Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Fast-Track for Fast Times: Catching and Keeping Generation Y in the Nursing Workforce

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Fast-Track for Fast Times: Catching and Keeping Generation Y in the Nursing Workforce

Article excerpt


As Shaw (2004: 66) tells us 'workplace diversity is an increasingly important aspect of organisational life'. And as Kunreuther (2003: 451) notes 'if the popular literature is a reliable guide, it shouldn't be surprising that generational differences are on everyone's radar screen'. Similarly, Kupperschmidt (2000) suggests that maximising organisational effectiveness by acknowledging the differences between generations has become an issue managers cannot avoid. Indeed, never before has such generational diversity co-existed in the workplace (Hu, Herrick & Hodgin 2004). If, therefore, as Foot and Stoffman (1996: 2) have suggested 'demographics explain about two-thirds of everything', health service managers and senior clinicians alike need to re-think they way they lead and do business in these early days of the new millennium. Hu et al. (2004: 335) concur with this need to rethink leadership. For example, the 'mature generation', or 'veterans' (1925-1945), hold worldviews very intensely aligned with the times in which they were born and raised. This generation, after all, survived and solved the problems of the great depression, 'won the second world war, rebuilt Europe and Japan, and put men on the moon" (Glor 2001: 527). Consequently, they believe 'in adequate reward for a hard day's work and performing one's duty' (Glor 2001: 527).

Baby boomers (1946-1964) and Generation X (Gen X) (1965-1980) differ again from the Veterans, for example, in the way the boomers tend toward idealism and have long wanted to make the world a better place in which to live (clearly inheriting their parents' legacy of triumphalism in the wake of their achievements). Gen X, on the other hand, tends to be more pragmatic and feels no such obligation to improve the world's lot (Glor 2001: 528). For Gen X 'work is not an all-consuming passion ... [they are] sceptical, even cynical' (Glor 2001: 530). Clearly, even with these three generations working side-by-side, certain tensions and challenges become apparent. Consider now those born between 1978 and 1994 (Sheahan 2005: 3) or in a slightly different chronology, 1981-2000 (Kunreuther 2003: 457), who have been labeled Generation Y.

Noted HR consultant and generational expert, Avril Henry, has gathered considerable evidence that strongly suggests Australian workplaces need to get much more shrewd about how best to meet the needs and desires of these people born in the last couple of decades. This group now competes for jobs alongside those who not only have more experience and perhaps better qualifications (the veterans, boomers and Gen X), but more significantly, have a rather different set of needs and desires and ways of making sense of the world.

As Henry (2006: 1) tells us:

Generation Y are self-confident, outspoken, passionate, opinionated, loyal and impatient. They are easily bored and happily move on to other things and interests. They have high expectations of their parents, friends, colleagues and managers. They are ambitious, in a hurry and expect work and life to co-exist harmoniously, even though they are not sure how to make it work yet ... They are in demand in the workplace and they know- t.

Peter Sheahan (2005) is another authority with a now well-established profile in Australia. He is not only a passionate spokesperson for his generation but an ardent proselytiser of how best to meet their needs. Sheahan alerts us to a cardinal fact about the 4.5 million Australians (Henry 2006: 44) on whose behalf he claims to speak: 'Generation Y have been played up to their entire life, often with money and material things ... they know their value, and they know they have options' (2005: 28). Or, as Hill and Stephens (2005: 138) put it, 'Generation Y who have been raised to believe that their private agendas drive their public performance' will clearly need to be 'managed' in a much more sophisticated way than previous generations. Sheahan (2005: 93) however, gets straight to the nub of the issue when he boldly advises:

If you, as an organisation, were to become more Generation Y friendly, you would by default become more employee friendly. …

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