Editor's note: This story was updated on July 27, 2017.
Scripps Health is among several hospitals and health systems adopting new strategies to engage millennial employees and get the most of the generation's unique skill set, Genevieve Diesing reports for Hospitals & Health Networks.
Millennials—those born between 1982 and 2004—have unique expectations about their role in the workplace. According to Diesing, millennials place more value than their predecessors on work-life balance, professional development, ample feedback, and rapid professional advancement.
Rachel Polhemus, a senior partner with Witt/Kieffer, says that millennials have a preferred style of communicating. "They want instant gratification, so they are looking for answers faster," she says.
Taken together, these traits are pushing millennials to pursue more dynamic career paths in search of employers who meet their needs. For example, Benjamin Dzialo, executive director of the Clinically Integrated Network at Boulder (Colorado) Community Health has a career that has spanned three states in six years.
But like many millennials, he still values his connection with previous employers. For instance, he says he will keep his former employer, Livonia, Michigan-based Trinity Health, in mind for future jobs. "I'm very happy with my job right now, but there's a chance that at some point in my life, I might be going back to Michigan."
How Scripps Health engages millennials
Some health systems want to capitalize on similar attitudes among millennials to keep their talent pipeline well stocked.
For example, San Diego-based Scripps Health has an alumni program to keep former staff engaged and thinking about coming back to Scripps. Eric Cole, the system's corporate VP of human capital services, said, "We'll reach back out to [former employees] and say, 'Would you like to come back to Scripps? We have an opening.'" About 20 percent of employees who leave Scripps now return within one year.
When it comes to retaining millennial employees, Cole said it is important to communicate in ways that appeal to them—such as via text—and to make sure they have productive relationships with their direct supervisors.
Scripps also has prioritized giving millennials lots of feedback, which they've found is especially important to them. The health system has a program that encourages employees to recognize each other for their work, including through virtual thank-you notes. "Millennials are the highest utilizers of that component of the program," Cole said.
Cole said millennials contributions to Scripps have been substantial. In one case, "Millennial employees were able to come up with effective solutions" for patient falls, "such as posting charts above patient beds that kept every person on the unit informed of the patient's status," Diesing writes.
Cole explains that millennials "don't want to pass the solution or the problem off; they want to be part of the problem-solving," and Scripps is "reaping rewards in both patient experience [perceptions] and also cost reductions."
There are few millennials in executive positions today. "That might explain why, unlike previous generations that tended to stay with one employer for years or even decades, millennials are job-hoppers," Diesing writes. "They often feel they're not moving up quickly enough in an organization to bother sticking around."
Some experts told Hospitals & Health Networks that managers need to have an open conversation with millennial employees about their expectations around advancement so they can anticipate the need to create more opportunities.
But moving millennials up the ranks in the health care context also requires that employees get the right experience. For instance, many leadership roles in health care require both clinical and operational experience, something millennial employees are unlikely to have at the beginning of their careers, Diesing writes.
As the millennial workforce in health care grows, hospitals and health systems should make sure they think about how to engage their younger employees and capitalize on their strengths, Diesing adds. "If you want to be successful in hiring and taking on my generation as a workforce, you have to look at (my employment) as an opportunity for education and mentorship," Dzialo says. "If you're not looking at career advancement as an expected skill set as a requirement of your organization, I think your organization will fail in its work" (Diesing, Hospitals & Health Systems, 11/16).
Get our 11 best practices for retaining millennial staff
Turnover is a growing challenge for many organizations, especially among millennial staff early in their career. And while millennials share many similarities with other generations in the health care workforce, there is one key difference: unlike other age cohorts, staff under the age of 35 are more engaged than loyal during their first three years of tenure.
Preventing turnover in this age group depends on supplementing your engagement efforts with a millennial-specific retention strategy. Follow the 11 best practices detailed in this study to build that strategy, so you can retain millennial staff through their first three years on the job.