SCRATCHING YOUR HEAD ABOUT HOW TO LEAD A TEAM OF MILLENNIALS?
Soon the majority of dental team members will be Millennials, born between 1981-2000, reaching the ages of 17 to 36 in 2017. In fact, statistics show there are approximately 80 million Millennials in the U.S., and they will be about 50% of the workforce by 2020. Millennials are also known as Generation Y-ers because they follow Generation X who are turning 37 to 52 years old this year.
The majority of practicing dentists are Generation X-ers (37 to 52 y.o.) or Baby Boomers (53 to 71 y.o.). The priorities and work styles of these three generations are vastly different and can be quite puzzling and troublesome until the X-ers and Boomers learn more about the way Millennials were reared, their values, and factors that motivate them. (For brevity I will use M or Ms to speak of Millennials henceforth.)
A broad-brush look at M’s developmental years helps one understand M’s characteristics. In general, sociologists state the Ms were raised with constant parental attention, validation, and hovering over every detail of their young life and activities. Parents of Ms are often referred to as “helicopter parents.” Ms were taught that everyone is a winner, even deserving a trophy for participating in any activity, regardless of whether or not one actually won. Common Core educational standards often dictated team efforts to get more than one “correct answer” to any problem rather than one student working alone to get one correct answer. Failure was erased as a concept to the point that some school districts prohibited teachers from correcting papers and tests with red ink that might distinguish a less-than-perfect effort on the M’s part.
Never allowed to believe they would fail, Ms have high self-esteem and self-confidence, regarding themselves valuable to any organization. They like to work in teams and are excellent multi-taskers. Ms value flexibility of schedules, leisure time, after-work activities, continuing education, all forms of technology, especially social media, social events, and warm, family-like work environments. Properly motivated, they participate in office activities eagerly, contribute creative ideas in work situations, and expect to be listened to.
In summary, let me paraphrase one excellent online article, 10 Characteristics of Millennials, addressing M’s characteristics in workplace situations:1. Most Ms want a job that allows them to help other people by using their own talents and skills. In short, they want to matter, to be important to others.
2. Ms may challenge age-old boss-subordinate roles, responding better to working as a family-type unit in which the dentist coaches and mentors them, seeking their in-put and giving them frequent feed-back.
3. Ms are most comfortable communicating via electronic devices and working with the latest technology. They want their office to have the latest and best online presence and feel great pride when the dentist invests in new dental technology.
4. Ms are hungry for learning. Intellectual stimulation is a top factor in motivating and retaining Ms. They want to know not only HOW, but also WHY, they perform certain tasks.
5. Ms are task oriented, measuring productivity by the work completed, NOT the amount of time spent doing it.
6. Ms crave constant feedback. Annual performance appraisals are no longer sufficient. Keep in mind that Ms better accept bite-size feedback and new challenges rather than stretch goals and changes that may overwhelm them. They accept negative feedback well only after hearing positive reinforcement about what they’re doing right in their job.
7. Ms have been trained early in life to expect immediate gratification, including recognition of their efforts now. They crave knowing the dentist appreciates and approves of their work. (If negative feedback must be given, reread the preceding paragraph.)
8. Ms are the most technically savvy generation. Seek their advice about all aspects of office technology—from website design and social media postings to discussion about new technology you, the dentist, are considering for use in the delivery of patient care. Obviously, the choice of new clinical technology is your decision, but the Ms like to be in on your research and reasoning.
9. Ms welcome change. Status quo, doing something because “we’ve always done it that way” makes little sense to a M. Even small changes, for example reworking the staff meeting schedule, can make a difference in their enthusiasm and participation. Ask for M’s ideas about procedure improvements or new processes in the office; then be prepared to listen well and take notes.
10. Ms want to have fun in the office. A professional-yet-less-formal atmosphere suits the majority of Ms. Think about setting a budget for staff development, planning retreats, team activities, continuing education, charity dental care, and so on. Consider establishing a WE CARE TEAM to oversee such efforts with a couple of staff members to administer plans and costs.
As I researched the subject of Millennials in the workplace, I found copious material online simply by searching “Characteristics of Millennials”. Suggestion: if you have Millenninals on your team—and I imagine you do—peruse that topic online to learn more and obtain specifics that can greatly benefit your practice, enhance the sense of teamwork in your office, and, amazingly, increase overall productivity. You’ll find it well worth your time and effort.