Managing a multi-generation medical laboratory workforce is a daunting challenge

Here’s a challenge that’s unique in the modern history of medical laboratory management and operations. There are now four different generations of workers employed in clinical laboratories and pathology groups around the nation!

Experts tell us that each generation has a unique set of preferences, work ethics, and personal goals. Thus, a specific management initiative that typically motivates one generation may actually be a disincentive for another generation.

“This raises the stakes for every manager at every level in every medical laboratory,” stated Jeff Smith, Principal at Titan Group in Roanoke, Virginia. “If a clinical laboratory manager tries to use a single style for a lab staff that includes members of all four generations, there are likely to be bad consequences. At best, there will be disharmony and a lack of common purpose among all the staff members. At worst, there could be so much conflict among the different generations working side-by-side that your laboratory’s best performers quietly resign and go to work at other laboratories in town.”

Clinical Lab Managers Need Training in Managing Multi-Generation Staff

Jeff Smith, Titan Group

Jeff Smith, Titan Group

Smith’s message is that having four generations of staff members in the same workplace creates an unprecedented and volatile situation—but only if the pathology lab’s senior management leaders fail to provide the right training and career development to the bench supervisors, section heads, and department managers who interact daily with their multi-generational staffs.

To help fill this training and knowledge void, Smith will lead a special audio conference titled “Managing Multiple Generations in Your Lab: Proven Methods to Motivate Gen X, Gen Y, and Baby Boomers in the Same Workplace”. This will take place on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 1:00 P.M. EDT.

Smith’s goal is to help participants understand how each generation approaches the workplace differently. Building upon this knowledge, Smith will then provide practical management methods for motivating and supporting each generation—in a way that builds enthusiasm and fosters closer teamwork among staff members of different generations who work side-by-side every day.

“It is essential that a clinical laboratory manager first recognize each generation,” stated Smith. “For example, starting with the oldest generation, here are the names and the birth years that are most commonly used to classify each generation.”

  • Silent Generation” (born 1925-1945): The youngest workers in this generation will be 66 years old in 2011. They may be eligible for retirement, but some still want to continue working in your laboratory.
  • Baby Boom Generation” (born 1946-1964): The oldest Baby Boomers turn 65 years old during 2011. A large number of Boomers are ready to retire, even before they hit 65 years old.
  • Generation X” (born 1965-1982): As you’ve probably already learned, Gen Xers arrive at your laboratory ready to work with a different ethic than the older generations.
  • Generation Y”  (born 1983-2000): These are the new graduates of pathology residency programs, pathology fellowships, and MT training programs. They may be ready to work, but when their shift ends, don’t expect them to work a minute longer than the scheduled stop time.

“Each generation of workers in your laboratory presents you with unique management challenges,” advised Smith. “You cannot manage a Gen Y with the same style that you manage a Baby Boomer, for example. However, it is easy to learn simple techniques to maximize your success in managing your staff members who belong to these different generations.”

How to Manage Four Generations in Medical Laboratory Workforce

Smith says that there are few formal resources available for clinical laboratory administrators, pathologists, and managers who want to develop more proficiency in their skills at managing a multi-generational workforce. “This literally is a brand new problem for medical laboratories,” he observed. “The pathologists and Ph.D.s now moving out of residencies and fellowships into clinical practice are members of Generation Y. It is their arrival that is adding the fourth generation to the clinical laboratory workplace.”

One way that administrators, pathologists and clinical lab managers can learn more about managing the multi-generational laboratory workforce is by participating in the April 20 audio conference. Full details for Dark Daily’s  “Managing Multiple Generations in Your Lab: Proven Methods to Motivate Gen X, Gen Y, and Baby Boomers in the Same Workplace” can be found at this link. (Or, put this URL into your browser:

As a clinical laboratory manager training resource, Smith’s upcoming audio conference is unique because he will combine information about differences in outlook and work preferences among the four generations, with examples of how this affects the clinical laboratory workplace. This is one of the first-ever presentations that applies this knowledge to medical laboratory management.

Related Information:

“Managing Multiple Generations in Your Lab: Proven Methods to Motivate Gen X, Gen Y, and Baby Boomers in the Same Workplace”

Baby Boomers Bring Healthcare Changes

Baby Boomer Exodus from Labs Spells Impending Crisis

Generation Y Doesn’t Want the McMansion

Editorial: Are We the Problem and is “Generation Y” the Answer?