While it's never advisable to paint any group with a broad brush, certain generalizations do apply to different generations. For instance, Lydia Ostermeier, vice president of executive search at B.E. Smith, says millennials “grew up with parents who really coddled them,” but, for that very reason, they understand other people's need to feel valued. This can give them crucial insight into managing patient satisfaction or their own direct reports.
On the other hand, it means that supervisors of millennial employees must go the extra mile to get on the same wavelength as their younger staff. According to a recent Gallup survey, millennials are less attached to their employers than those of any other generation. Just 29 percent report being engaged in their jobs.
“At its worst, managing millennials can be like teaching toddlers,” says Cindy Roark, M.D., president and CEO of Synergy Population Health. “There’s a whole lot of ‘why?,’ and making everyone feel like they’re part of the process. ‘Because I said so’ doesn’t really cut it anymore.”
Continuous feedback loop: Providing frequent — almost continuous — feedback goes a long way toward keeping millennials engaged. Yet, that development won’t occur overnight. Experts say that because millennials thrive on instant gratification, they must be reminded to put time and effort into their training to truly earn their advancement. “It’s important to help coach them,” Ostermeier says. “Millennials come out with these very self-confident attitudes, but a lot of times they don’t realize the steps they need to take in order to [develop professionally]. It’s our job to slow them down, have those conversations, and really help and coach and develop them.”
Stretch assignments: Sometimes certain tasks will challenge millennials to think differently. “Give them stretch assignments, where they’re out of their comfort zones; they thrive in that kind of environment," Ostermeier says. "They feel like they’ve been appreciated for the skills they bring to the table, and will be more engaged with the organization because somebody is noticing them and noticing the unique abilities they bring.”
Work-life balance: In addition to how you talk to millennials, where and when these discussions take place also matter. In other words, don't underestimate the power of a nontraditional, remote or flexible work schedule. A 2016 Deloitte report revealed that work-life balance is the most important factor for millennials when they consider a new job. Although the concept of work-life balance might be hard to visualize in a 24/7 business such as health care, experts say there are ways to make it work. While it might be unrealistic for most clinicians to work from home, for example, options such as flexible scheduling can go a long way. “While health care doesn’t lend itself to lunchtime spiritual quests and bringing your dog to work, there are definitely ways to make it a more attractive workplace to better adapt to the needs of the merging leadership teams,” says Roark.