As boomers retire, will millennials fill the workforce gaps?
The aging of baby boomers has many implications for the long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) industry, especially as communities witness more retirements among their senior clinical administrators and experienced nurses. As competition for quality employees heats up, the good news comes from a surprising source: millennials, who are embracing nursing careers in large numbers. But employers who want to position themselves to attract this demographic may find that a retooling of their recruitment outreach and communication strategies is in order.
Numbers Tell the Story
Millennials (generally born between 1981 and 1996, although definitions vary) are showing a strong attraction to nursing, a profession that had experienced dramatic recruitment struggles just a decade earlier. Researchers behind a study published in Health Affairs suggest the nurse workforce will grow—in large part due to millennials—to just over 4 million RNs by 2030. By the time the first wave of millennials reached age 33, a Healthcare Finance News article notes, 760,000 of them were full-time RNs, almost double the number of Gen X nurses at that same age. This has the potential to reduce LTPAC’s staffing shortages, but only if employers know what attracts millennial workers and makes them want to stay.
New Values, New Expectations
What is the appeal of nursing, and healthcare in general, for this generation? One factor may be that millennials have grown up in an era of economic uncertainty where layoffs and company closings are common. They are attracted to careers that are in perennial demand and where job security is common.
Various studies have looked at what millennials want in a job or career. A report in Forbes offered these highlights:
- They expect benefits, such as college savings plans, tuition reimbursement, and healthcare, from employers that match their values and life plans (including parenthood and advanced education).
- They value loyalty. While this generation has a reputation for job-hopping, many of them say that being loyal to their employer is something they value. At the same time, they want loyalty and respect in return.
- They want options for retirement planning and investments. Millennials understand the importance of having enough money to retire, and they don’t want to work forever.
- Family is a priority. Many millennials have seen their parents or their friends’ parents work long hours with little time for family. As a result, they appreciate time off to be with family, benefits such as parental and family leave, and flexible schedules to accommodate the responsibilities of raising children.
- Millennials are tech savvy, and they will expect to have access to cutting-edge technology including mobile devices, apps and social media platforms. Don’t underestimate the importance of social media to millennials. One recruitment source, for instance, says that one in three millennials say “social media freedom” is a higher priority than salary.
- They want to make a difference in the world. Almost unanimously, studies show that millennials want to have meaningful work and lives. They want benefits such as time off for volunteer activities, charitable gift-matching and health/wellness opportunities.
Targeted Recruitment Strategies
Developing a plan to target and attract millennials could make or break an organization’s ability to stay ahead of competitors in the workforce competition, experts say.
- Offer employment packages that stress perks and benefits, especially those that are unique and/or beyond what your local competitors offer. For instance, offering onsite child daycare, flexible shifts, or even the ability to bring their dog to work can be appealing for some millennials.
- Emphasize the company culture in social media posts, website content, and other sources of information viewed by potential employees. Among the keywords millennials tend to look for in corporate culture statements are: work-life balance, person-centered care, team work, team-building, professional development and collaborative environment.
- Promote stories on your website and social media platforms about current staffers who have won awards, received promotions or obtained advanced degrees or certifications. This lets millennials know that your organization is serious about investing in staff potential and takes pride in employee accomplishments.
- In all forms of recruitment outreach and during candidate interviews, stress the technological capabilities of the organization—such as electronic health records, wireless tablets and other mobile tools, telemedicine technology, high-tech approaches to wound care and software that promotes effective staffing/scheduling.
Millennials may not solve all your workforce needs, but attracting individuals from this generation can provide your organization with loyal, caring and tech-savvy employees who will bring value for years and help attract other like-minded practitioners and caregivers.