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Embracing the Young Employed:
Key to the Future of Healthcare


Clint Maun, CSP

With staffing problems a common concern throughout healthcare, it has become extremely important to consider how organizations operate and their plans into the future. It is critical for today’s healthcare businesses to start taking proactive steps in recruitment and retention efforts. Many organizations are putting recruitment, selection and retention teams together to assist with their efforts toward consistent service delivery. These teams have begun to address the issues associated with the new workforce. This is particularly important as it relates to dealing with younger employees joining today’s organizations. If we want an organization in the future that delivers service in a quality manner on a consistent basis, without undue worry, we must tackle the young employee opportunity.

Today’s young healthcare employee is very eager to express themselves. They want their say, right now. They want to be included in teams, but those teams must have meaning. You can’t involve a young employee (under 25 years of age) in a feel good team. They want involvement in true teaming with meaningful outcomes for the organization and themselves. We must also tackle the issue of benefits and incentives for the young workforce. In today’s healthcare organizations, many young employees are not as interested in accumulating benefits, perks and incentives for later use. The older workforce was taught that you stored, you hoard and you wait for your benefits, or take time off for holidays, insurance, retirement, etc.

The young workforce, whether it’s seen as positive or negative, wants “it” now. In many cases they are interested in having the cash only, instead of the benefits. The problem is that if we don’t address the issue of their involvement in the benefit program, then we’re left to provide benefits for a more senior employee population which possesses a certain risk with that particular position. Strategic positioning of continuing to keep senior employees and at the same time, trying to recruit a young workforce is a vital initiative for most healthcare organizations.

On another topic, the young workforce is particularly eager to enjoy work while they are working. The senior workforce was taught that you work hard, then play. While you don’t want to destroy that mindset, we address the issues of the young workforces’ need to enjoy work while at work. They don’t want to wait for the annual employee picnic, holiday party or once a month dress down day to feel that work is meaningful. It doesn’t mean we have to lower the bar and let total fun and merriment be the rule. We must get work done and take care of people, and put environments in place that allows people to be proud and happy at work at all levels. For the young workforce that means they need to have fun and enjoy their work at the same time.

It is not the responsibility of the management team or senior professionals to create a fun work environment. It is our job to actively discuss how to create an environment that is conducive to their needs, which may be different than the needs of many of the senior workers.

We must also look at how we address the issues of time off and scheduling. Today’s young workforce wants to be involved in their schedule and time off. They are willing to be part of team based decisions. They are not however, willing to wait for their turn for time off if the facility supports a seniority system where senior workers have the “ear” of the scheduler. The younger workforce has many things to do in their life and does not consider work as the only meaningful involvement they have during a life span. We need to discuss with them team based scheduling options to involve the entire work population on a unit shift or department in discussions related to vacation, holidays, long weekends, etc.

Younger workers try new jobs, explore new locations and have a more mobile outlook to their careers. They will be flexible in their relationship with us, regarding when they can work and under what conditions. But, they will not give us their soul for their entire work career. With that in mind, it is important to realize that it is not necessary to keep a worker in a loyalty model for their entire work career, but rather assure that involvement with them is mutually beneficial to both the organization and the employee. Make sure it can be developed for as long a period of time as possible and make sure they are actively involved in recruiting other colleagues, professionals, students and friends. That is why involving the young workforce in meaningful team efforts toward workplace recruitment has been very beneficial to many healthcare organizations. These folks know a lot of people, have met a lot of people and are willing to be involved in the efforts to help the organization. Even if they’re not going to stay around forever themselves, we must tap this potential.

Since the young workforce is very interested in the concept of “now”, they want feedback right “now”. They don’t want to wait for their annual performance evaluation, they want to know if they’re doing it right or wrong at the time that the performance is occurring. They want the opportunity for positive feedback and recognition that they don’t have to wait in a seniority model to receive. In addition, they are interested in being involved in projects that have immediate application. The young workforce wants to see results accomplished sooner rather than later. This is not untrue of other workers as well, but senior workers are conditioned to wait to see the rewards of the effort of a project. That is not going to be true of today’s young workforce and we need to understand what it takes to create this sense of “now” without harming the organization’s overall performance.

In summary, today’s young healthcare workforce can be a vital, progressive part of the organization’s effort. The young workforce becomes critical to continue efforts into the future so we are not relying only on a senior workforce to carry the load with extra hours. Certainly the maturity of today’s workforce is critical for success, assisting in the seasoning of professionals and instilling dedicated knowledge that is necessary to produce outcomes for today’s’ healthcare customers. To build a strong base of business we have to commit to develop stages of young employees’ careers by mobilizing orientation training, reward/recognition and involvement.

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