Motivating across the generations in practice

On 27 November, 2012 in Human Resources by Rosie Overfield

Stop Beating Up on Generation Y and Z

I'm not going to lie,  I get really bored when I hear practice owners complain about Generation Y and Z. Why? Because I love them. Am I alone? Probably! I love their energy and self-belief. The world is their oyster. Thanks to technology the world is closer to them than any of us have experienced.  Generation Y and Z are young people who have not known life without the internet. They have grown up being incentivised by store cards, credit cards, sales and even their own education. They are used to saying no and seeking a better offer. They are brave, multi-tasking creatures who see the world in a way that is very different to the generations before them. But before you bark the question "Why are they not loyal?!!!!!", ask yourself the question 'What are you asking them to be loyal to?"

Yes, a tough question but one that requires some thought....and a little bit of theory about motivating across the generations. 

In recent years, veterinary practice employers have begun to notice a massive generational change in their workplaces.  Combined with the issues of a large aging population there has been an emergence of a generation with a new attitude to work.  According to McCrindle Research, we now live in an era of massive demographic change.  This is combined with relentless technological change and an “age quake” which is redefining our era.[1]

Leading diverse teams in veterinary practice requires several key skills. These include human behaviour, attitude and social trends and the mind-set of the ever-changing (and sometimes challenging!) employee.    Dovetailed within this are key areas which require understanding to better motivator and lead a diverse team.  These include:

  1. An aging population equals an aging workforce.  In the space of four decades, the median age of an Australian will have increased by nearly 12 years. In 1976 it was 28.3, compared to 36.4 today. By 2016 it will be 40.1[2]
  2. Transitioning generations and the need for the transference of knowledge. At a strategic level, there is a need in practices to ensure ‘Baby Boomers’ are effectively transferring their knowing to Generation Y and Z.  Additionally, with these generations mixing in the workforce, older leaders must learn to lead across multiple generations.  Without effective understanding of the different values and perspectives of each generation, veterinary practices can become a breeding ground for conflict.
  3. Employers need to accept that younger generations have increasing options. Those who are 20-24 years of age are three times more likely to change jobs than those who are 45-54 years of age.[3] This is often described as a character flaw in generation Y but in fact, it is representative of changing times. Thanks to technology, the world is a much smaller place for Generation Y and Z.  They have arrived in an era where there is little job security, no employment guarantees and a breadth of technology and ‘incentivisation’ never seen before. They have seen client loyalty be bought with points, cards, discounts and bonus offers. They are simply responding to the new rules of the world. 
  4. Team members are redefining their lives.  In today’s world, younger generations are a mosaic of experiences, beliefs and phases.  Work is not just about the pay-check but fun, social connections, personal development and awareness of the greater world.  Additionally, younger generations are committed to the bottom line of their practice but not at the sacrifice of sustainability or social concerns.  Generation Y and Z often achieve more by keeping their values intact.  Values-based practices can generate greater commitment from younger generations.

So back to our original question: 'What are you wanting Generation Y and Z to be loyal to?'. If it's your practice, then what direction and purpose have you communicated to them? Do they know where you are heading and how they are going? The first step is to remember that open, informal communication is a key factor in building relationships with Generation Y and Z.  Secondly, take the time to develop or review your Vision, Mission and Core Values. Ensure you communicate them to your team members and set the common goal and vision for your practice. You cannot ask people to be loyal to something they do not know or understand. 

So go easy on Generation Y and Z.  Are they really disloyal or are you lacking a common goal and purpose that they are longing for in a world of fast information and incentivisation?


[1] McCrindle Research ‘New Generations At Work – White Paper’, 2008

[2] Projected Median Age in 2016, ABS Australian Social Trends 2005 Cat 4102.0

[3] ABS Labour Force Survey 2004


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