Recognize your staff's diversity of skills to create a satisfying and exceptional work environment for you and your team members.
Editor's note: This article is an excerpt from HCPro's book, Managing the Intergenerational Nursing Team.
The manager’s job has gotten more complicated over the past few decades. Managing three generations—Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials—with different and often competing values and goals puts the manager at a real disadvantage.
No matter what your age, it is a sure bet that you will never have been a member of at least two of the generations you will now be managing, leading, and guiding. How do you gain insight to be a better manager of people whose background and upbringing are so different from yours?
Strategies for a Harmonious Workplace
You have two choices as a manager of a multigenerational staff: You can see them either as a problem you have to solve or as an opportunity you get to cultivate. If you expect to have problems and difficulties with your blended staff, you will not be disappointed. People generally seem to sense low expectations. However, if you see the diversity of your staff as an opportunity, you can create a satisfying and exceptional work environment for your team members and for yourself as well.
One way to focus on the opportunities involved in managing an intergenerational staff is to look at their strengths instead of their weaknesses. Instead of complaining about the Millennial’s need for constant praise and affirmation, focus on their amazing technology proficiency. When you look at the Gen Xer, do not see a job-hopper but see the entrepreneur who can bring a new point of view to your challenges. Your Boomers’ eagerness for retirement is certainly offset by the stability and loyalty they have shown over the years.
Changing your expectations of each generation to focus on their strengths may be easier than you think and will help make your management effort a more positive and rewarding experience.
A Strengths Model for the Workplace
“Strengths” is the longest word in the English language containing only one vowel. That fact alone makes it special. Strength is defined as great physical power or capability to withstand opposing forces. It brings to mind impregnability, durability, and power.
We traditionally focus on employee deficits and what we need to do to help them overcome and improve as managers. However, refocusing on the employees’ strengths might change the whole dynamic on your nursing unit to something much more positive.
The Strengths Management Model moves through a process where employee strengths are the centerpiece of the employment contract. The idea of focusing on strengths instead of deficits holds promise as an approach to getting the most from your generationally diverse staff. It takes the focus off how each generation is different and places it on the strengths that each generation brings to the workplace.
The model calls for three distinct actions:
- Strengths engagement: Early engagement of new staff through relationships based on strengths acknowledgment
- Strengths assessment: Assess individual strengths and identify generational strengths
- Strengths affirmation: Focus reviews and counselling on strengths improvement
Strengths engagement: Be vocal and visible about your approach to using strengths as a basis for your unit activities. Talk to your applicants about how much you value what they can and will bring to the table, and reassure them that you will help them reinforce and improve their strengths. Ask them to tell you what strengths they bring, and share ways that you can help them expand on those strengths. Begin your relationship on this positive win-win trajectory.
Strengths assessment: Have each member of your staff take one of the strengths identification assessment surveys that are available online. Most are free. They generally give the person a list of their top strengths based on their responses to a survey.
Strengths affirmation: Use the top strengths of each person during the employee evaluation process. Start with strengths, ask how the employee thinks that strength is developing, and also ask about their needs and concerns. After you focus on the strengths, you can then move into areas of opportunity or improvement.
An Action Plan for Using the Strengths Model
Many times, employees, especially the new and inexperienced ones, see only their weaknesses when they come into the healthcare setting. They want to excel and develop confidence, but they need help. Your ability to see their potential by pointing out their strengths is a tremendous boost to their initial efforts to develop competence and comfort as a productive member of the team. Your confidence in them helps them build confidence in themselves.
The following is an action plan you can use:
- When first meeting employees, talk about the strengths model and how your unit is set up to help them gain proficiency and skills to build strengths. Focus feedback on the strengths they bring.
- Use identified strengths. Ask the employees to tell you their top five strengths in an early encounter. Then ask them to do an online strengths assessments to compare their self-identified strengths with the ones identified by the survey. Do the survey yourself, and share your strengths with them. Ask how you can help them improve their current strengths and gain new ones. Make their goals related to their strengths, and use them in their next evaluation to discuss progress.
- Find frequent opportunities to affirm strengths and offer positive feedback and praise. All employees crave personal attention and positive feedback. Show your pride in your staff and the strengths they bring to the workplace. Make the multigenerational makeup of your unit one of your strengths.
- Identify your own strengths and work to capitalize on them. Volunteer for opportunities that allow you to demonstrate your strengths. Identify areas that you want to strengthen, and take action to improve.
When managing an intergenerational staff, look at their strengths instead of their weaknesses.
When speaking to applicants, discuss how much you value what they can bring to the table.
Pointing out your staff' strengths helps them build confidence in themselves.