Eileen MSN, RN

Spanning the generations A new look at the age diversity in our workforces


Senior vice president & chief nurse executive

primarily made up of baby boomers (born 1946-1964); Generation Xers (born 1965-1976) and Generation Y, aka millennials (born 1977-1995). Two other groups also can be found on some current employee rosters — members of the Silent or Traditionalist generation (born before 1946) and the Generation Z group (born after 1996), which is just starting to enter the workforce. As leaders we probably can recite the diff erences in the traits, work habits



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and attitudes of each of these generations. We understand their strengths and weaknesses and the challenges and opportunities that exist when they all work together as a team. Sociologists and economists can give us many reasons why current workforces

might have members of three, four or even fi ve of these generations working together. They can include things like longer life expectancies, the fi nancial inability to retire, baby boomers having become the sandwich generation that is supporting millennials and traditionalists, and more. The positive in our multigenerational workforce is that maybe its members

don’t have to be managed as much as we think, but led, guided and encouraged instead. No matter when they were hired, we hired them because of their ed- ucational backgrounds, credentials, experience and skills. Maybe they’re able to work together better than we think by simply sharing their knowledge with each other. We may just have to create the right environment for them to do that. There’s a synergy that is created when people with diverse backgrounds come together and share their experiences, ideas and approaches. Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is prog-

ress; working together is success.” Cohesion, unity and a successful think tank can come out of looking at diff erent opinions and perspectives on an issue, and can lead to good — even great — decisions. When the synergy is at its best, I think things like titles, seniority and pecking orders take on much less importance; what’s important is what each can add to the team. For example, when it comes to skills, one member may have strengths in tech-

nology that can benefi t the team, while someone else may have great writing or organizational skills to share, and so on. Their seniority (or age) doesn’t matter. Healthcare seems to have concluded some time back that multiprofessional and

multidisciplinary were imprecise terms because they indicated working side by side rather than together as one, so we replaced them with interprofessional and inter- disciplinary. Could the same be true of what we’re calling multigenerational? Should our workforces instead be called intergenerational? Can’t baby boomers work as one with millennials, and can’t Gen Xers work well with both groups? In this issue, we look specifi cally at the millennial generation and explore

their goals and expectations and what they can contribute. You’ll read about how one hospital created an environment that valued all of those things and how it achieved success. •

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ow to manage the multigenerational workforces we fi nd in today’s health- care organizations and facilities is a topic most nurse leaders have heard about, thought about and certainly talked about. Most have workforces

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