MGMA 2019: How practice leaders should approach young workers

October 14, 2019

Working with Millennial and Gen Z employees is only a headache if biases get in the way of good communication

M.J Clark, a senior leadership consultant at Integrated Leadership Systems, conducted a session at MGMA 2019 on how to understand Millennial and Gen Z workers.

The session did not bash younger generations. Instead, Clark emphasized the importance of empathy when physicians or practice administrators are dealing with these younger workers.

“I want us to really think open mindedly about these different generations,” Clark said. “We always feel like we're having issues dealing with the next group. It's because they’re different than us.”

Clark began the lecture by explaining the different generations. Clark, who is considered Generation X, fits into the ages 39-54 category. Millennials are ages 23-38, and members of Gen X are 23 and younger. 

Aside from age, Clark said some of the key differences between the generations are the values of each group. Younger generations tend to want a better work-life balance whereas older generations tend to see this as less of a possibility. Younger generations also tend to change jobs more frequently, making the 13-year career at one company a rarity now. 

Audience participation was a main part of the session. Attendees were encouraged to share their complaints about Millennials and Gen Z so that Clark could provide a solution.   

One of the most common complaints was the need for immediate gratification. Audience members complained that the younger workers expected promotions for too little work. Other attendees complained they wanted praise too frequently. Additional concerns covered issues such as lack of motivation and poor time management skills.

In order to address these issues, Clark talked about the importance of personal biases.

“You are fully in charge of your beliefs,” Clark said. “You have to identify what they are and change them into something more helpful.”

According to Clark, change begins with the communication and support of younger generations.

“We can't just let people go to their own devices without a lot of training,” Clark said. “Building that trust so that you know they're fully capable before you let them loose- there's a really great way to empower them.”

These types of conversations can be facilitated through one-on-one meetings with younger employees and their senior staff members.

Clark also encouraged the importance of letting younger workers know that it is okay to ask for help, especially for Gen Z workers who are statistically more private than Millennials.

Above all, the most important thing is to approach younger workers positively.

“I tried to go to the people of these younger generations and say things like, ‘tell me how you think about this’, so it's more about curiosity,” Clark said. “I never start any interaction with the question ‘why’ because you're going to get defensiveness because you're essentially saying, ‘I don't get it’.

Clark ended her session with the following quote from American author, John Maxwell: “The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually benefits them.”