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Risk managers need leadership skills for a multigenerational workforce

Risk managers need leadership skills for a multigenerational workforce

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Risk managers cannot avoid dealing with a multigenerational workforce, with each generation approaching work and life in a different way.

That was the message Judith R. Sands, a risk management consultant and manager at Duke Raleigh Hospital in Raleigh, N.C., delivered Wednesday during a discussion of leadership skills for a multigenerational workforce at the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management's annual conference at National Harbor, Md.

Managers need to know what makes their staff tick, and how each generation differs, Ms. Sands said. She identified the four major generations in the workforce as the “matures,” who were born before 1946; the “baby boomers,” born between 1946 and 1964; “Generation X,” born between 1965 and 1980; and “Generation Y,” born between 1981 and 1990.

Ms. Sands cited some characteristics of each group. The matures, for example, value consistency and like to be communicated with in person, while the boomers find job status important and prefer personal communication to electronic communication. Generation X values work/life balance and creativity, and “are comfortable with electronic communication,” whereas Generation Y wants quick rewards and fun. “These people like it quick,” Ms. Sands said of Generation Y, and they are electronically connected.

The generations differ in their approach to feedback and rewards as well, Ms. Sands said. The matures believe “no news is good news,” while boomers like public recognition and titles. Generation X wants fair compensation and time off, while Generation Y likes a lot of feedback.


“If they're not happy, they're moving” on, said Ms. Sands of Generation Y.

She used a health care risk management issue to explain how to motivate each generation to address a goal.

The goal was to decrease falls among patients. For mature employees, “the message is to help meet our goal by coaching those around you on the fall initiative,” she said.

Ms. Sands said that to reach boomers, the manager can say that their leadership will help achieve a safer environment. For Generation X, the message is that the patient is counting on you; for Generation Y, the message is safety is everyone's responsibility, and you can help your teammates set a new fall-free record, she said.

Managers have to adapt to their staffs, she said. “One-size leadership does not fit all any more,” she said.

Working across generations means recognizing commonalities as well as differences among them, such as that for all generations work is a vehicle for personal fulfillment and satisfaction and not just a paycheck, she said.

For more coverage of the ASHRM conference, click here.