You’ve heard that old adage, right? I wish I had a nickel for….
Here at Straightaway Health Careers, we wish we had a nickel for every time we’ve heard, “those millennials are the issue” or, “millennials are impossible!” Maybe you’ve heard something along those lines, too. Maybe you’ve been the one that has had the challenge of either hiring or managing millennials or those that come after them.
It may surprise you that “those millennials” may not be the problem after all. It may just be our own attitudes toward them in the workplace that are getting in our way and contributing to their restlessness and struggle to stay engaged.
We need to fix that – pronto.
The challenges millennials feel they face in a modern, corporate setting are numerous, but they don’t have to be daunting.
As the baby boomer generation retires, there aren’t enough of succeeding generations to take their place. Birth rates in the U.S. peaked with the baby boomer generation and have been trending down since the early sixties. People are marrying later and having fewer children when they do, so the labor market will get tighter no matter what we do. That is a fact.
We are also at or nearing full employment in the United States. There is no magical pool of better people out there from which to choose when we have positions to fill. Those people who are on the hunt (including those in seat) can be a bit more selective as to where they spend their working hours.
Additionally, the newer generations are digitally savvy and have been raised to want more – from their places of employment, their peer groups and their lives in general. They view their time spent at work as a significant segment of their lives, and they want to spend it doing things that matter with people they that energize them.
We live in a world with a competitive landscape that demands we change the way we view the humans that make our businesses run. People aren’t just a cog in a machine any longer. They are the last mile that delivers our goods and services and impacts our clients and customers in a profound way.
So, what can we do?
It helps to understand what people look for when making the decision to come into our employ.
Lee and Holtom’s work[i] on job embeddedness tells us all humans, no matter where they are in the hierarchy of an organization, have three driving questions when deciding on and entering a new work environment:
- Does this organization “walk the walk”? In other words, does this organization live its mission? And can I see myself being a part of that mission?
- Can I physically and cognitively do the job? This goes to the heart of the training and development the organization will provide to the new hire across their lifespan as an employee.
- Will I fit in? This covers the social aspect of the organization. There is a reason that one of Gallup’s engagement questions[ii] is “Do you have a best friend at work?” The positive social webs we develop can bind us to organization. Lack of, or even worse, negative social webs drive us to seek our fortunes elsewhere.
Once we have a handle on what people feel about their new employment choice, it also helps to understand what these newer generations hold dear and we should revamp our hiring, training and support structures and mental models to provide what they need.
This handy graphic from the Harvard Business Review is an example of what most millennials – and most people for that matter – want from their boss, their company and their own development within an organization.
When you combine nearly full employment with the innate needs of all humans and sprinkle in the behaviors of a younger workforce who doesn’t think twice about seeing what else is out there for their perfect fit, it becomes increasingly necessary to analyze just what you are providing as an employer.
The real question becomes not, “why aren’t they more loyal” but, “what are we actively doing to help them stay?”
Start with your hiring managers and recruiters. Teach them to tell the story of the organization with these markers in mind. They should be painting a picture of an organization of which new hires want to be a part. They should be stressing continuing development, innovation and collaborative work. Next, examine your onboarding, training and performance management supports for line managers and their peers alike. Do they underscore the importance of offering feedback, as well as support an open and communicative work culture?
Examine your onboarding with a critical eye toward this new model. Are people truly ready for work when they leave your orientation programs? If they aren’t, it’s not on them.
Do your people stay because you’ve made them better workers through development in their careers? Are you doing surveys to find out what your workforce values? What does your exit data tell you?
To be painfully honest, we haven’t always been great at this as an industry. And this is a sea change in thinking from how we managed our employees years ago. Front-line caregivers were the least consulted, minimally developed, and considered a throw away commodity for years. We can no longer sustain this type of thinking. Competition, tighter regulation and the changing face of healthcare is helping us see that continuing that old model of thinking is a missed opportunity on the human side and an absolute deal breaker on the business side.
The good news? We are changing along with the industry. Organizations are realizing the strength they have in a well-developed workforce, and Straightaway Health Careers is making the transition from old to new thinking a more painless process. If we are honest with ourselves, aren’t we just a wee bit jealous of their options? These changes will be good for everyone, and we are all capable.
[i] Holtom, Lee, Sablynski, Erez, “Why People Stay: Using Job Embeddedness to Predict Voluntary Turnover”, Academy of Management Journal, December 1, 2001 vol. 44 no. 6 1102-1121