This summer, our survey of executive compensation and retention found that 52% of executives who plan to leave their organization in next five years are retiring and effectively exiting the workforce (see Health & Human Leadership Trends: The 2017 OPEN MINDS National Executive Compensation & Retention Survey). As a result, at The 2017 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat there was a lot of discussion about identifying and growing the leaders for tomorrow—and we identified that future leaders will be those comfortable with uncertainty, innovation, and risk (see Moving Leadership From Complicated To Complex). The generational cohort that will play a big role in filling those leadership positions? Millennials—those workers between 22- and 37-years-old and numbering around 75.4 million in the United States in 2015.
That was the topic of my 2017 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat session, How To Retain & Grow Employees: Turning The Millennial Generation Into The Leaders Of Tomorrow, featuring Chris Norton, MSW, Director of Crisis Intervention and Youth & Family Support Services, Chestnut Health Systems; and John Sheehan, President and CEO, Harbor Behavioral Health.
What do health and human service organizations need to do to get better at growing their millennial workforce? During the discussion, the panel was adamant that organizations need to “know the target” if they expect to get a high return-on-investment (ROI) from their Millennial hires. Specifically, Millennials care about work-life balance and flexibility, but they are also extremely focused on continued development and growth. A benefits package that includes things like vacation time, parental leave, flexible schedules, and continued education will provide a lot of leverage for organizations looking to keep these employees. To put all that together, the panel advised five key approaches:
Mentor in a new way—Millennials want their role in the organization attached to clearly defined organizational goals. This means leaders will need to manage staff with more aggressive expectations than past generations, and be able to provide realistic advice on how to succeed.
Build a mutual understanding of value—Millennials see “value” as a clearly defined career path that directly links training and achievement to advancement. Growth may take time, but at the end of that time these staff members expect to have grown.
Embrace technology—Millennials are digital natives, and like no generation before, expect that technology is up-to-date, and will work as it is designed to work. And “mobile” is key. The ability to work remotely is one of the defining desires of this generation.
Create a sense of belonging—Millennials are mission driven, and leaders need to connect day-to-day operations and goals with that mission. The desire for growth also manifests as a desire for recognition for a job well done.
Check out the competition—When an organization adopts the above approach, it is in reality adopting a culture. And cultures only survive through action, and not simple lip service. This culture needs to embrace new ideas, actively mentor staff, and provide the necessary education, tools, and technology. Millennials won’t stay because leadership says these things exist, they will stay because these things do exist.
What do these elements look like in practice? Ms. Norton explained that Chestnut Health Systems adopted reflective supervision as a staff engagement strategy. She explained that reflective supervision is about creating “a relationship for learning” and an environment that allows staff to focus on the experiences, thoughts, and feelings directly connected to their work. The goal of reflective supervision is to create an environment in which people do their best thinking—one characterized by safety, calmness, and support.
Ms. Norton explained that this is a relationship for learning, and it needs to help staff answer the question: what do you need to do to grow in your role? This is not “directive” supervision. Chestnut Health Systems continues to take suggestions and ideas from these interviews.
Mr. Sheehan shared Harbor Behavioral Health’s use of the “TRUSTED” model, which helps define that culture by removing the silos often found in organizations, improving communication and collaboration, focusing on efficiency, and improving productivity (see Ethical Culture Needs Ethical Leaders). He explained:
In the TRUSTED model, we have to all be listening. This provides feedback loops for employees. It’s uniquely a strength of the millennial generation—they are about getting as close to the consumer as they can get, and taking what they hear and feeding that back into better solutions. We also recently went to a coaching model that is similar to reflective supervision, and we dropped our turnover rate from 34% to 16%.
Many organizations understand that Millennials are the future of the workforce, but few have recognized that they are also the future of leadership. How will you make sure they are prepared for that role? My final takeaways from the session was employers can have their own expectations met by leveraging the strengths of this workforce. Since Millennials are digital natives and want their job to be linked to value, organizations can put them in charge of social media, digital communications, and community outreach initiatives. As they want mentorship, include them on teams with senior leaders as it will allow employers to grow the employee while getting new perspectives. Finally, as this generation welcomes more regular feedback than previous generations (who were satisfied with an annual evaluation), there is ample opportunity for employers to groom and direct them.
For more on maximizing the value of your staff, join my colleague Monica E. Oss on Wednesday, December 20 at 1:00 p.m. (EST) for the webinar, The Transition To Value: Addressing The Triple Challenge Of Performance Measurement, Talent & Capital.