Dealing with different generations within your practice
All the staff working within your practice will have different needs. I am sure you know that to create a harmonious practice and to get the best out of them that they all need to be treated as individuals. Respect, try and understand them and tolerate their differences.
This is much easier said than done.
This article highlights some of the considerations practice managers need to take when working across generations
When I am asked to speak about different generations within the workforce I always like to stress that you have to be very wary of broad generalisations. Every person is different and generalisations as a rule can be very dangerous. As an example my father in law is 79, uses Skype (with a web camera) as a communication tool and does all his banking on line.
Defining the Generations:
- Baby Boomers – Born between 1946 and 1960
- Generation X – Born between 1961 – 1975
- Generation Y – Born between 1976 – 1994
Practical strategies for practice managers with Gen Y
The majority of practice managers would be baby boomers and gen X's. At times you may be working closely with people who are often younger than your own children!
As you know this is no easy ask! Trying to understand where they are coming from might assist you in developing and enhancing your relationships with them.
Understanding Gen Y
This is the generation that has grown up in an environment of:
- Reality TV (they actually believe people on reality TV shows are famous)
- Carbon footprint and Global warming
- Full employment and hence lack of loyalty to employer
- Rampant consumerism
- Easy access to credit and hence a lack of delayed gratification
- The Y nots – tattoos, statement to the world about status and importance
Although you think you know where they are coming from, because you were their age once and had a similar outlook it is important to recognise that the environment they have commenced their careers in is a very different one to the one you commenced in.
If we know all this, how do we get the best out of them in our practice?
First and foremost, it won’t be easy!
Secondly, above all else treat them with respect and as individuals. Whatever you do don't impose your belief system, values and work ethic on them. If you hear yourself commencing a sentence with, "when I started work we… immediately leave the room or start applying masking tape to your mouth before you can finish the sentence. They are not interested.
What do Gen Y, want at work?
We have all been trying to work this out for a long time. Here's what I suggest:
- Learn and earn – Provide them with opportunities to develop rapidly, pay them well
- Immediate responsibility – Forget one step at a time. Get them involved in as much as possible as soon as possible (eg: developing your web site, community involvement projects, surgery, layout, practice newsletter, team building activities etc)
- Task ownership – Let them own the project
- To be inspired, mentored and coached by great leaders – (by the way, that’s you!)
One thing they will have a strong dislike for is being managed, and in particular micro managed. So your role is to help coach and develop them to become the best that they can be. Look for every opportunity that you can to get them involved in the running and growth of your practice.
I see the role of the Practice Leader in 2009 as one of Coaching and Mentoring their staff to fulfil their potential.This means you need to be a leader of people as opposed to a manager. You need to understand your role as a coach as opposed to a manger of people.
At my talk at the national conference in October, I will be speaking about how and why practice managers need to become stronger and more inspiring leaders and how to start to embrace current coaching strategies.
What about Gen X “do the same issues and challenges apply"?
To some extent there will be a degree of overlap when you are dealing with gen X in the work place. These are the people that grew up in an environment of:
- Both parents working full time
- Boom in divorces and the rise of feminism
- Some exposure to technology
- The introduction of work life balance
How has this affected Gen X in the workplace?
A lot of them grew up in homes where parents weren't physically present a lot of time. As a result of this they crave relationships. Unfortunately they don't know what constitutes a successful relationship. They need help! They are seeking to connect to a community, to be part of a team.
Typically they have married later than baby boomers did and hence have had their children later. They are often regarded as helicopter parents. Hovering over their precious little children and to some extent restricting their growth and full development.
What can you expect from Gen X in your practice?
- They are seeking a balance, in particular if they have children – seek to provide it
- They want high quality relationships with their colleagues
- They want guidance, loyalty and trust from people they work closely with
- To be provided with interesting work
- Continuous learning / professional development
As a practice manager you can see the importance of providing not only the work environment but critically understanding the individuals who work within your practice and respecting their needs. You need to be inspiring, motivating and constantly setting the course, like great leaders do, for your practice.
What next for aspiring practice managers?
Pay close attention to your leadership style. Respect others and accept the environment they have grown up in may be different to yours.
Notice the language you use and the actions you take to help get the best out of others. I suggest start reading more about effective leadership strategies for managers and being to appreciate that coaching and leading your team is very different from managing people.