Multi-generational workforces

Multi-generational workforces

Q: Is this work-life balance a thing?

Late last year we presented educational modules from our management development program Beyond Competency to a group of healthcare facility management professionals.  

The enjoyment for us in delivering the seminar is that lively discussions among facility management professionals ensue, attendees love to offer their opinions, stories, and advice. During this particular seminar, a discussion around the multi-generational workforce developed when a Vice President of Facility Management asked: “Is this work-life balance a thing?”

And so rather than first offering our thoughts, we asked the class their opinion – is it real?  By a roughly 80/20 split, the answer came back yes, it is. Attendees, the majority Baby Boomers, said if you are an organization that still expects a 24X7X365 employee commitment, the coming years will be difficult for you. Employees of today expect a balance.   

As our work-life balance discussion concluded with the reality that the work world changed, we shifted to workplace demographics. With people living and working longer, four generations are represented in the workforce, from Baby Boomers to Millennials. Even a sprinkling of the generation referred to as Traditionalists, or those born before 1945, are still represented. 

And even though there are 5 generations represented, the majority of the discussion focused on Millennials, who are often seen as unwilling to put in the required hours, and Baby Boomers, who are often seen as working so much that they have no work-life balance.

In our line of work, we hear of the good and bad of all generations. We don’t spotlight the strengths and weaknesses of one generation over another. Still, intuitively, with the evolutionary nature of society, common-sense says employees want a work-life balance, and that is what we see in the job market. Candidates ask us about an organization’s work-life balance. The questions come from all generations, not just millennials. 

Millennial & Change Management

So how does one manage millennials, the attendees discussed. Well, a 2015 Wall Street Journal article illustrated how the San Francisco 49er’s morphed their millennial approach: 

The 49ers consulted with experts to learn how the young brain works. As players arrived they noticed sweeping changes designed to cater to how research shows millennials learn. That means making concessions for people with shorter attention spans, a desire to multitask and, yes, a need to check their phones all the time. The 49ers turned the typical meeting, which on some teams can go for as long as two hours, into 30-minute blocks, each followed by 10-minute breaks that allow players to do what young people do.”  

Acknowledging that different generations learn and retain information differently is really a change management exercise for current managers. To be successful in reaching all generations, managers need to change their approach to communicating. It can be difficult. First-hand, I know for me, even at home with my kids, it can be incredibly frustrating to compete against the iPhone. These days, I am even tired of hearing my own voice complaining about it!

In the audio linked below, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explains his evolution to manage millennials, along with a major change management exercise he undertook to modernize his football approach. The full audio is linked at the bottom of the article, the audio that may be most interesting to you can be found from 9.40 to 14.30 minutes. It is worth 5 minutes of your time to listen, but if you can’t, below are Belichick’s Millennial/Change Management Lessons:

  1. As a teacher, I am always looking for new ways to get information absorbed. 
  2. Players learn differently than they did when I started, I have to adapt and use different teaching techniques to reach them, to get them to hear and absorb.
  3. Their normal and my normal is different. I make no value judgment; I just have the understanding that I have to change with them.
  4. We have to be proactive: Every offseason we talk about this, what do we need to change about our approach? How do we modify to have players absorb information?
  5. I seek information from coaches in different programs to learn and understand what they are doing.
  6. I seek people I trust to speak with them if they have done something similar to what I am thinking, or if I have questions.
  7. If people I trust have made changes successfully, it provides me confidence in my line of thinking.

We are all teachers, some teach football, some teach kids. But if you are a teacher of healthcare facilities management, you are a teacher of those who jobs it is to keep the hospital running around the clock, day after day, to ensure a safe and clean haven for patients. It’s a daunting responsibility.


For the full audio, please click here http://gosselin-associates.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/dh-belichick-weei-1005.mp3. The relevant information can be found from the 9.40 to 14.30-minute mark.

Leave a Reply