Generation Survey

Generation Survey indicates that the AO is on the right track
May 24, 2017

The results of the first worldwide, comparative cross-generational study of orthopedic and trauma surgeons’ work attitudes, learning methods, management behavior and employer attractiveness are in, and at first glance they indicate that the AO Foundation is on the right track when it comes to recruiting young surgeons and developing an engaging educational offering.

Fully funded by the Strategy Fund, the Generation Survey project investigated whether there are differences across three generations of the AO Trauma community: Baby Boomers (born 1945–1964), Generation X (born 1965–1980) and Generation Y (born after 1980).

The project’s report—written by Professor Margit Geiger, Dr Claude Martin jr., Christoph Volz, Alexander Joeris and Professor Michael Blauth—details the findings after surveying 8,543 orthopedic and trauma surgeons from 140 countries across the AO Foundation’s five geographical regions. The survey’s objective was to answer the following questions:

  • What is the importance of e-learning methods in the continuing medical education of physicians?
  • How does the progress of digitalization change the requirements of structured further education?
  • Do Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y have different work attitudes?
  • Do the generations show differences in their willingness to engage without compensation in health care organizations and professional associations?
  • Are there regional differences in the answers to these questions?

“The report, though it hasn’t been used yet, is an attempt to try to segment our various classes of surgeons in order to better target them and keep them involved in the AO Foundation,” said Martin, who managed the project. “We found that, within AO Trauma, there are not as many differences between these three generations as other surveys have shown there are in industries other than MedTech and non-profits like ours.”

Martin said the survey reinforced much of what was already suspected, with only a few surprises.

“I was a little taken aback that Generations X and Y still value structure and respect within their work organizations and areas. I thought they would prefer a less hierarchical arrangement,” he explained. “I was happy to see that Baby Boomers have adopted more modern learning technologies, blended learning and internet platforms quite quickly, and pleased to learn that AO Trauma surgeons are still willing to donate their time to the AO Foundation without compensation.”

Key findings

One key conclusion of the survey is that attitudes on work-life balance vary: Baby Boomers are less mindful of work-life balance compared to Generations X and Y, but expansion of flexible working hours and virtual workplaces can sufficiently deal with that phenomenon.

Another important finding was that appreciation, polite behavior and a sound management culture are appreciated across all generations. Generation Y most highly values role models, and the report's authors recommend that Baby Boomers and Generation X be aware of their role model function as superiors for Generation Y.

The survey did find differences with regard to career prospects, especially among Generation Y women: 88% of female Generation Y survey participants said job security is a relevant criterion in choosing an employer, compared to 79.9% of Generation X women and 65.7% of Baby Boomer women.

AO Trauma Europe Research Committee Chair Blauth said he is heartened by the fact that the younger generations are not so different in terms of willingness to engage with professional societies such as the AO Foundation.

“It is clear that AO Foundation’s strategy in terms of developing educational tools is supported by the survey results. The AO Foundation is going in the right direction when it comes to addressing younger generations of clinicians,” said Blauth, who initiated the Generation Survey concept in 2013 following a study conducted by Geiger on behalf of the Berufsverband Deutscher Chirurgen (Professional Association of German Surgeons).

“The AO Foundation should be proud of its members and continue to address their needs in terms of digital media,” Blauth added. “Face-to-face learning opportunities remain important, but I think the survey confirms that the AO Foundation is already on the right path.”

Geiger, who conducted the survey, said that based on her own experience, successful organizations and powerful companies across industries attract above-average people and observe a less severe work-life-balance issue than usually attributed to Generation Y. The same applies to AO Trauma members, who obviously are willing to work without compensation.

“I was surprised by AO Trauma members’ willingness—across all generations—to work without financial compensation,” she said. “The AO Foundation is very special and seems to attract the best surgeons of each generation, and these clinicians want to share their expertise. The image and spirit of the AO Foundation is very healthy, by all indications of this survey.”

The survey report was presented to the AO Foundation Board in March, and the AO Trauma Community Development Commission has appointed Dr Samir Mheta, AO Trauma North America representative, to comb through the survey data and make AO Trauma-specific recommendations.

“We may find that the results are a confirmation of what we are already doing,” said Volz, Regional Director of AO Trauma Europe and Southern Africa and Global Community Development Manager. “We know the survey generated a lot of interesting material, and now it is the commission’s goal to extract what is really relevant for us and to develop concrete recommendations if needed.”


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