Volume 38 Number 1 | February 2024
Alexandra Adams, MLS(ASCP), ASCLS Ascending Professionals Forum Councilor-at-Large
One thing I can say for certain is that as time passes, generations change. Whether that is through clothing, music taste, or even work ethic, each generation has its own defining characteristics. Mixing all these personalities in the laboratory can seem daunting but can greatly influence the culture of the lab. Instead of viewing this as a challenge, it should be seen as an opportunity to better understand the laboratory team.
With COVID greatly impacting the lab, we saw many medical laboratory professionals retire, and their positions are being filled with new graduates. It is important with new generations entering the workforce to not focus on stereotypical generalizations but rather on how to create a workplace culture that fosters collaboration with each other. Since each generation places value on different things, I want to look at the strengths and benefits of each generation in the lab and focus on how all their skills can be combined to promote a healthy working environment.
“Mixing generations is inevitable and should be seen as an opportunity to better understand how to support your coworkers and how to grow a laboratory culture full of creativity and collaboration.”
First are the Boomers, or those born from 1946-1964. Many medical laboratory professionals in this group made the decision to retire or move away from hospital laboratories during COVID-19. Individuals in this group grew up on ideals that emphasized hard work and loyalty. They are the most knowledgeable in the lab and have a plethora of stories and experiences, making them very experienced co-workers. Some Boomers are reluctant or skeptical of new technology. It is not viewed as a workplace tool but more as a social way to connect with family and friends.
Next are Generation X and Millennials, or those born from 1965-1996. This group comprises the largest number of technologists in the workforce currently. In being the largest group, they hold the majority vote when pushing to change policies or implement new practices in the lab. Most are comfortable with technology and see it as a tool to make their job easier. They pursue continuing education and want to grow. In this group autonomy is greatly valued, and clear goals are expected. Sometimes their independence makes them less likely to participate in group activities or be less willing to ask for help.
Finally, Generation Z, or those born from 1997-2012. The older side of this generation consists of mostly new graduates with the younger side being the future of medical laboratory science. In this group we see individuals who value creativity and flexibility over most things. They grew up in the middle of a technology boom and feel very comfortable operating and learning about new tech. With lots of online connections, this generation does value traditional face-to-face communication but prefers quick instant messaging to relay information. Some call Gen Z stubborn or too relaxed, and this may be true for some, as they view the workplace in a more casual fashion than older generations.
The best way to mix multiple generations is to embrace their diversity and encourage collaboration. We want to recognize that these are individuals with wants and needs, while making opportunities for connection between the whole team. We want to create a culture where knowledge can be efficiently transferred to and from each generation.
By creating an in-depth training guide or knowledge bank, we can preserve lots of valuable information from older generations and pass it on to younger generations. We can also coordinate with each other to find the most efficient/effective processes, which might not always be how processes were done in the past. Importance can be placed on valuing all opinions and making sure all ideas feel heard.
Some management strategies to use for a mix of generations include respecting the need for a healthy work life balance and bringing fun social or team bonding events to the lab. This can bring together all employees and give them something to connect with each other about. Being able to manage a multigenerational team well means leading by listening and learning alongside your peers to know what your lab values. Mixing generations is inevitable and should be seen as an opportunity to better understand how to support your coworkers and how to grow a laboratory culture full of creativity and collaboration.
- Bradley University Doctor of Nursing Practice. (n.d.). How Leaders Navigate Generational Differences in Nursing. Bradley University. https://onlinedegrees.bradley.edu/blog/nurse-leadership-through-multi-generational-differences/
- Indeed Editorial Team. (2023, March 16). 8 Common Baby Boomer Characteristics in the Workplace. Indeed. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/baby-boomer-characteristics
- Herrity, Jennifer. (2023, February 3). Gen Xers: A Guide to Generation X in the Workforce. Indeed. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/generation-x
- Birt, J. Herrity, J. Esparza, E. (2022, July 22). 7 Characteristics about Generation Z in the Workplace. Indeed. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/generation-z
- Bird, M. [ADP]. (2022, May 19). On the Job: Generational Diversity in the Workplace with Martha Bird [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3JVjDSQTOo
Alexandra Adams is a Medical Laboratory Scientist II at Orlando Health in Orlando, Florida.