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Nontraditional Work Environment Attracts, Retains Millennials
By Sheri Stoltenberg

There are more than 83 million Americans in the millennial generation—those born between 1982 and 2000—who now also comprise more than one-quarter of the US population. By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. That means HIM employers need to embrace the preferences and goals of this tech-savvy generation to advance the future of HIT.

Millennials are unlike any generation employers have encountered before. By adapting to millennials' nontraditional work philosophy and aspirations, HIM leaders can engage and mentor this influential generation. Here are five tips to help enrich the careers of your millennial employees and improve your team's performance.

• Say goodbye to traditional work hours. In the past, the HIM industry, especially at direct health care provider sites, has followed the typical 9 to 5 workday mentality. Now, the millennial workforce and new employment models push for flexible work hours or remote work to maximize productivity. Two-thirds of millennials say their employers have adopted flexible work arrangements and 21% say they are working more often from nontraditional locations in 2017 than 2016.

Along with this flexibility comes accountability since employment away from traditional office environments requires higher levels of personal responsibility. With more freedom comes more responsiveness, as 89% of millennials regularly check and respond to work e-mails after hours.

Millennials are looking for work that inspires them, not something that ties them down. Flexible hours and work locations enable employers to satisfy those preferences, boost employee morale, and reduce traditional office expenses.

• Offer mission-oriented employment. Millennial HIM professionals are highly mission-focused workers; 65% of this generation's top priority is to "make the world a better place," according to Forbes. They want to know how projects impact their department goals, the health care organization overall, and its patient community, beyond checking a box for completed tasks.

These young hires need to feel like they are part of a team and something bigger than themselves. HIM employers can reiterate the organization's mission in office bulletin boards, team meetings, and e-mail signatures. Likewise, goal-setting updates will need to be conducted proactively by managers to keep employees engaged. Consistently informing employees of quarterly department targets and performance metrics is also important.

• Embrace the new tech attitudes. For this powerful generation, technology is intuitive. Millennials align with the push toward value-based care, wanting a seamless, integrated, digital consumer-patient experience. With an innate tech know-how, they can think more futuristically for HIM innovation and workflow improvement beyond the "always been done that way" mentality. Their hyperconnectedness drives online consumer-oriented strategies into the health care industry, developing fresh ideas to enhance patient engagement, portals, and mobile health, while working to better maintain, store, and utilize data insights.

HIM employers need to embrace this strength to improve their teams. Not only do millennials adapt to new technology quickly but they also feel empowered by training others on the nuances of new tools and applications. They can be especially helpful with end-user support to shadow and educate against end-user error and improve facility workflow.

• Offer career development. Millennials tend to be naturally curious and seek self-improvement. In fact, results from a Gallup poll showed 87% of millennials deemed professional development important in a job. However, a separate survey from Deloitte found that only 31% of employers currently address their education, skills, and training needs.

HIM employers need to facilitate millennial career development opportunities to ensure their career and employment longevity. Whether it is 2018 coding update training, HIM certifications, such as registered health information administrator credentials, networking events including the HIMSS Millennial Reception, or industry affiliations such as AHIMA, employers should seek advancement opportunities for their team while emotionally backing their efforts to succeed.

• Cultivate meaningful mentorships. Millennials are less likely to leave an employer if they have lasting respectful relationships with supervisors. For example, 67% of millennials surveyed who reported that they could talk to managers about nonwork-related issues indicated they plan to stay with their current employers for at least another year. They want mutually beneficial partnerships with employers to increase their value and potential both as an individual professional and a team contributor.

To cultivate these professional relationships, employers can pair new analysts and/or recent college graduates with a senior HIM professional so they can gain career advice and understand organizational work culture. For millennials, work is an extension of their passion, and meaningful mentorship helps combat employee disconnect and turnover.

Millennials also thrive on feedback. Team huddles for go-lives, sharing insight from end-users, and verbal affirmations of extraordinary job performance are essential.

Whether you are recruiting new HIM employees or connecting with your current team, keep these generational identifiers in mind to engage and mentor millennials. With personal connections to their work, millennials will flourish and allow their innovative thinking and technical skills to shine through.

— Sheri Stoltenberg is the founder and CEO of Stoltenberg Consulting.