New era: How to recruit and retain millennials

TRIMEDX Senior Site Manager Calvin McDowall was recently interviewed and featured in a TechNation Magazine article on recruiting and retaining Millennials specifically in the HTM industry. The published article, as it appeared Aug. 1, 2023, is below.

While many members of the baby-boom generation enjoyed the music of the 1950s, most still thought of the music of the 1960s and 1970s as “their music.” The Millennial generation liked the music of the 1990s and early 2000s, and although there are some songs from the baby-boom generation that they like, their favorites remain within the songs produced during their younger years.

Each generation embraces different fashions, music and culture, while offering a hat-tip to some elements of the previous generation.

Generation Y, better known as the Millennials, is made up of persons born between 1981 and 1996. They have a unique position in society as the generation near the end of a millennium when technological advances were exploding. When the baby-boomers also watched the modern-day advances in technology, the millennial generation embraced these advances from early childhood.

The Millennials are also a generation that witnessed 9/11, from 20-year-olds down to five-year-olds; the Millennials have firsthand memories of the tragic event.

Absorbing both the explosive growth in technology and the unfathomable tragedy of 9/11 both shaped the worldview and proclivities of the millennial generation.

The idiosyncrasies that come with this generation extend into the workplace and the attitudes the Millennials bring to their work lives. More specifically, these attitudes include the role Millennials see their bosses playing, the work/life balance, the extended benefits and the opportunities for growth.

Every generation has a slightly different set of values and priorities that help define that generation. The Millennials are known to value collaboration, mentorship, creativity, embracing change, learning and tend to be task oriented.

Compared to the baby-boomers, who often stayed with the same employer for years and remembered their parents spending an entire career with one employer, Millennials are much more likely to jump ship and seek greener pastures if the work environment doesn’t suit their tastes.

This tendency is more common among this generation and those that follow it. As a matter of fact, Gen-Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, believe that an employer should be concerned about their mental health and that is a common priority for them.

Many Millennials are not confident that they can rely on Social Security as a supplemental means for retirement income. Millennials will start entering retirement around 2050, yet those who manage the Social Security fund predict short-falls in funding beginning in 2035.

For this reason, Millennials are very focused on retirement savings opportunities and employer benefits that facilitate savings. Much of their focus is on both investment choices as well as other financial services that their employer might offer. This could include budgeting information, debt management and emergency savings solutions. While these benefits may seem peculiar to generations that are older, they are attractive incentives to Millennials.

This is also a generation that makes use of more volatile or risky investments, such as cryptocurrencies along with individual stocks, and they would like to see these options included in retirement plans.

A 401k participant study conducted by brokerage firm Charles Schwab in 2022 found that 50 percent of Millennials and 50 percent of Gen-Z own individual stocks. Forty-seven percent of Millennials own cryptocurrencies. The study also found that 54 percent of Millennials started saving using a 401k plan and more use a mobile trading app than a traditional brokerage account.

Another finding of the study, not related to retirement investments, was that 27 percent of Millennials had changed employers during the previous 12 months. This was compared to only 7 percent of baby-boomers. Gen-Z engaged in this practice even more than the Millennials, with 38 percent having made the leap.

These changes, that depart from previous generations, offer insights to employers who want to recruit employees from these age groups. The figures also point to the need for developing retention strategies and attractive fringe benefit packages and work environments that satisfy these populations.

There is good cross-industry application of those work benefits that appeal to the Millennial generation and that knowledge does not preclude the HTM profession, where younger workers are in great need to replace their departing baby-boom counterparts.

Attracting Millenial Workers

During the 1920s and 1930s, Willie Sutton was one of the most famous bank robbers in America. When asked by reporter Mitch Ohnstad why he robbed banks, Sutton replied; “Because that’s where the money is.”

Employers who are interested in attracting millennial generation workers, should keep Sutton’s response in mind. They will want to be the ones who check the most boxes on Millennials’ collective wish lists. For employers hiring HTM staff from this generation, the best leg-up can be achieved by knowing what is listed next to those boxes.

“It’s hard to speak for others on this matter, but seeing that I am a Millennial, I can give my perspective. Providing opportunities such as educational support, professional development [and] specialized training is a great tool to use. Sign-on bonuses or just having performance bonuses could be enticing as well. Providing a bonus is not a common thing out there in the biomed world from what I’ve heard from others,” says Chace Torres, best known for his “The Bearded Biomed” podcast and videos.

Steve Ellithorpe, CHTM, executive director of Enterprise Clinical Technology Services for Providence and president of the Washington State Biomedical Association says that it is important for an employer to connect with their (the millennials’) interest in the field.

“It’s one thing to identify job duties on a job description, but also important is to communicate how they can grow in that position or role. Is the department growing? Will new skills be necessary? Ultimately, how can we support that growth,” he says.

Recruiting Millennials involves meeting them where they spend a lot of their time — on social media platforms via their mobile devices, says Calvin McDowall, senior site manager for TRIMEDX at Winchester Medical Center.

“Job advertisements on various social channels (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) are likely to catch their eyes. As a Millennial recently told me; ‘it has to come to me, and it has to feel like it was meant to be.’ Millennials also like to associate with brands, so get the message out about your company on what it does and the value it adds to the industry. It does not always have to be a job ad that catches their eye and piques their interest. The company’s constant presence in the industry is key to familiarization, plus referrals are important in finding valuable associates,” McDowall says.

He says that peer approval is a large component of this generation’s decision making, and many of them reach out to their personal and professional networks when considering new opportunities.

In a retention survey, conducted in 2022, by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) Healthcare Technology Leadership Committee (HTLC), the organization found that compensation and benefits were singled out as the most important priorities leading to retention by respondents. That leading priority was followed by work environment/atmosphere.

When broken out by age group, these two top priorities remained in both first and second place for those under age 25. They also maintained the top two spots in the same order for all other age groups, including Millennials.

At least within HTM, there is very little that differentiates the top priorities for retention among different demographics.

In a follow-up article by AAMI Digital Staff Editor Brian Stallard, along with a recorded roundtable with HTM thought leaders Al Gresch, Elizer Kotapuri and Angela Bennett, the results of the survey were examined.

Because salary and benefits were singled out as most important by most demographics in the survey, it was concluded that employers of HTM professionals need to focus on being competitive in this area in order to retain staff.

Beyond a Good Salary

Hiring managers can benefit by understanding the work life wants and needs of the millennial generation. Armed with knowledge of what is important to this subset of potential employees, employers can articulate an attractive package in the first sit-down that appeals to this demographic.

While the HTM survey did not find a disparity between age groups in retention priorities, it does highlight the importance of offering a solid salary and benefits to the millennial applicant.

McDowall says that he finds that health insurance benefits and paid time off are important components for this demographic.

“When I interact with Millennials for open roles, very often, a competitive salary is the number one driver in their decision for initial employment with the company and eventually remaining with the company. They want to feel valued, so salary compensation is a great start. During the hiring process, a Millennial once expressed the value they bring was worth a higher compensation than initially offered. Another Millennial drove an hour further from home to take another job paying $3 more an hour,” McDowall says.

He says that health, dental and vision insurance are important to Millennials because it gives them peace of mind for the well-being of self and family.

“The Millennials I work with agree that if a medical event occurs, they have the comfort they can financially afford it without dependency on others,” he adds.

Another important element that attracts millennial applicants and helps in retention is the ability to enjoy a work/life balance without interruption to income.

“Millennials enjoy living their life while still earning, therefore, paid time off is important to meeting that goal. I know several who boast about the PTO options obtained within their respective organizations. They appreciate the ability to take leisure time for vacation, family, or self, which contributes to their work-life balance,” McDowall says.

A Focus for HTM Managers

The values and priorities of Millennials as a group extend into the HTM millennial population. These traits, which are implicit characteristics of the demographic, provide important insights for managers in creating a work environment that is attractive and reassuring.

Those same characteristics found within the millennial generation as fundamental attributes, including collaboration, mentorship, creativity, embracing change, learning and tend to be task-oriented, are also reflected in the Millennials employed within the HTM ranks.

HTM managers should recognize these important characteristics of this demographic and reinforce and embrace these elements as part of a work culture that appeals to Millennials.

“Within the work experience, they ask questions and consistently want to know how they bring value to the team and the work being done. They are capable, competent and willing to share ideas regarding the work they do. And sometimes how to do it better,” Ellithorpe says.

McDowall says that components of the work experience most important to Millennials include the flexibility of work schedules, training and development, inclusion in decision making as well as recognition and feedback opportunities.

“In my past seven years of monthly one-on-one discussions with Millennial associates, training and development is a notable area of discussion and importance. Millennials are fully aware when they lack the skills or knowledge in certain area(s) of a job function and often ask about training and development opportunities within the company,” McDowall says.

He says that through training and development, they feel more equipped to make a positive difference in the organization while also having a competitive edge among their peers.

“Along with training and development comes opportunities for growth within the organization, project opportunities and career pathways. These opportunities have quickly become a top ask of this generation, as they are transitioning into director and above leadership roles. They want to move up in the organization and are seeking out opportunities to grow and fulfill their passion,” McDowall adds.

He says that during previous interviews conducted with Millennials, he has also been asked if the company is flexible on the starting time for the workday.

“It is important for them to be able to stagger their work schedule and accommodate their unique needs. Inclusion of decision-making is important as well. They want to be heard because they know their opinions and ideas matter. Recognition and feedback opportunities, whether from management or peers, are also more important. Of the countless recognitions and feedback provided across my team, they were met with positive results. I witness an increase in morale, team engagement and improvement in work performance,” McDowall says.

With acknowledgement of these priorities, the HTM survey priorities can be added.

“Fair compensation for work responsibilities. Not adding on multiple new responsibilities without compensation reflecting that change. Retirement offerings (401K/ESOP), medical/educational/family benefits and one many people don’t consider, but has really opened my eyes, is bereavement or Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA),” Torres says.

Recognizing all of these important elements of the Millennial generation will help hiring managers construct a total offering that will attract and retain new staff from this important demographic. Knowledge is power and knowing the most intrinsic traits of a demographic provides important insights into appealing to their top priorities and retaining them for many years.