EDITOR'S NOTE: Lisette Hilton is a freelance writer.
It’s no secret that generations tend to communicate differently. And nurses — from those at the bedside to leaders, managers and educators — will make greater professional impacts if they understand how to overcome potential generational communication barriers. Unlike the older Generation Xers who cherish independence, millennials want and need feedback. That feedback should be instant and technology based.
Can you bridge communication gaps?
Teamwork is the ability of a group to interact and work together toward a common goal, Moss said.

The hitch is not all generations are motivated by the same goals. Some are motivated by company success, such as the baby boomers. Millennials are motivated by more altruistic goals, Moss added. “We’re seeing a rise of interdisciplinary teams where one individual is equally as important as another," Moss said. "This kind of takes some adjustment for the boomer staff because they still consider the physician to be the senior-most member of the care team.” But millennials are usually so comfortable in teams that their sense of propriety in the workplace might seem to boomers to be lacking.

Millennials grew up as part of teams. One of the drawbacks of this mentality is that they are accustomed to rules being made by consensus, Moss said. Older generations might misconstrue millennials’ ways. “I think that because millennials often seek feedback they are often thought to not be confident and what they know is undervalued," said Linda S. Edelman, PhD, RN, associate professor at University of Utah College of Nursing and author of the Journal of Nurse Management paper. "Because they are continually seeking feedback or information, they are great resources for finding information that can help the entire team.” Millennials are accustomed to overt signs of recognition, Moss said. “We’re used to recognition for meeting basic expectations on the job. We learned as children that team effort and team experiences were the goal," Moss said. "It’s not about the win. It’s about having fun. It was rude to outshine everybody else. So you don’t see that competitive nature."
The result can be a more team-focused mentality. Leaders, managers, team members and others in the millennials’ professional space need to acknowledge these nurses frequently, she said. “For them, personal recognition goes a long way and makes them feel valued in their role. The millennial staff must be rewarded intrinsically to perform in the workplace — meaning if they believe in their organization’s purpose and goals, as well as their role on the team and their contributions to that team, they are likely to exceed performance expectations,” Moss said. “They also love a bonus check and paid time off.”
To the millennial, meeting time is most productive spent operationalizing or applying the information. They want to know, ‘How will this affect my daily work and why?’”
— Noelle Trinder, RN
What drives them?
“Millennials grew up in the wake of digital technology, which resulted in a faster-paced, more convenient and less-safe world. Through this environment, protective parents provided structure, mentorship and constant feedback. The end result is a generation defined by their optimism, social connections and technology proficiency,” said Scott S. Christensen, DNP, MBA, APRN, ACNP-BC, clinical operations director at the University of Utah Health, and lead author of the paper “Can I relate? A review and guide for nurse managers in leading generations” published September 2018 in the Journal of Nursing Management. The generational cohort of about 75 million members tend to be a confident, curious bunch, said Kimberly Moss, PhD, RN, CNE, ODCP, an organization and leadership development consultant and expert panelist during the webinar. Nurse leaders and others can take advantage of millennials’ enthusiasm by attending to their needs and honing in on their communication and feedback needs. “It’s a small investment that will pay huge dividends,” Moss said. First, these leaders have to understand how millennials might think. Christensen shared a recent example of a nurse manager shadowing a millennial nurse during a shift. “She observed the nurse gradually administering a dose of intravenous Lasix over several minutes," Christensen said. "During this process, the nurse did not engage in any conversation with the patient. The millennial nurse was comfortable with the silence and did not think to start a conversation with the patient." Another example of how a millennial nurse stands out among generations: “When you submit an application online and receive an instant email confirming that your request was received, this is an example of software that has been developed to meet the millennial’s expectation for fast feedback,” Christensen said.
Work well with others?
Generational groups tend to have similar life experiences, common traits and values, according to Kimberly Moss, PhD, RN, CNE, ODCP, organization and leadership development consultant. Moss was an expert panelist during our recent webinar “How to Thrive Communicating Across Generations.”

These experiences, traits and values can affect how nurses communicate, what they value in their jobs, how they work in teams, their job performance and whether they’ll likely stay with an employer.

Millennials are an important and powerful part of today’s nursing workforce. Also known as Generation Y, millennials born between 1981 and 1994 make up 28.5% of the population, making millennials the largest generation, according to our webinar.
Preferred communication approaches
Communication with this group is usually best with text messaging, instant messaging, email and social networking, according to Moss. “They tend to be impatient because they were raised on instantaneous feedback,” said Barbara Wilson, PhD, RN, interim dean and associate professor at the University of Utah College of Nursing and author of the paper in the Journal of Nurse Management. “So even if you don’t have an answer, let them know their message was received and give them a tentative time frame on when they can expect to receive a response."

Wilson said has been noted in academia that many in this generation are poor writers. "They have not learned the ‘art’ of writing beyond what can be contained in 144 characters," she said. "So many require additional writing support when seeking advanced degrees.” On-the-job responsiveness is key to getting the most out of millennial nurses. Nurses in different generations or of different thinking should consider that millennials seek others’ input and expect prompt feedback “As a leader and educator, it is most effective to use several communication approaches when delivering information,” said Noelle Trinder, MSN-Ed, RN, clinical education director at Banner Health and an expert panelist during our webinar. “Baby boomers generally prefer to read printed, written material. Generation Xers prefer to receive notifications via email and prefer that meeting times are reserved for fielding questions."

Trinder said millennials prefer an email or text link to the relevant meeting information. "To the millennial, meeting time is most productive spent operationalizing or applying the information," she said. "They want to know, ‘How will this affect my daily work and why?’”

Tech-savvy millennial nurses want instant feedback

These RNs thrive on altruism and teamwork
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By Lisette Hilton
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