Exlcusive excerpt from Managing the Intergenerational Nursing Team: Motivation

Nurse Leader Insider, February 25, 2016

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Managing the Intergenerational Nursing Team: Motivation

Your unit’s turnover rate has almost doubled over the past year. As you look for reasons for this trend, you note that you have a lot of senior nurses; however, the turnover is mostly in those nurses who have been with you for five years or less. Exit interviews are showing a disturbing trend of young nurses feeling undervalued and unappreciated.

You realize that something has to be done, so you have decided to introduce a “Nurse Mentorship Program.” You will ask senior nurses to “adopt” a younger nurse to be responsible for helping to engage and motivate them as they enter into their careers. The one-year program will culminate in a recognition ceremony during National Nurses Week where mentors will receive a monetary reward and mentees will be recognized for their progress. You wonder if this will improve the culture on the unit and help with turnover.

Emerging workforce (Gen X, Millennial) perspective
Yes! This is exactly what I have needed. It makes sense to have a formal mentorship program instead of just throwing us on the unit and expecting us to sink or swim. Not only would it give us exposure to all the skills we will need while working on the unit, but it will also help us identify our resources—who we can ask if we have questions. Developing independence and competence through these types of programs motivates me to keep this job and to become a better nurse.

Aging workforce (Boomer) perspective

The “Nurse Mentorship Program” is a great idea. I want to help the younger nurses. I had a lot of help myself at the beginning of my career, and I feel good about helping others. I especially like the idea of getting a small reward for my time and effort. Maybe my mentee will help me with learning a little more about the electronic medical record while we are at it. These young people seem to have a difficult time understanding how important our work is. Sometimes they will not come back in to cover the unit when someone calls in sick. Maybe I can help them feel a little more motivated to help when we are understaffed, and maybe I can learn a little more about how to set boundaries so I am not always the one who has to work my day off. This program might help both of us, and that makes me feel good about my job.

Think of the last time you just could not wait to do something or get somewhere. The anticipation of having fun or getting some rest or seeing friends added a spark to the experience. This spark is what motivation looks like. It is that inner drive that made you want to do the activity in the first place.
Everyone would love to know how to cause this spark in our children, our spouses, our employees, but motivation is more of an internal spark, not something that you can bestow on someone else. You have to figure out a way to make your unit a place where people feel valued, patients receive safe, high-quality care, and the work of the hospital gets done. You want to be sure that you set up a space where people want to exceed expectations. This challenge is no small matter and probably takes up a lot more of your time and energy than even you realize. Creating a motivating environment can mean the difference between retention and turnover, safe and unsafe practices, success and failure.

Motivation has been associated with terms like encouragement, stimulus, and provocation. Since studies of human personality conducted in the early 1980s, the idea of motivation has usually been characterized as either intrinsic or extrinsic (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Intrinsic motivation occurs when I act in a certain way because I enjoy the activity, i.e. “I do it because I enjoy it.” On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is done for the sake of an anticipated external reward or outcome, i.e. “I do it because I want to lose weight.”

Extrinsic motivation is triggered by outside influences and often is used to attain results that are not possible otherwise, such as a runner who enjoys the feelings of exercise (intrinsic) but who begins a rigorous training schedule in order to win a competition (extrinsic). This differentiation is important as you consider how your staff will react to your efforts to provide a motivational work experience.
Incentives are another way you can set up a motivating workplace. Incentives are seen as rewards that can be used to reinforce or discourage behaviors. Positive reinforcement happens when you reward behaviors you like and want repeated. Negative reinforcement is the removal of a positive reward to discourage the behavior in the future. So employees who volunteer to work extra shifts because they know you will compliment them in front of their peers are reflecting the benefits of your positive reinforcement. On the other hand, staff who worked unauthorized overtime to cover the unit and then received a disciplinary warning in their records will be unlikely to put forth that extra effort in the future.
Different people react in various ways to efforts to promote, control, or discourage their behaviors. You may find that the best way to provide a motivational workplace depends on the generational priorities of the employee.

Overview of Generational Motivations

  • Millennial: My work is important; just give me room to do it well.
  • Gen X: Reward me, and I will go the extra mile.
  • Boomer: I’m glad you noticed I am good at my job; it makes me want to work harder.

For more information about generational motivation and strategies for engaging intergenerational staff, check out Managing the Intergenerational Nursing Team.

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