NASHVILLE — With millennials now the largest age group in the workforce, health systems need to learn more about what makes them tick, a father and daughter team told attendees Tuesday at the Modern Healthcare Women Leaders in Healthcare conference.
Chris Karam, CEO of Christus St. Michael Health System in Texarkana, Texas, said millennials now comprise 36% of the system's employees—becoming the biggest generational group of the system's workforce for the first time this year.
That group in a recent employee satisfaction survey posted the lowest scores of any generation in the system, though the system still had a high associate engagement score of 90. Karam called the millennials' dissatisfaction “a wake-up call” the system needs to address.
Employee satisfaction is a major source of pride for Christus St. Michael. The system, which includes a 312-bed acute-care flagship hospital, was named by Modern Healthcare in 2014 as one of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare.
Karam was joined on stage by his daughter, Amelie Karam, 23, who is an expert speaker on her generation described in general terms as those 19 to 35 years old. She said millennials want to be asked for their insights, crave affirmation, especially privately, and want to know the mission of an organization so they can fully get onboard.
“A simple word of affirmation can make a huge difference,” Karam said.
She said it also was a mistake to underestimate the maturity of millennials, whose youth and outward appearance can disguise purpose and resolve.
Christus St. Michael has the lowest turnover among the more than 40 hospitals and other facilities operated by the not-for-profit system Christus Health across seven states, Chile and Mexico, the elder Karam said.
Attracting and retaining millennials will become more important as their numbers grow in the overall workforce, he said.
The cost of recruiting a nurse, even in an inexpensive place to live such as Texarkana on the border of Texas and Arkansas, is $47,000, Karam said. It can easily reach $88,000 per nurse in higher-cost metropolitan areas.
That doesn't count indirect but real costs to patient safety and the continuity of workplace culture brought on by nurse turnover, he said.
Karam said health systems also need to put more effort into connecting older workers with younger ones so millennials can benefit from the experience of their more senior colleagues.
He said as an industry, “we do a poor job of succession planning.”