We are experiencing a unique time in the workplace where five generations are working side by side. This creates a dynamic environment that can be leveraged to improve our personal leadership capabilities and to increase the productivity of every team. We can expand our skills by sharing our knowledge and experiences. As we share our collective successes and failures, we have an opportunity to affect the generations that follow us!
In my position, I am fortunate to work with individuals from all five generations. The relationships and friendships I have developed with individuals from each of these generations have helped me become the leader I am today. In reflecting upon the impact that my peers have had on me, I decided to seek feedback regarding how individuals from each generation have embraced technology and change over the years.
Individuals from the Silent Generation were born prior to 1945. They are known for being dedicated, hard workers, and they have had to make many sacrifices. They grew up during lean times and consider working to be a privilege, and it shows: They’re considered to be the wealthiest generation. They are Traditionalists who believe you earn your way in life through hard work, and they think others should do the same by earning promotions and advancement based on tenure and proven success. Judy, system director for health information management for Sharp, provided this historical look back regarding technology and how she has embraced it.
“Being from the Silent Generation, I have seen and experienced the wonders of technology. When I began working in health care more than 40 years ago, we did everything manually. We used 3 x 5 index cards for our master patient index, typed on manual typewriters, and manually calculated patient census on a sheet of paper. What an improvement technology made in my world! I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be exposed and learn all that technology has to offer. Over the years, some of my coworkers have been intimidated by and even fought change. I did not; I embraced the challenges and learned everything I could. As a result, I was able to work with a wonderful team in IT to establish the EHR for our organization. We have come a long way, baby!”
Baby Boomers were born in 1946 to 1964 and can be associated with a redefinition of traditional values. They were the first generation to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve over time. This generation also has a strong work ethic, and they aren’t afraid to put in long, hard day of work. They are fiercely independent, self-assured, competitive, mentally focused, goal-centric, disciplined, and resourceful, as well as team-oriented. Suzanne, system coding director for Sharp, shared her view regarding the effect of technology on her generation.
“I am a Baby Boomer, and I grew up in the pre-digital era. We were not always connected 24/7 like people are today. We sent handwritten thank-you notes. We actually spoke to people on the phone, used paper maps to find our way around, and, if we took a picture, we had to have our film developed to see it. If I wanted to watch a movie, I went to the video store to rent it. This was what the world was like when I began my healthcare career. Fast-forward 25 years: I earned my Master’s degree 100 percent online—technology made this possible. Sure, I use email, text, and have an iPhone, but put me side by side with either of my grandchildren, and there is no comparison; they are much more comfortable with technology. Although I may be slow to adapt to new technology, I have a deep appreciation for all it has to offer. Today, I text my thank-you notes, use GPS to find my way around, take pictures with my cell phone, and watch movies online. My DNA can be sequenced and interpreted on an app on my iPad. In my future, I see regular e-visits with a physician, using an app on my phone to monitor my blood pressure and glucose, and I’ve even heard there is an e-chair that tracks vitals, lung sounds, and oxygen saturation. Although I am not technology expert, I am eager to see what future healthcare innovations will offer. How can I not be?”
Generation-Xers were born in the-mid 1960s through 1979. This generation of kids was labeled as “latchkey kids” due to both parents working outside the home. They grew up being independent, resourceful, and self-sufficient, and value freedom and having responsibility in the workplace. However, they display a casual disdain for authority and structure. They have an entrepreneurial spirit and have experienced the shift from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. This is the first generation to grow up with computers and to embrace technology. Mary, lead senior financial analyst at Sharp, provided insight into how she engages other generations with the use of technology and data.
“As a finance professional in my 40s, I find I am right smack in the middle of the various generations of employees within my company. Knowing that many of my younger coworkers have been raised in the digital age and are adept with technology, I have made it a priority to continuously develop and improve my tech skills. This not only gives me credibility with my team and keeps me up to speed in the daily work I do, but it allows me to be a resource to some of our less-technologically inclined leaders by providing them with information that allows them to make data-driven decisions. In this emerging world of “big data,” I have found that the value in data literacy—finding, managing, and interpreting data—is being able to bridge the gap between the technical experts who generate data and those who will ultimately make business decisions. In essence, learning how to adapt and thrive in the ever-changing world of technology has kept me relevant and will—I hope—ensure me a certain level of employability in the future.”
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, who were born in the 1980s through the mid-1990s, are the children of Baby Boomers and older Gen-Xers. They have mastered the use of communications, media, and digital technologies. Their upbringing was marked by an increase in a liberal approach to politics and economics. The Great Recession had a lasting effect on this generation because it caused historically high levels of unemployment among young people, which has led to speculation about possible long-term economic and social damage to this generation. Basak, a system director of revenue cycle and patient access, leads employees from each of the five generations in the workforce. She has leveraged the relationships and learned from each generation, and she provides the following insights from her experiences.
“I am an ‘80s child. A few years ago, I was fortunate to have management responsibility for a team that represented Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z. During our working sessions and meetings, I noticed that our intern and my younger team members regularly used shortcuts that they referred to as ‘hacks.’ They would constantly look for ways to get results in the easiest, most efficient way possible. I also realized younger Millennials were proactive in sharing their technological knowledge, tips, and tricks. I recall standing in front of several clients, and one of my team members got up and showed me how to project a PowerPoint with one key stroke (she realized I was about to start clicking around to get there). I appreciated this opportunity to learn in the moment. In contrast, I observe that Baby Boomers are often accepting and perfecting of the solutions they are already familiar with. They go deep and become highly proficient in their use and are not constantly in search of new and better technology like the later generations, and they don’t seem as engaged in the use of visual/video platforms. As a Millennial, I am constantly in search of the newest, best app or software that will get me to my goal faster and easier. I notice an increasing number of technology blogs where these tips and tricks are shared. To accommodate shorter attention spans, information-sharing has moved toward easily digestible visual interfaces such as infographics and YouTube videos.”
The most recent generation represents the newest and fastest-growing segment of our work force: Generation Z. This generation was born between 1982 and 2005 and is now estimated to include least 80 million Americans. This generation is dubbed as the “Me Me Me Generation,” which some characterize as lazy and entitled. I’ve found them to be energetic, passionate, self-expressive, and open-minded. They have boundless energy and aggressively seek equality. They value their freedom in the workplace, including flexibility regarding when, where, and how they work. Work-life balance is most important to them, and they are even willing to take a pay cut or skip a promotion to achieve it. This is a tech-savvy generation! I asked Alyssa, a lead corporate accountant (and active blogger) for her perspective on generational differences and collaboration in embracing technology. Here’s what she had to say.
“The influence that technology has had on my life and the lives of others in my generation is immense and powerful. As a young professional in my 20s, I have grown up in an era where technological advances and automation have been ingrained into my daily routine, starting at an earlier age than many of my colleagues. I was in school during an era where one could obtain a wealth of information and technology instantly. This definitely has had an effect on the way I think and operate. Growing up with technology can have its potential challenges, such as creating additional distractions as well as less face-to-face interaction. However, we see time and again the value of technology in the 21st century, especially in today’s fast-paced workplace. I truly believe that my generation’s aptitude when it comes to technology can be a valuable asset, and we hope to not leave this untapped. If we can combine the age-old wisdom of the older generations with the new ideas and tech-savvy of the younger generations, we can be unstoppable. We can work together to create vast efficiencies where automation and technology can help. Every week, my Baby Boomer colleague and I sit down and do a mini-technology tutorial, and it has been so rewarding. I feel like I can truly make a difference by teaching others what I have learned and by being a resource both as a team member and as a leader.”
As you can see from the feedback of my generational colleagues, they’ve all taken time to both learn from and mentor others. They value the diversity of the workforce and have leveraged the skills of their colleagues to further embrace the technological changes that have occurred during their career journeys. Each has created dynamic relationships and teams, and all are focused upon contributing to the success of Sharp HealthCare.
A multi-generational workforce builds upon the successful traditions of the past and provides stability and continuity because organizations are continually transforming to meet demanding industry changes. The diverse skill sets each generation provides benefit the entire organization. Younger employees are open to mentoring and advice, as well as being able to teach the older generations how to keep up with advancing technologies. The older generations pass down accumulated years of valued industry experience. The generational diversity of a team enriches the culture of an organization. Embracing each and every generation is the key to organizational and team success!
Kari Cornicelli is vice president and CFO for Sharp Metropolitan Medical Campus in San Diego and is past chair of the national board of directors for HFMA.
Judy Courtemanche is the system director of health information at Sharp HealthCare. She has been with Sharp for 26 years. She began her healthcare career in 1972 as a student in a regional occupational program and went on to earn a credential in health information management from Cypress College.
Suzanne Forrest is the system coding director for Sharp HealthCare. She has been with Sharp almost two years and brings many years of coding and compliance experience to her role. She also teaches and mentors the younger generations. She has been teaching at Mesa College for the past 10 years in their bachelor’s program and RHIA and RHIT programs.
Mary Grossman-Scudder is lead senior financial analyst at the Sharp Metropolitan Medical Campus and has been with Sharp for almost two years. Her previous experience spans several industries and includes business consulting and project management. She earned her BA from UC Berkeley and her MBA from the University of Southern California.
Basak Kaya is Sharp HealthCare system director for revenue cycle access. She recently joined Sharp and brings many years of healthcare consulting experience to her new role. She is a former consultant and healthcare technology startup executive. She currently serves on the San Diego HFMA board of directors and is a contributor to the Women Lead HERe initiative.
Alyssa Gallagher has been with Sharp HealthCare for three years as corporate finance lead accountant. She has more than 5 years of experience in the accounting and finance world and started her career at PwC. She is a board member for San Diego-based Women in Leadership and is a frequent contributor to their monthly e-newsletter.