Time magazine’s recent cover story asking whether young adults today are shallow, self-involved and feel entitled to the fruits of success without ever working to earn them set off a social media firestorm — no doubt, one of its goals. The article, titled “The Me, Me, Me Generation,” did make some valid points about how the so-called Millennials differ from their parents and grandparents. And it speculated on just how the differences will play out in the social, political and business arenas.
Those are things we’ve been exploring since January in Hospitals & Health Networks’ year-long series, “Generations in the Workplace,” which takes stock of the fact that for the first time, four distinct generations of employees are working side by side in hospitals.
But while our series delineates the very real differences among the various age groups, we’ve tried hard to avoid generalizations and judgments. We’re more interested in what hospital leaders are doing to ease the inevitable tensions that arise when different types of people rub elbows with each other. And we especially want to show how they’re harnessing the varied passions, talents and habits of staff all across the age spectrum so other leaders can adapt those strategies for their own hospitals.
Every new generation is different from the previous one. And I have a sneaky suspicion that, from the beginning of time, older folks have shaken their heads in dismay at what those darn kids are up to now.
Actually, it’s the older folks who are in the hot seat in our latest “Generations in the Workplace” article, available now in H&HN’s May issue. Experts quoted in the article warn that many baby boom hospital leaders are in serious denial that a leadership vacuum looms right over the horizon. As boomers start to retire en masse, they are doing far too little to identify young staff with leadership potential and to make sure those people gain the skills needed to keep the organization running. They don’t understand what younger people want out of their careers and personal lives, and how that will impact how their organizations are managed in the future. And they are failing to grasp that the old leadership development models might not work anymore.
It’s not all gloom and doom, however. Some hospitals are taking the bull by the horns, establishing formal programs to hire and train Gen Xers and Gen Yers with real leadership potential. Mentoring is becoming more sophisticated. And there’s a recognition that tomorrow’s leaders need much broader exposure to the organization as a whole. As one hospital human resources executive puts it: “Health care’s just a wild business. We really want to make sure the people we have are agile. … We also don’t want an entitlement to a certain role, because that role may not be there by the time their skill set’s ready.”