204538 Let's Get Flexible, Flexible!: Embracing a Multigenerational Public Health Workforce

Monday, November 9, 2009: 9:10 AM

Maureen Bezold, PhD, MPH , Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL
Jeanette L. Kowalik, MPH , College of Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Four generations of employees are working together for the first time in U.S. history: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X (Gen X), and Generation Y (Gen Y) (Boston College Center for Work and Family, 2008). This multigenerational workforce exists sector-wide, especially in healthcare as clinicians are aging and younger employees are being recruited to replace them. The same holds true for Public Health Agencies (PHA). In some state health agencies 50% of the workforce will reach retirement age in the near future (ASTHO, 2008). The diversity a multigenerational workforce represents is regarded both positively and negatively; it can enhance the work environment by increasing efficiency and creativity and it can stifle productivity, decrease retention, and lead to work environments all four generations perceive as hostile (Lower, 2008). It is vital to recruitment efforts for PHAs to recognize generational differences and manage them appropriately if PHAs are to retain valuable employees and counter the negative impact of the significant shortage of public health workers.

There is scant research on managing a multigenerational public health workforce however there is work being done in related disciplines such as nursing and medicine. Several suggestions designed to enhance relationships between the generations are feasible for application in public health settings include employing multiple communication channels, succession planning, and mentoring to facilitate retention. This literature also suggests that the healthcare industry seek external guidance for long-term management of multigenerational differences, sound advice for public health agencies as well (Zywiak, 2008). Additional suggestions include conducting needs assessments and the provision of employee training to enhance multigenerational relationships in PHAs.

Learning Objectives:
Differentiate between the generations comprising today's public health workforce Discuss the challenges and benefits of managing a multigenerational workforce Identify the implications for public health agencies Evaluate the importance of conducting a needs assessment for individual public health agencies.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: PhD in Business Management MPH in Community Health Education Experience working with multiple generations in the workplace
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.