Downloading Success: How Millennial Leadership Is Shaping Healthcare

Contributor: Paul W.H. Bohne
To learn more about Paul, click here.


image003_1.jpgMillennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – recently became the largest segment of the U.S. workforce. Surpassing Baby Boomers and Generation X, this generation’s opinions and attitudes will have a definite influence on how employers recruit and retain top talent moving forward. 

In addition, millennials are reshaping leadership. Research is emerging about millennials’ differing views on how to lead and what to prioritize when doing it. One good resource is “Divergent Views/Common Ground,” a report published by the Conference Board following surveys of executives at 14 major corporations. 

To better gauge what interests and motivates millennial leaders in healthcare, my firm recently completed a survey of 100 healthcare industry executives under the age of 40. The goal was to learn how younger executives viewed the current state of healthcare industry employment, what employers were doing right, and what younger executives considered important when seeking a new position or deciding whether or not to remain with their current employer.

Culture and Career Enrichment
The first important takeaway from the survey report is the indication that millennial-age executives within the healthcare industry consider organizational culture and opportunities for career growth primary among their employment interests. Matters related to compensation and job titles rated far less critical.

Based on their responses, millennial executives in the healthcare industry seek work environments that embrace innovation, new ways to conduct the business of healthcare, and pathways for advancement. However, regarding career advancement, these leaders desired more than just the ability to move up the ladder. Respondents expressed favor for organization-wide support for professional growth and development, and enough autonomy to assure a healthy mix of work and personal life. 

Fortunately, almost two-thirds of respondents indicated their current employer fostered a desirable work culture, and nearly the same number rated favorably their opportunity for growth. Perhaps this represents a solid start to the healthcare industry’s support for millennial leadership.

Fear of Burnout
Further we learned this group of healthcare executives fears career stagnation and burnout in their current roles, and may be motivated to seek new, more exciting opportunities elsewhere. In fact, just over half (51 percent) of those responding to the survey indicated some level of concern for burnout. The most frequently mentioned sources of burnout, according to the survey, included poor work culture, lack of organizational support, and poor or incompatible managerial relationships. 

These responses indicate a clear willingness among millennial-age executives to seek a new job if they feel unfulfilled – even to the point of leaving the healthcare industry and moving into a new professional arena. In fact, a majority of respondents indicated they would do just that, even to the point of holding five or more positions throughout their careers if it meant moving to find personal and professional fulfillment. Gone are the days when an executive might just tough it out and stay for the long haul rather than deal with the uncertainty of change or relocation.

Take Steps to Implement Worthwhile Improvements
These insights should provide healthcare industry opinion leaders, attitude shapers, and employers with a road map of sorts – one that could assure a more stable relationship with top young talent and less uncertainty when it comes to predicting who will fill key leadership roles in the coming years. 

We are still just learning about what millennial leadership will mean for healthcare. Given this, what are next steps?

Executives of the millennial generation should understand their opinions carry weight, and the opportunity is at hand to influence and shape healthcare industry leadership, including recruiting, training/mentoring, and retention practices. Healthcare executives who skew older, perhaps 50 and up, might consider whether or not their companies are doing what is necessary to attract, nurture, retain, and learn from the best young talent who are rising to key leadership roles. Is there opportunity for career enrichment? Does company culture lend itself to innovation and collaboration? Is young talent mentored or managed, and do we know the difference? Are we listening to our up-and-coming executives?

Cost Can Be a Motivator for Change
Frequent turnover is a costly phenomenon and, considering the massive transformation the healthcare industry faces on a continuing basis, it is something healthcare employers strive to avoid. Implementing programs to improve company culture and provide a process for executive development and advancement may be the best strategy for avoiding the expense that accompanies replacing young executives who leave for greener pastures.  

Furthermore, it is clear young executives are choosing the career path that offers opportunity for growth, enrichment, and success. Embracing these attitudes and opening that path within your organization may help ensure its future is guided by those who helped shape its strategies and culture as they ascended through the ranks. Ultimately, healthcare organizations that groom and engage their talented millennial leadership will experience long-term benefits from these executives’ energy, persistence, and vision.


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