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Effective Training for Millennials May Require Recognition of Generational Differences

Generational differences in the workforce are nothing new. As each group, from Baby Boomers to GenX and now Millennials, finish college and take jobs, they have presented unique challenges to those who hire, train, and manage them.

Education in particular has become a hot topic when it comes to Millennials in healthcare. From onboarding to and through adaptation and advancement, everyone is searching for the perfect mix that will capitalize on this group’s unique abilities and skill sets, says Andy Lawrence, who as Vice President of Enterprise Learning & Personal Development at SCL Health, a faith-based, not-for-profit health network serving communities in Colorado, Kansas and Montana, heads up the learning and development efforts for the system's 15,000 associates.

“This can be a very emotionally charged topic,” Lawrence says. “A long time ago, I was informed that as a leader or as an educator everyone has a sign over their head that says, ‘Make me feel special.’ As educators, trainers, and leaders it’s our responsibility to polish that sign. I definitely recognize the need to be cognizant of generational differences in the workplace. And I think that there's so much that we can learn from our Millennial associates.”

For starters, he says, “It’s really fun to watch their enthusiasm, not only around technology because that’s not the be-all and end-all of being a Millennial. We challenge them, and they challenge us in ways that affect our relationships. We gain from each other, and that's been a big part of our growth as we work toward providing skills, managing expectations, and work toward delivering a quality product.”

Targeting one workforce group is risky

Lawrence points out that while training could and should focus on those who are entering the healthcare workplace, it also must be valid and valuable to workers already there, including senior staff whose experience may outweigh their familiarity with the latest app or program.

“We have many other generations in the workplace and the focus on technology and the focus on a specific cross-section of our generational population is something that we have to be very thoughtful about—and something that could pose a risk if we move too quickly,” he says. “About 10 years ago we were starting to see a great deal of movement as baby boomers began to retire, especially in the ranks of nursing. I had heard stories and talked with nurses who had bounced from different organizations as electronic medical records were starting to enter into day-to-day activity. And at the core of it, one might have looked at the surface and thought, ‘Oh, that person is just jumping from pillar to post to avoid being faced with having to learn to use an electronic medical record.’ What I learned from talking with folks was that it actually was dramatically changing the contract of employment. Many of those nurses were called to their careers out of a sincere desire to administer to the needs of others and felt that the electronic medical record was going to detract from that. It was not that they wanted to leave an organization and start over, rather that they wanted to practice medicine a particular way.”

Workforce training and development succeeds best, Lawrence says, when it takes into account the career stage of everyone involved, and then works to “thread the needle as best as possible so that what’s presented has value for everyone involved.”

“There isn't a pill that we can administer and then all of a sudden, magically, everybody gets what they need,” he says. “But we also have to take into consideration that we have introverts and extroverts and people get their energy from lots of different sources. Keeping more lines of communication open with our Millennial workers and their counterparts of all generations is really vitally important in order to be successful going forward.”

About Andy Lawrence:

Andy Lawrence is Vice President of Enterprise Learning & Personal Development at SCL Health, a faith-based, not-for-profit health network serving communities in Colorado, Kansas and Montana. Lawrence leads the learning and development efforts for the system's 15,000 associates. He has more than 30 years of IT and HR experience in healthcare, telecommunications, financial services, energy, and transportation.

This blog post is taken from a HealthStream Second Opinions Podcast that was recorded recently. To hear Lawrence’s full discussion, click here.

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