By Kate Madden Yee, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

July 25, 2018 -- You've heard about millennials and the challenges they represent from a personnel management perspective. But are you ready for Generation Z? Chances are you're already starting to employ them, according to a talk at this week's AHRA annual meeting in Orlando, FL, that offered six ways to leverage their skills.

Generation Z is defined as individuals born between 1995 and 2009; they make up 25% of the U.S. population -- a larger percentage than the baby boomers or millennials. They're "digital natives," born into an internet age, and they are driven, independent, and protective of their privacy, said presenter Gina Greenwood, director of radiology services at University of Wisconsin Health in Madison.

"Whether you're ready for them or not, Generation Z radiologists are here," Greenwood said. "But there are a number of specific ways your practice can help them succeed. Letting Generation Z staff members know they are valued, while also being clear about department protocols, goes a long way."

A generation, defined

A generation is a cohort of people born within a similar time span who are shaped by its events, trends, and developments, Greenwood noted. Generations are typically measured by the average interval time between the birth of a set of parents and their offspring, although they are often defined more from a sociological point of view than a biological one. She listed a few examples:

Gina Greenwood
Gina Greenwood, director of radiology services at University of Wisconsin Health in Madison.
  • Traditionalists (1901-1945) -- Influences: the Depression, World War I and World War II, the New Deal, radio and telephone, and the Korean War. Traditionalists want to feel needed, tend toward conservatism and "traditional family values," and identify with the nobility of "sacrifice for the common good."
  • Baby boomers (1946-1964) -- Influences: the assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.; the Cold War; space travel; the Vietnam War; civil and women's rights and environmental movements; rock 'n' roll; Watergate; and television. Baby boomers are experimental and individualistic, oriented toward social causes, and distrustful of government.
  • Generation X (1965-1980) -- Influences: the end of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Watergate and Nixon resigning, the advent of the computer age, grunge and hip hop music, MTV, divorce, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Reaganomics. Those in Generation X seek emotional security but are independent, self-reliant, and skeptical of authority.
  • Millennials (1981-1994) -- Influences: the rise of the internet and technological advances, the Sept. 11 attacks, the O.J. Simpson trial, the Columbine shootings, and Y2K. These digital pioneers tend to have short attention spans, be entrepreneurial, be more racially and culturally tolerant, and seek instant gratification.

So what about Generation Z? Members of this group have been shaped by the recession of 2008, the war on terror, efforts toward social tolerance, climate change, and the first black president, said Greenwood, referencing the book Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation Is Transforming the Workplace by David and Jonah Stilllman.

"Generation Z is 'phigital' -- that is, they easily combine the physical and the digital world," she said. "They might shop at a store or online. Send a letter or an email. Work in an office or work remotely. While older generations debate the pros and cons of physical versus digital life, Generation Z doesn't see a difference."

As a group, this generation is also geared toward the bespoke and attracted to everything customized: from marketing and college majors to music playlists and video streaming. They've grown up in a shared economy, and as such they consider the power of the group in their life choices and actions, according to Greenwood.

They're "do-it-yourself" focused and believe that everyone can be an expert. Yet they're also vulnerable to the "fear of missing out," or FOMO -- and because so much information is just a click away on their phones, they're always checking in on social media.

"They're on top of trends and competition, but they've also got an eight-second attention span," Greenwood said. "There are no participation trophies with Generation Z -- just winners or losers. And everything has to be fast."

Working with Generation Z

So how can your radiology practice help Generation Z staff be successful in the workplace? Greenwood offered 6 tips.

  1. Combine the digital with the physical. Use Skype, web-based meetings, and internal social media networks. Combine online learning with in-person training. "Consider this generation's tendency toward mixing the digital with the physical as you modify your department's policies," she said.
  2. Customize. Expose Gen Z staff members to other points of view, and incorporate new ways to track, monitor, post, measure, and share performance data. "Allow them to give feedback on these processes, and support opportunities for individualized impact on the department," Greenwood said.
  3. Be clear. "Keep conversations real and truthful, and be clear about work hours and rules," she said.
  4. Emphasize the "we." Support skill sharing and help Generation Z staff members focus on real results, not just feel-good gestures, Greenwood cautioned.
  5. Be patient. Try to understand how intensely Generation Z experiences that fear of missing out, and how it may be difficult to keep their attention. "Break down large projects into tasks," she said. "Remind them how they fit into your department's big picture."
  6. Embrace their desire to win. "Help your Generation Z staff members balance their competitive urge with being team players," Greenwood said. "Remind them that they can learn from mistakes, and help them discern when it's time to step back rather than power forward."

It all comes down to empathetic coaching, she concluded.

"Share constructive feedback, be kind, and give Generation Z staff assignments that stretch them," she said. "Their success is your success."


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