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Understanding Gen-Y

Gen-Y nurses will soom hold the balance of power. By Annie May.

Experienced nurses need to learn how to best work with Gen-Y and not buy into the many popular misconceptions about the group, says a Sydney-based social researcher.

Speaking at the International Congress on Innovations in Nursing, held in Perth last month, Michael McQueen said with the current shortage of nurses and predicted future ‘baby boomers exodus’, the future of nursing rested with Generation Y.

Currently the average age of nurses is 44.1, with 35 per cent of the workforce made up of nurses aged over 50, according to AIWH figures.

“This group [Gen-Y] are a challenge to work with,” McQueen said to murmurs of agreement from the mostly baby-boomers and Generation X audience.

“But that doesn’t mean people should dismiss them as valuable members of the workforce. And with an ageing workforce we are going to see more come through and they are going to tip the balance of power.”

McQueen said the key to getting the best of Gen-Y nurses and bridging the gap between generations was to understand their perception of life.

“People often overlook the importance of generations in which we grow up in. It isn’t just an issue of age, but of different expectations and perceptions.”

Using the saying that ‘it is better to seek to understand before seeking to be understood’, McQueen said there were three keys to engaging Gen-Y nurses.

First is to put relationship before role. “Managers or leaders who build a strong relationship with their Gen-Y staff will find this is the key to gaining commitment and loyalty from this group. They won’t be loyal to companies or corporate mission statements, but they are loyal to people and relationships,” he said.

“Often the reason given for leaving a workplace is that after two years, the boss knows nothing more about them then they did on day one.”

Second is to focus on outcomes, not process. “Organisations will at times focus so much on process, they lose sight of outcomes. The biggest turn-offs at work for Gen Y are unnecessary structure, excessive bureaucracy and suffocating red tape.”

“Gen-Y will arrive at a workplace where so much focus is on process and they will ask why? Why do we do things that way? Many experienced nurses will see this as being insolent, but it should be seen as a gift. Use their fresh eyes to discover if things need to be changes instead of just doing what has always been done.”

The third is to use stories to train and coach. For Gen-Y there is no such thing as black and white, right and wrong, says McQueen. As a result, lessons are best learnt when put in context.

“Listing off facts and statistics isn’t going to work with this group. Instead tell them how it applies to life. Share experiences rather than telling them what they should do. Tell your stories – that is what speaks to them most powerfully.”

It is also important to not dismiss this group based on popular misconceptions, McQueen said.
“They are not lazy. This may surprise people, but they are not a lazy generation. Rather they are ambitious, but have different priorities from the older generations.

“They have seen the divorce and strokes from working too much. They won’t miss their friend’s birthdays to stay late. They aren’t willing to pay that price. We should applaud them for this.”

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