When I look across our professional landscape, what do I see? The Baby Boomers are starting to leave and enjoy their well-deserved retirement. They have been the leaders of the profession for many years. But as they depart, who is going to step up and take the reins of leadership?
One of the questions posed on the recent 2015 24×7 salary survey asked respondents about the number of years until they plan to retire. The survey found that over the next 5 years, about 15% of biomeds will leave the profession. That percentage increased to 35% over the next 10 years, and 55% within 15 years. If we are not actively planning, mentoring, encouraging, and developing our young professionals now, we’ll leave a huge void to be filled. We must act now, or the IT profession will step up and fully assimilate us into their ranks.
Speaking as a retired Baby Boomer, I see some issues that raise some concerns for our profession moving forward. I recently attended some presentations at a conference. The speakers did an excellent job engaging the audience. The topics were relevant and thought-provoking. But when it came to interacting with the presenter or asking questions, there was dead silence. Even when the speakers tried to solicit input from the audience, only silence.
Do the next generations not have any ideas of their own, or are they simply disconnected? Has the current leadership not encouraged or allowed their staff to be open and voice their thoughts? Have we as a profession discouraged change and advancement so that the next generations are simply satisfied with the status quo? We need to answer some of these questions if we are going to grow the profession and prepare the next generation of leaders.
Our profession covers a wide array of generational groups. Each generation has developed its own characteristics and attributes based on the period in which they grew up, which we should remember when considering how to involve younger members as leaders: the Baby Boomers, born 1946 to 1965, who had good economic opportunities and were largely optimistic about the potential for the country and their own lives; Generation X, born 1966 to 1976, characterized by high levels of skepticism and “what’s in it for me” attitudes; Millennials, born 1977 to 1994, known as incredibly sophisticated technology-wise; and Generation Z, born 1995 to 2012, growing up in a highly sophisticated media and computer environment. This is not meant to be a sociology discussion, but rather an invitation to reflect on what these demographics mean for our profession as we move forward.
Look at those who serve on the various professional committees, task forces, groups, etc. Are you seeing many of the same faces involved in a wide array of activities? I do. But is that a bad thing? In general, I’d say no, but it does bring up a good question: Is it that way because these people are high energy, well-connected, and want to have their finger in everything, or is it because there is a need and no one else is willing to raise their hand to volunteer? Whatever the reason, we need new, young blood to be infused into these leadership roles.
One of the challenges may be that current leaders are not investing the time and effort in grooming the leaders of tomorrow. During my 39 years in the field, this was something I relished and enjoyed. There are some great new leaders out there, but they may not know it yet. Current leaders need to identify those individuals with the talent and skills they may not even know they have and help prepare them for the future. Meanwhile, few members of the next generation are investing their own time to prepare for advancement, such as completing a bachelors or master’s degree. They need to be encouraged, pushed, and prodded to take on this type of challenge.
I used to like to ask during performance reviews, “What are you doing to prepare yourself to take over my job?” The answer I typically received was, “There is no way in the world I would want your job!” Those in leadership positions do put in more than their share of long hours keeping up with the demands of their organization and the healthcare field as a whole. Maybe we make it seem too demanding, overwhelming, unsatisfying, or unachievable to those we work with. I know there are times when I have displayed some of these emotions. But deep down, I always felt like I was truly making a positive difference in my department and organization. We as leaders need to show the next generations how we feel on the inside, rather than how we appear on the outside.
How will this all turn out? Only time will tell. What is certain is that we will need new leaders to step up and fill the shoes of the Baby Boomers as they retire. Our current leaders need to invest the time and effort to find and develop talent for the future. We need individuals who aren’t afraid to move our profession forward. Are you one of the new leaders?
Dennis Minsent is the president of Healthcare Technology Management Solutions LLC.
Photo credit: © Kts | Dreamstime.com