amongst employees.

I have also learned to not be afraid of letting younger people lead. It gives them great experience - especially if they have more seasoned co-workers they can turn to for advice or suggestions - and they often bring a fresh perspective and new ideas.  

In the past, differences between generations were delineated by leadership roles, with older employees working in management positions and younger employees reporting to those managers. There may have been less conflict simply because the older generations set the rules and the younger employees just had to follow them.

Today, things are very different. Age does not necessarily denote authority; according to a survey by The Hartford, 80 percent of millennials are currently leaders. I have seen this in my organization as well. We have leaders from all generations and are just as likely to see a millennial leading a boomer as the other way around.

Engage in common values and goals

We ask all our leaders, regardless of age or generation, to get to know their people personally and as individuals. We call this “putting people first” and it’s at the center of the core values that guide our organization.

Though we have hundreds of employees of all different ages, we can unite around this shared value. For your organization, the shared value is likely around providing quality patient care.

The purpose of mixing these diverse people into your workplace is really to take advantage of the unique skills they bring to help you achieve your shared purposes. Each generation of your workforce may have a different approach to reaching that goal, but when they all work together, it’s a beautiful thing.

Look for ways that you can bring people together, help employees engage behind common values, give them opportunities to lead and grow and the differing ages and generations will blend into something great…just like my chicken noodle soup.