Understanding Generational Differences Can Help Independent Pharmacies Retain Top Talent


Common assumptions about each generation are often incorrect, according to an expert in generational research.

The independent pharmaceutical workforce could be stronger with a broader representation of generations who are active in the workforce today, explained Jason Dorsey, an author of Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business―and What to Do About It and president of The Center for Generational Kinetics, who led this year’s interactive keynote session at McKesson ideaShare 2023. Notably, pharmacists are one of the few medical professions that frequently hire all generations and serve all ages.

“Every generation is important [and] we don’t need to cater and coddle. [Instead,] we need to understand them to figure out how to build bridges,” Dorsey said.

The main generations active in the workforce are Generation Z (born 1997 to 2010; ages 11 to 27), Millennials (born 1981 to 1996; ages 28 to 46), Generation X (born 1965 to 1980; ages 47 to 58), and Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964; ages 59 to 77). But in pharmacy (and in general) younger professionals are entering the workforce later.

“No one in pharmacy talks about how young adults are, on average, 6 years older than almost every [Baby Boomer or Generation Xer] when they started working,” Dorsey said. “It’s a huge issue.”

Additionally, Dorsey noted that a significant trend that shapes each generation’s trademark character traits is the parenting style of that generation’s parents, followed by the impacts of technology and geography. Further, understanding these trends can help to illustrate and clarify how the individuals of that generation may act and show up as members of the workforce, according to Dorsey.

Generation (Gen) Z

Today, Gen Z is the fastest growing generation in the workforce. Individuals of this generation are passionate about having an impact through their work, value stability, and care about environmental and social issues. “[Gen Z professionals are a] perfect fit for community pharmacies if they position it correctly,” Dorsey said.

Gen Z is the fastest growing generation in the workforce. Image Credit: Adobe Stock - The img

Gen Z is the fastest growing generation in the workforce. Image Credit: Adobe Stock - The img

Further, Gen Z are savers and care about benefits offered by the workplace. Notably, they are also of a generation that fears they will never be able to afford to retire, which may impact their saving patterns and how they view work.

“If [Gen Z] thinks that they are going to work for 50 more years, why would they ever work overtime?” Dorsey said.


These individualsare the largest generation in the workforce; however, job retention among Millennials is lower than among Gen Z, according to Dorsey. Further, despite popular belief, Millennials are not necessarily technologically savvy—instead, Millennials are technologically dependent.

Based on his research, Dorsey also found that Millennials will either follow the traditional life path of having a career, marriage, kids, buying a house, and so forth, or will follow a life path termed by some as “delayed adulthood,” which is one that may go against a traditional life path. Delayed adulthood is defined as embracing the freedom of adulthood without necessarily following epected traditional responsibilities, and it has fractionized the generation.

“Today [Millenials] might be 26, have 3 roommates, and be finding themelves,” Dorsey said to a laughing crowd (largely of Millenials). He cautioned against older generations applying their own life stage expectations to how the life stages of this younger generation, who have experienced very different financial challenges than older generations.

Generation (Gen) X

This generationis naturally skeptical, Dorsey said. They believe that attitude speaks louder than words in the workforce. They show incredible loyalty to individuals but not organizations. Gen X are a difficult but important generation for retention because they are amongst the most seasoned in their career and life experiences.

Gen X often could be considered as being in the most difficult life stage of their lives currently because many must navigate work, taking care of aging parents, and taking care of their children while looking towards hopes for a potential retirement down the road, if one is possible on the horizon. More workplaces should acknowledge the stressors that come with this stage of life, Dorsey notes.

Baby Boomers

The eldest of the 4 generations, Baby Boomersare also the most influential generation to the workforce because they have the most work and life experience at this point in time, explained Dorsey. Their view of work ethic tends to be defined as number of hours of work, unlike the later generations, and they do not believe in shortcuts to success. However, Dorsey is the first to admit that a Baby Boomer is the first generation that he would hire.

“They already have the T-shirt, the coffee mug, and the cozy,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey additionally noted that there is another generation type called “Cuspers,” which includes those who are born at the edge of a generation, and they have a natural advantage because they bridge generations. Understanding each generation could be incredibly valuable to understanding why employees may act the way they act and may lead to better recruiting methods.

Recruiting, Employee Retention

When recruiting possible employees, Dorsey said that community pharmacists must list the following 3 items in the first paragraph of a job posting; they are the most determinate factors that influence if a potential candidate will apply to a position:

  1. salary range
  2. scheduling flexibility
  3. benefits

“People decide within the first 3 sentences of a job posting whether they want to keep reading,” Dorsey said. “[And] you cannot hire people who don’t apply.”

Additionally, a valuable retention strategy for employers at independent pharmacies would be performing the following strategies to increase retention and drop ghosting once they have hired someone:

  • Send 2 texts between the hire date and start date.
    • Text 1 reminds the employee of the day to show up and shares excitement to have them.
    • Text 2 (sent the day before the start date) states the current employee’s name, excitement to see the new employee, that there is a first-day guide ready to meet the new employee, arrival time, and where to park.
  • Make the first day memorable. Have somebody meet the employee and then take them to lunch or do something unexpected.
  • Provide quick-hit feedback. This acknowledges the employee did something nice and shares your appreciation that they are at the company now.

“The goal of the first day is to have them want to come back on the second day,” Dorsey emphasized.

Understanding generations allows pharmacists to learn “how to engage the emerging generation of pharmacists and how to engage with the community,” Dorsey said. “I promise that this will help you [retain employees] within your pharmacy.”


Dorsey J. Interactive Keynote Session. McKesson ideaShare 2023. Presented at: Las Vegas, Nevada. https://mckessonideashare.com/

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