SAN DIEGO — In 2020, millennials are set to surpass baby boomers as the largest segment of the workforce, which means health care leaders need to think about how to recruit, develop and retain this sometimes misunderstood generation.

There are many notions about  millennials in the workforce, including: job hoppers, entitled and needy, but the fact is that every day, 10,000 boomers reach the traditional retirement age of 65 — and with that goes decades of experience. “The time is now to figure out how to pass this [knowledge] along,” said Joseph Anton, R.N., vice president of clinical and support services for Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals,  during a session last week at the American Hospital Association's Leadership Summit.

To do  that, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in the Philadelphia area — commonly known as Jefferson Health — has taken steps to pass the torch to younger workers.

Administrative Fellowship

Jefferson’s millennial recruitment program includes an administrative fellowship for early careerists. The fellows are given more responsibility than traditional interns, and focus is placed on strategic planning, patient flow, payer strategies and patient experience, among other areas. Anton says the program is an integral part of succession planning and receives more than 100 applications for one position each year. Its first fellow, 40 years ago, went on to become CEO of the health system, Anton said.

LEAD program

Jefferson’s LEAD (Leadership, Education and Discussion) program was created to provide millennials with ongoing professional development. The program allows staff to meet in groups to discuss interacting with physicians, system thinking and public speaking and follows a “Vegas rules” mentality — which means that what happens in LEAD, stays in LEAD, said session co-presenter Kristi Caldararo, associate administrator of clinical services at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and a former administrative fellow at Jefferson. 

Senior leaders are also invited to speak to challenges they face that might not be readily apparent to others. The program acts as an open forum where people can bring in their concerns and get feedback, and it promotes collaboration between younger generations and senior leaders.

Leadership Academy

The Jefferson Leadership Academy is a more formal approach to advancing the careers of members of the younger generation. Employees must apply to the nine-month program, which is broken up into three parts: classroom and didactics, program assignments and projects, and executive coaching and sponsorship. The program is new, with about 70 graduates, about 20 percent of whom have been promoted within six months of completing the academy, noted Caldararo.

Finding top-talent among the millennials in the workforce will be crucial for hospitals and health systems, says Anton.

“Long-term success will depend on recruitment, development and the retaining of young professionals,” he says. “We have to get past the stereotypes and leverage talent.”

Whether you are leading a multihospital system or are running an independent, rural hospital, incorporating a pipeline for millennials and addressing the generational change in the workforce through strategic planning is a must, Anton said. Having a conversation about generational strategies at the board level is crucial to preparing for the future, he added.