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Catering to the Gen Y Employee

February 15

Katie Newland

Without even noticing it, the healthcare industry has been catering to the needs of "Gen Y" employees looking for flexible scheduling by offering a variety of creative options. However, it is essential that flexible scheduling initiatives are maximized with increasing numbers of Generation Y nurses entering the workforce. As I write this article, my iPod is blaring in my ears and my flip flops are kicked off underneath my desk, both signatures of Gen Y. Yes, I am a proud member of the Millennial Generation. I can explain first hand why flexible scheduling is so valuable to young employees and how employers who maximize flexible scheduling will win in the talent war.

A large number of Gen Y employees (83%) claim they want flexibility in their jobs. It's no accident flexible scheduling is so highly prized by younger employees. Growing up, we watched our parents put in 60+ hours a week at the office, only to have their jobs downsized or outsourced. Other Gen Yers saw their aging parents forced into lesser roles while younger, more affordable employees took over their positions. Because of this, we are not seeking a career that monopolizes our time. Before the downturn in the economy, Gen Yers generally rejected lucrative job offers if they felt the work entailed excessive hours and you can expect this attitude to return as the economy picks up steam. That is not to say we don't strive for success: we judge success differently than our parents. Gen Y does not base happiness solely on how prestigious our career is; we feel it is equally important to be successful in roles outside of work.

Gen Y works to live, not lives to work! Unlike our more mature co-workers, having a life outside the workplace is of the utmost importance to us because we grew up being hyper-scheduled and over-involved. It was stressed upon Gen Y to join an array of activities ranging from sports to academic clubs to philanthropic volunteer work. Because Gen Y never lacked for activity, we place a high value on having many interests and hobbies. When employers maximize their flexible scheduling options, employees are sure to strike a balance between working and being involved in our many activities outside of the workplace, resulting in a more engaged and community-focused workforce.

Young employees desire a sense of control over their employment. Because we cherish our personal life so dearly, we will rarely miss a dinner date with friends for work. That is not to say that we will not work long and hard for your organization. In fact, we would prefer to work longer shifts and have more time off. Additionally, some young nurses do prefer working overtime. College tuition has skyrocketed, leaving quite a few Gen Yers in debt. Flexible scheduling allows nurses to choose, to a certain degree, when they are at work and how much extra income they make. Gen Y tends to delay marriage so many young nurses are single and living alone. Working a night shift or overtime may not interfere with their current work/life balance. While some Gen Yers shy away from an increased number of shifts, others will jump at the chance to work extended hours. Above all else, Gen Y appreciates how flexible scheduling offers the option of working overtime.

Flexible scheduling offers the option of working while receiving further training to obtain other certifications and degrees. This appeals to Gen Y because we are achievement-oriented. We were conditioned to work hard to be the best - and were rewarded for it. Sure, every Gen Y kid received a trophy just for being on the T-ball team, but that does not mean we were not pushed to succeed. Perhaps, this is where our sense of entitlement comes in. We were taught if we work hard, we will receive (and deserve) a reward. We will do everything possible to ensure achievement of what we believe we are entitled to. Gen Yers commonly seek further education to enhance their careers outside of the organization. It is important to us to learn every skill we can to better our knowledge base and take to our next job.

Watching our parents' employment hardships taught us to look out for "number one" (ourselves). Therefore, company loyalty is not at the top of our list. We work for ourselves, not an organization. We will job hop. Retention research conducted by TMP Worldwide concludes that many nurses depart their organization within their first year of employment. The average Gen Yer will change jobs at least seven times over the course of their career. Younger staff members see less risk in changing jobs compared to older nurses because they do not prioritize retirement and health insurance and will generally not experience a loss of seniority privileges. If Gen Y nurses feel their schedule is interfering with their personal life, they won't hesitate or feel guilty seeking alternate employment.

Because of the economy, Gen Y is slowly discovering jobs do not grow on trees and appreciate our jobs more. However, once the economy rebounds, Gen Y nurses are more likely to job hop if they feel their schedules are inflexible. Employers should take this time to ensure Gen Y nurses are engaged and content with their scheduling options. TMP Worldwide has proven through retention research that the less turnover an employer faces once the economic winds change, the more ground they will gain during economic recovery. Departing nurses take with them intellectual property and employers face increased costs of using agency nurses and paying staff overtime to accommodate the staffing shortage. Turnover leads to decreased flexibility in scheduling because there are fewer nurses to work the same number of shifts. Gen Y nurses will disapprove of the resulting inflexibility which will lead to decreased morale and increased turnover.

Retention of the Gen Y nurse is vital to the long-term success of any healthcare organization. Once the economy improves more Baby Boomer nurses will retire. Younger nurses will need to fill this gap in staffing. Within the next three to four years, 30% of the workforce will be comprised of Gen Yers. By 2025, 40% to 60% of the workforce will be Gen Y employees. The next few years serve as a tipping point for employers who have not implemented retention and recruitment efforts geared toward Generation Y. Those who only cater to Baby Boomer nurses will be left behind and short-staffed. Employers implementing enhanced flexible scheduling options are ensuring their long-term success for two reasons: retention and recruitment of Gen Y and the ability for Boomer nurses to ease into retirement. Older nurses are more likely to extend their tenure if they have an option to work part-time. Mature nurses will enjoy phasing into retirement rather than adjusting to a decreased income immediately. The employer benefits by not suffering a sudden loss of experienced nurses all at once, giving them more time to recruit and on-board Gen Y nurses.

Employers always win by maximizing their flexible scheduling options and creating new options to fit nurses' needs. Retention strengthens as a result of enhanced employee engagement and recruitment efforts succeed because flexible scheduling aids in proving the organization is a best-in-class employer. Remember, recruitment is a two-way street. Just as you are selecting candidates, they are selecting their employer. And candidates, especially Gen Y candidates, will favor enhanced flexibility in their position.

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