Urgent message: As millions of the “millennial generation” enter and advance in the workplace, urgent care centers must adapt to remain competitive and sought-after employers in their communities.
The healthcare landscape is ever-evolving, and is currently experiencing sweeping change across many fronts. Whether it’s, say, changing reimbursement models or innovation in how care gets delivered, urgent care operators are having to adapt to rapid change at a breakneck pace.
Going beyond novel patient cohorts and payment structures, however, is the generational shift happening across the nation’s workforce as the majority of workers in the healthcare setting have shifted from baby boomers to millennials. In fact, the number of millennials employed in medical practices, including urgent care, is projected to increase dramatically over the next decade.
Millennials—defined as those between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2018—have recently edged baby boomers to become the largest segment of the country’s workforce, according to Pew Research. Like any generation, millennials have a certain set of characteristics and behavioral tendencies by which they’re readily identified. As digital natives, for example, they have never known a world without the internet, and are therefore exceedingly tech savvy. They have also grown up with instability in family relationships, the economy and global politics, they’ve been exposed to terrorism and social justice concerns, and desensitized by mass media, Hollywood and the press—yet they’ve also been “coddled” as parents, schools, and organized activities have structured every moment of their lives.
Millennials and the unique way their generational characteristics mesh with the larger healthcare workplace can present unique challenges to urgent care operators. With that in mind, following are four ideas urgent care leaders must embrace in order to understand, work with, and flourish alongside the new generation of millennial healthcare workers.
- First, millennials communicate across technology platforms. To a millennial, telephone conversations and face-to-face to meetings serving as a staple of workplace communication would seem like an archaic relic of years bygone. Indeed, millennials are quite nimble and adept with such tools as teleconferencing, texting, social media, and chat platforms, and prefer to communicate through those mediums. Thus, to truly connect with and reach younger employees, leaders must embrace these technologies and leverage their strengths to create networks that encourage information sharing, discussions, and feedback.
For example, millennials spend significant time on their smartphones. In fact, a recent study indicated that 25% of millennials check their smartphones up to 100 times per day, compared with one-tenth of baby boomers . Millennials are accustomed to quick searches for answers to questions, and fast replies to their messages from friends, family, and colleagues. Workplace leaders should therefore strive to deliver prompt feedback to millennials and avoid delayed responses that can result in lowered engagement.
- Second, whereas older generational cohorts are more set in their ways—especially regarding innovative technologies—millennials embrace novelty, variation, and technological advancement. They become quickly bored with the status quo. Providing new challenges, learning experiences, or setting and attaining goals are all essential to maintain their motivation and can increase engagement among this cohort. Millennials are also more direct and inquisitive about how organizational transformation will impact them personally and professionally. Leaders should be mindful of this tendency of millennials toward transparency and disclosure, and not mistakenly interpret it as challenging of authority or disrespect. Instead, remain open and communicative with millennials during times of major transition or upheaval.
- Third, millennials tend toward teamwork and workplace relationship-building. This tendency is on display not only with their lateral coworkers, but with managers, supervisors, and other leaders. As such, rigid, top-down leaders with ingrained hierarchal attitudes often have difficulties with millennials. Also, millennials not only solicit feedback from higher-ups, but they like to give feedback and share opinions. And once they’ve provided their feedback, they are eager to learn whether it was impactful or meaningful to the organization.
- And last, millennials seek deeper meaning in their work. Often eschewing high-paying positions or those that offer a clear pathway to advancement, millennials increasingly choose positions that are enjoyable and fulfill either a personal or social purpose. And not being part of the creative process is often a deal-breaker. If millennials, for instance, feel excluded from providing input on organizational change, they’ll often disengage and seek employment elsewhere. When they feel important and empowered, however, they take the baton and become change agents who encourage others to get on board. Millennials in the workplace consistently value ownership over everything else.
In short, demographics among the healthcare workforce are changing, with millennials now at the forefront. The challenge for urgent care operators is to adapt their leadership styles to support this important cohort, and create an environment where their unique attributes can help propel medical practices forward.
Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc is Chief Executive Officer of Velocity Urgent Care, LLC and is Practice Management Editor of The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine