Understanding the Millennial Employee

DHC News

by Pam Davis, Senior DHC Consultant

Odds are, if you are in healthcare management you are of the Baby Boomer generation, yet the majority of your staff is of the Millennial generation. Understanding the Millennial’s values and expectations is critical to engaging and successfully managing them.

As pointed out throughout current literature, the key to being a successful manager is learning to disengage yourself of stereotypes associated with the Millennials and seek to understand their behaviors and the influences resulting in that behavior. Learning to identify the strengths and benefits their values and expectations can have on the work environment can help you transform your work environment into a productive one.

Defining the Millennial Generation

In looking at the Millennial generation, there are several limitations to be noted.

First, there continues to be inconsistent agreement on the year range that identifies a Millennial. Dates range from beginning as early as the late 1970’s ranging to 1982 and ending as early as the early 1990’s to 2000. The generally accepted date range is from 1980 to 2000.

Second is in the definition of “generation.” Two common definitions prevail within the literature; a cohort of individuals that are “born, start school, enter the workforce, have children, and retire about the same time and age” (Kowske, B., 2010) and a group of individuals who share “the life experiences of their formatives years including pop culture, economic conditions, world events, natural disasters, and technology.” (Schullery, N., 2013).

With the oldest Millennials only recently emerging into the work market adds another limitation. Considering the rapidly changing environment within which the Millennials are living, it is realistic to expect that there might be significant differences in values and expectations from the oldest to the youngest Millennials.

A final limitation is the available research itself. Half of articles reviewed that address Millennials report research limited by the lack of empirical evidence or theoretical foundations relating to the differences in the Millennial generation. It was found that the majority of research is qualitative in nature using surveys in cross-sectional design with limited sample sizes that have the inability to correct for variances related to period, generational and age effects.

Millennials: A Perfect Fit for Healthcare Management

Within the limitations however, across the literature, the characteristics, values and expectations of the Millennials appears to be fairly consistent. This generation is not only tech savvy but tech dependent, having grown up in a rapidly changing environment that dictates the need to have an understanding of technology.

Millennials seek a flexible work environment that allows them a balance between their work-life obligations. Having grown up in an environment in which they were involved in many activities, and watched their parents who dedicated themselves to their jobs only to lose them to company downsizing, they desire to spend more time enjoying family, friends and leisure activities and exhibit an unwillingness to sacrifice their outside life to work.

This outside involvement has also lead to the social, collaborative nature of the Millennials. A confident group with a desire to have a voice and be heard in the work environment, they have been brought up within a time when children have been included in family decisions. Having grown up with “helicopter” parents who were highly involved in their lives and encouraged them to achieve, the Millennials are not afraid to speak their mind and are unwilling to accept rules and expectations just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Learned behavior through immediate feedback and award for achievement through video games, and highly involved parents, finds the Millennial’s in need of constant, immediate feedback, praise and recognition for achievements.

The Right Work Environment

So, how do you make your work environment into one that provides success for both the Millennials and you?

Due to the surplus of information available to them via the internet and their encouragement to be successful and do well in school, this group is highly knowledgeable and seeks opportunities to grow professionally and educationally. They are highly motivated by companies that offer flexible work environments including job sharing and work from home opportunities. While this would be difficult to achieve in a clinical setting, look for ways to provide for flexibility in the scheduling of shifts.

Millennials desire to work in environments that utilize technology and are unwilling to tolerate environments that do not. Incorporate social media, texting and email as the communication of choice within your work environment as this is the prevailing form of communication for this generation.

Mentoring and Training for the Healthcare Workplace

The employee-manager relationship is also key in the successful management of Millennials. Given an opportunity to be heard coupled with frequent, immediate, direct feedback within a supportive trusting environment that employees feel is fair, will increase not only job satisfaction but retention rates.

Retention, engagement and satisfaction rates are noted to decrease when the work environment fails to offer valid learning or career mobility opportunities. Consider developing a mentoring program in which you pair an older staff member with a Millennial generation staff, or develop your feedback and attention skills as a manager. Both are found to have a considerably positive influence across the board; the older generation gains assistance in developing tech skills, and the younger generation develops pertinent skill sets that develop with job maturity.

Let Diverse Health Consulting help you successfully manage your Millennial staff. We can help you step out of your comfort zone, incorporate new strategies that work in congruence with the Millennials and successfully learn to manage them. DHC can assist you in developing increased staff engagement, job satisfaction and retention of your clinical staff, leading both you and your staff to success. Contact us to learn more.