Working With Millennials

image of group of young medical professionals walking down hall

A lot has been written about the Millennial generation and their workforce needs and desires. According to the PEW Research Center, Millennials – born between 1981 and 1996 – now make up the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. What do RT managers need to know about this segment of the workforce?

“Every generation seems to confound or rebel against the generation before it. Each new generation embodies a set of values and beliefs molded by the events, experiences and technologies of their youth … which tend to be a little different from those of their parents.” –Simon Sinek, “Leaders Eat Last”

Factors shaping Millennials

  • Technology & the Internet
    Millennials grew up with access to the internet and ever-developing technology. They want to see employers using technology to its full potential. As such, they may question processes and ask why. It may be easy to discount these questions as inexperience. Smart managers will consider their feedback, implement changes that make sense, and take time to explain things that cannot or should not be updated – just as they would when an employee of any age makes suggestions.
  • Team Collaboration
    Millennials spent a lot of time working as a part of a team in school. They want to see these factors in their place of employment.
  • World Events
    Their childhood and early adult years have been shaped by world events, such as 9/11 and economic uncertainty. Many are dedicated to social causes and want to feel like they are making a difference.
  • Work-Life Balance
    They were also instilled with a sense that if they work hard, they can get what they want out of life, and they aren’t afraid to place work-life balance high on their list of priorities.

Fair play

Harry Morris, MS, RRT, senior manager of respiratory care at Florida-based AdventHealth, sees how this generation is growing in his department. About 35-40 of his staff fall into that category right now, and as he continues to hire new professionals the number is only going to go up.

“We do get some career changers, but the bulk are young people probably over the age of 23,” Morris said.

He sees some differences between his younger staff members and their older counterparts.

“I seem to pick up on a sense of ‘what’s in it for me’ when offers are made or opportunities come along,” Morris said. “Other generational groups I am familiar with tend or tended to jump at the chance to demonstrate their skills, show off what they were capable of, etc.”

Millennials on his staff also seem more ready to move about in search of something better or different, and they don’t want work to conflict with their work-life balance. This follows the idea that Millennials seek purpose. According to the Forbes article “Millennials Work For Purpose, Not Paycheck,” this generation is “constantly seeking purpose in what they do for a living and at the same time want to know how their job is helping them get to the top.”

Of course, not every young person fits that mold.

“Conversely, I know of a few that work more than one job and will manipulate their schedules to accommodate a social need,” Morris said.

Does he adjust his management decisions and style to accommodate these workers? The answer to that question is no.

“I do nothing for them that I don’t do for others,” Morris said. “That’s not fair.”

Are Millennials really that different?

Like Morris, Department Manager Peggy Reed-Watts, RRT, has also noted some differences between older generations and Millennials.

“Over 50 percent of our staff are Millennials,” said Reed-Watts, “which is an approximately 35 percent increase in the past five years.”

She has found her younger staff members at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO, tend to look for a greater balance between their personal life and their professional life. She notes they are also more likely than their counterparts in the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations to seek out tangible rewards and recognition for the work they do.

Other managers and employees have noted that while Millennials may be more vocal about work-life balance requests, their ideas can benefit all staff members.

Communication is key for a manager to succeed, and that’s certainly true for working with Millennials.

“I do try to not show my frustration with not always understanding their motives,” Morris said.

Helping Millennials find satisfaction in their job has required some creative thinking from Reed-Watts. What works? “Including them on decisions made in the provision of patient care and providing opportunities for advancement, such as professional development programs,” Reed-Watts said.

Focusing on increased communication, team collaboration, and helping employees find purpose in their career can ultimately benefit the entire department.