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    Kathi M. Newman, FACMPE

    Healthcare is in a state of unprecedented transition and growth. Today’s healthcare leaders must do more than simply mentor the next generation of employees; they also need to interact, communicate, approach and inspire these individuals.

    To effectively teach and influence those entering the workforce, leaders must understand how to develop and nurture positive working relationships between these young people and their peers and providers. Thus, it is critical for leaders to educate themselves about this generation.

    More than 30% of U.S. workers are Millennials — individuals born between 1982 and 2000. Unfortunately, the terms Millennial or Generation Y are often used pejoratively, and there are several stereotypes about this generation:

    • “Millennials are disloyal and unwilling to make real commitments to their employers.”
    • “They won’t do the grunt work.”
    • “They don’t know much and have short attention spans.”
    • “They want the top job on day one.”1

    If leaders do not take the time to understand what makes Millennials tick, they may become frustrated by unmet expectations, decreased productivity and increased turnover in their organization.

    Experiences and influences

    Millennials embody the many larger historical forces that have transformed the workplace and the workforce since the early 1990s:2

    • Globalization
    • Constantly advancing technology
    • Slow death of the job security myth
    • Never-ending and expanding information
    • Accelerating pace of everything
    • Increased diversity

    In a 2017 survey conducted with 8,000 Millennials, a majority believed that business has a positive impact on society. More than 6 in 10 believed business leaders were committed to helping improve society in emerging markets.

    Those who are approximately 18 to 36 grew up in a time when they were told they could do anything and be anyone. However, the perspective of older generations is that Millennials are entitled — which may, in fact, simply be attributable to a sense of empowerment — and subsequently impatient.

    Simon Sinek writes3 that:

    [t]hese employees display an impatience driven by two things: first is a gross misunderstanding that things like success, money, or happiness come instantly. … The second element is more unsettling. It is a result of a horrible short circuit to their internal reward systems. These Gen Yers have grown up in a world in which huge scale is normal, money is valued over service and technology is used to manage relationships. The economic systems in which they have grown up, ones that prioritize numbers over people, are blindly accepted, as if that’s the way it has always been. Understanding this way of thinking will help healthcare leaders develop these young workers.

    Desire and motivation

    When Millennials enter the workplace, they look to their leaders to provide defined work and purpose for them. Appreciation is high on the list of actions that motivates them, and recognition is a great way to show appreciation.

    Know your playing field

    Millennials have abundant talents and skills and a fresh outlook on how to help grow and sustain a cutting-edge practice. A good leader will know the playing field and then bring in the right players.

    Recognizing each employee’s strengths will help direct efforts toward capitalizing on their talents. If an employee is task-oriented, face-to-face patient care may not be the best position for him or her. Assigning this employee to develop and maintain population management reports would be appropriate to provide the opportunity to apply hidden skills.

    A tech-savvy Millennial who monitors your patient portal, manages your social media pages and provides timely information and advice could take the practice to a new level. If another employee excels at patient relations and delivers excellent customer service, direct patient care may be a good fit and he or she could help enhance patient satisfaction. An ambitious and organized Millennial may be interested in assisting the manager in developing a plan for patient-centered care.

    Leaders who take the time to mentor a new Millennial employee can show that they’re invested, which can be a key to practice success.

    Examples of effective employee recognition

    • Set up a feedback system that recognizes employees when they do good work.
    • Communicate with employees on a genuine level
    • and let them know you’re interested in their career.
    • Encourage peer-to-peer recognition in a meaningful or official way.


    Mentoring is a fundamental form of human development in which one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person.4 Healthcare organizations have integrated mentoring programs in many areas of the industry and in various capacities, from clinical to administration.

    Types of mentoring programs

    A large orthopedic and sports institute in the Midwest has a medical mentoring program geared toward the next generation of healthcare leaders. Each summer, high school students enroll in the program, which provides the opportunity to shadow a medical professional.5

    While structured programs such as this are successful, effective mentoring relationships don’t always have to be formal. Wendy Marcinkus Murphy, PhD, associate professor of management at Babson College, says there are four steps business professionals can use to informally mentor employees:

    1. Reflect: Who has taken an active interest and action to advance your career both inside and outside the workplace?
    2. Assess: Map your developmental network to uncover patterns. Assess based on size, diversity, relationship density (who knows whom), strength and support types.
    3. Learn: Determine your goals and create your ideal developmental network map. Take an entrepreneurial approach to relationships and your own development.
    4. Teach: Educate your workforce to apply a developmental network approach to their careers. Foster a developmental culture and encourage relational learning and rewards when developing others.

    Millennials thrive on being “in the know” and contributing to the growth of what they are working to accomplish. Establishing a network of mentors can be beneficial. Healthcare leaders have different strengths so take advantage of their area(s) of expertise.

    Pros and cons of mentor-mentee relationships

    In The Elements of Mentoring, W. Brad Johnson and Charles Ridley write, “In the majority of cases, mentorship outcomes are almost exclusively positive from the protégé’s perspective.”6 “Then there are the mentorships that turn sour. Here one or both parties feel disenchanted, disappointed, or emotionally wounded, which may occur for a variety of reasons such as unmet expectations, feelings of abandonment, or jealousy.”

    Take time to discuss potential risks early in the relationship and set expectations for both parties. Other potential risks may come from poor matching, incongruent expectations, role conflicts, boundary violations and unresolved disputes.7 “When mentorship cannot be restored or when the continuing relationship is not in the protégé’s best interest, mentors must take the lead in responsibility for ending the relationship.”8

    Success or failure often hinges on mentor commitment. No matter how talented or enthusiastic mentees might be, mentors need to be 100% committed to achieve success.

    For mentees, benefits include learning how to accept feedback in important areas, such as communication, technical abilities, change management and leadership skills, to better understand their organization’s culture and unspoken rules, both of which can determine success. Also, mentors provide an important networking contact for mentees.9 More rapid development can lead to greater satisfaction in mentees’ training and career and can ultimately lead to faster promotions and a stronger sense of competence and confidence in their job.

    For mentors, mentoring can bring recognition, a network of valued colleagues and friends and in many instances ongoing collaboration. Many mentors savor the intrinsic benefits of mentoring, such as satisfaction from helping other employees, excitement in working with talented, energetic new hires and a sense of rejuvenation.10

    Over time the nature of the mentoring relationship may change, along with the support that’s needed. Therefore, it is valuable for mentors and mentees to review the relationship regularly and make any necessary adjustments to the way they work together and the type of support provided.

    Millennials want a strong mentor who has transferable knowledge and can offer advice that will help them further their career. Know how to approach new ideas and use their experiences to create a culture of engagement and desirable outcomes. Whether formal or informal, only you know what is best for your situation. 

    Periodic mentoring partnership review checklist

    • How is the mentoring partnership working?
    • What is working well?
    • What, if anything, is not working as well as you had hoped?
    • What are you both gaining from the process?
    • What does the mentee appreciate about you?
    • What additional support might the mentee welcome?
    • What external constraints or difficulties are affecting the partnership? How might these be resolved?
    • What changes might be helpful to make the program or either party operate within its expectations?


    1. Tulgan B. Not everyone gets a trophy. 2016. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.
    2. Ibid.
    3. Sinek S. Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t. 2014. New York: Penguin group.
    4. Lacey K. Making mentoring happen. 1999. Warriwood, NSW 2102: Business & Professional Publishing Pty Limited.
    5. Medical Mentoring. Available from:
    6. Johnson WB and Ridley CR. The elements of mentoring: The 65 key elements of mentoring. 2004. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 73.
    7. Ibid. p. 65.
    8. Ibid, p. 110.
    9. Caraher L. Millennials & management: The essential guide to making it work at work. 2015. Brookline, Mass: Bibliomotion.
    10. Murphy S. Maximizing performance management: Leading your team to success, 2nd edition. 2016. Englewood, Colo. Medical Group Management Association.

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