According to the United State's Census, individuals in the labor force who are 65 years or older is expected to grow by 75%, while the number of individuals in the workforce who are 25 to 54 is only expected to grow by 2%. What does this mean? For the nation’s healthcare industry, these demographic and other recent trends portend significant employment challenges in the near future, according to the National Technical Assistance and Research Center (NTAR). "With a workforce already older than that found in many other industry sectors, a growing aging population, and an expanded group of patients covered by the Affordable Care Act, health care employers must maintain an adequate supply of skilled workers at all levels while meeting an increased demand for high-quality health care services"- NTAR.
In the healthcare setting, there are also more and more young professionals entering the field, along with more experienced, older professionals working well into "retirement age." This new dynamic generates workplace environments that benefit from youthful energy and enthusiasm as well as mature experience. When employee teams are created with age diversity in mind, there are benefits to both the employees and the facility itself. For example, young employees may be more up-to-date and hip with the newest technologies, with social media opportunities, and other online tools or modules. More experienced professionals may have more conflict resolution expertise, may have better in-person communication skills, and can be excellent mentors.
It's easy to see why having a diverse age range in an employee team can be a huge component to overall success. In a mixed-age workplace environment where healthcare facilities value intelligence and skill sets above other factors, such as age, employees can experience and appreciate the benefits of sharing, learning, and teaching one another.
Occasionally, conflicts can arise between employees of different "generations" due to assumptions and perceptions, such as:
- Middle-aged employees may think that younger employees don't want to do the humdrum tasks associated with their entry-level jobs. Maybe they are embittered by the ability of younger employees to appeal for work/life balance.
- Younger employees may assume that middle-aged coworkers are "behind the times" or are unable to keep up with today's fast-paced and ever-evolving information technology.
- Employees in different age groups may feel that they are not respected or appreciated by one another.
Employees should try their best not to fall into the traps of assuming characteristics that may not be true among their older or younger counterparts. As mentioned previously, there are tremendous benefits to working with age-diverse healthcare teams.