Workforce demographics are changing quickly. The much heralded rise of Generation Y, also known as “millennials,” is here. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, comprising 34% of the working population in America (according to Pew Research Center), and they will continue to build their dominance. Millennials are projected to be more than half of the American workforce by 2020. While this means a great deal for the employment landscape in general, organizations in the healthcare sector will need to pay extra attention to the millennial mindset and plan for the future accordingly.
Millennials Want To Work For Healthcare Companies
According to a recent survey of young professionals, college students, and high school students, seven of the top 25 employers most sought after by millennials are in the healthcare sector. This makes sense, since two key things Millennials desire are purposeful work and passion for helping others. While the “do good” aspect of work in healthcare is important, there are other factors that make work in this sector desirable.
Healthcare is in a unique position in terms of job creation and wages. Baby boomers are retiring in droves while the need for healthcare services is increasing. People are living longer, baby boomers require more health services, and the Affordable Care Act has increased access to health services for millions of Americans. Demand for healthcare professionals is growing, which has provided better wages, career mobility, and job security … all of which are very appealing to a generation that started their careers in the worst economic environment since the Great Depression.
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Healthcare Employers Must Adapt To Retain Top Talent
All of this means millennial talent will have job and career choices. Employers will have to adapt to attract and retain this in-demand talent. Systems and cultures that rely on hierarchical structures, rigid career paths, and slow technology adoption will not fare well in the battle for Gen Y. If you’re a healthcare employer who hasn’t started preparing for this demographic shift, it isn’t too late! Here are a five ways you can prepare:
- Pay attention to your employer brand. Identify the aspects of your organization which make it stand out from other healthcare employers. Whether it is a specific area of focus, a philosophy, a strong reputation, or cutting edge technology, define the areas that set you apart and how those areas help your employees deliver the best care. Show how your employees make a difference in a way only your organization can facilitate.
- Make it personal. Provide authentic stories from people who have benefited from the work that you do, including both patients and employees. Providing a link from the work your organization does to real world results will resonate with potential candidates and help you further define your employer brand and culture.
- Examine your organizational structure. Layered, hierarchical org. structures are undesirable to millennial workers. The more complex the organizational structure, the more distant workers feel from the employer’s mission and the impact they have on success. Heather Venkatesh sums it up:
"As Gen Xers and Millennials become leaders, healthcare organizations may need to consider flattening their structure and removing departmental and management hierarchies. Gen Xers and Millennials — future leaders and the bulk of the workforce — consider organizational hierarchies as barriers to creativity and innovation." (Heather Venkatesh, HealthCareerCenter.com)
- Prepare for Millennial mobility. The tenure of employees is set to decrease from an average of five years to just one year. Millennial talent is focused on learning as well as career advancement. Offering methods of internal development and growth can help keep talent from leaving your organization, even if it may not be in the same role. Another great way to mitigate the effects of turnover will be to utilize a staffing agency to help you maintain a strong talent pipeline and to reduce onboarding and off-boarding costs. Relying on a contract and contingent workforce employed by a staffing agency can be a great solution for staffing high-turnover positions that require highly skilled talent, and at the same time, reduce the strain on your HR department.
- Embrace technology. The Millennial Generation is tech savvy and connected; they expect their employers to be tech savvy and connected, too. Employers will have to provide access to technology and will have to consider how technology is leveraged across their organization. From internal communication and socializing to onboarding and training to scheduling flexibility and working from home, healthcare employers will have to adjust policy to accommodate technology and its rapid advancements.
Both the workforce and workplace are undergoing tremendous transformations. While millennials are keen to work in the healthcare industry, employers are going to have to prepare for their arrival. For healthcare organizations to keep up, they must examine their employer brand, culture, policies and procedures and make adjustments to stay competitive in the employer marketplace.
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(Editor's note: This post was originally published in August of 2015 and has been updated to reflect current information.)