Don’t Read the Label … Write Your Own

By Shelley Boyce, Wharton MBA 1995 and CEO of MedRisk, Inc

How do you create and maintain a culture that embraces a multigenerational workforce when developing successful strategies to bridge generation gaps in the workplace has been a constant struggle for many businesses? The workplace reflects society, and too often, society simplifies differences in various age groups with labels. You know the stereotypes … the Baby Boomers are terrible with technology; Gen Xers are whiners; Millennials are lazy.

We know these tags are unfair and untrue; yet, each generation seems to hold to the negative perceptions of the others. However, what if we looked at each other’s positive attributes instead? Baby Boomers bring experience, wisdom, knowledge and hardworking attributes to the job. Most Gen Xers are college-educated, culturally diverse and flexible. The Millennials I’ve worked with are anything but lazy — they seek jobs with dedicated career paths, are technologically gifted and bring fun energy to the workplace. 

Of course, all of these attributes are not exclusive to one generational group. That’s why a first step in maintaining a productive workplace is to eschew the labeling theory and ensure that it doesn’t infiltrate your company’s culture. Labeling not only causes serious disconnects among coworkers, but also inhibits creativity and the spirit of entrepreneurship that’s vital to a company’s growth and sustainability.

So, how do you create and maintain a culture that embraces a multigenerational workforce? You listen! At MedRisk, we recently asked our team members how they would adapt their work environment to help stimulate creativity and production … and boy, did they respond! We took their suggestions to heart, and the result is a more energized team who are committed to their careers and their customers. To stifle stagnation and boost career development, we lifted long-established regulations that prevented new hires from transferring to other positions within the company months after hire. To encourage our hardworking staff to socialize and have fun, we built a one-of-a-kind employee lounge complete with a large lunchroom, videogames, big-screen TV and comfy chairs. We’ve also developed a “culture committee” made up of department team members who have been empowered to cultivate new ideas to help build on our “one team” foundation by remodeling our employee recognition programs and incorporating lively teambuilding activities.

The change that has taken place over the last several months is evident. We have developed a more vibrant, energized and enthusiastic workforce. In the process, we’ve also developed a new label for our employees: one team.


Shelley Business PhotoBio: Shelley is chair of the Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board and CEO of MedRisk, Inc., the nation’s leading provider of specialty programs to manage physical medicine services for the workers’ compensation industry.   Shelley received a Master’s of Business Administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Virginia.