By Alexis Zanger
What does it mean to be a millennial in today’s multi-generational workplace? This population of around 80 million young professionals born between 1980 and 1995 has been described by some as impatient and entitled, and simultaneously tenacious and independent. From where I stand as one millennial, all of these adjectives can ring true. Strengths and weaknesses notwithstanding, this generation is shaping the future of the corporate workplace. Here are some of the most notable generational differences and why I’ve found membership in the HBA to be a valuable career asset.
Millennials are digital natives, meaning that our continual exposure to technology has shaped the way we collect information and the speed at which we learn. As a generation that grew up surrounded by multiple screens and numerous iterations of software, multitasking is second nature and learning how to use new platforms comes quickly. While this may come across as impatience with the status quo, a faster pace of business is becoming standard in many industries, and this benefits innovation for both products and processes. In the workplace, millennials are quick to identify new connections for how technology can improve their industry and day-to-day responsibilities. In the healthcare field, these types of innovations can be seen in examples such as new apps that enable easier collection of patient data for clinical research. You will find that millennials are eager to teach other generations of colleagues (sometimes described as digital immigrants) to use the latest digital platforms.
The millennial generation has also been referred to as the recession generation. According to the recent book The M Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace, this group of professionals graduated into the “toughest job market in decades” and spending the early years of their career in this environment has shaped a new normal. Millennials are more likely to be comfortable with frequent change, and they favor creativity and flexibility in the workplace. Rather than employees that stay with one company, this cohort has adapted to take on roles wherever there is an unmet need. Contractors, consultants, entrepreneurs and groups of young people that have united to launch their own start-up companies are just some examples of how this group is redefining the traditional corporate model.
This adaptability factor can also been seen in their working style where millennials check in for frequent feedback from managers so they can adjust their projects accordingly. A recent survey titled “No Collar Workers” found that 80% of millennials want regular feedback from managers (ideally weekly), and 75% yearn for mentors. While having a mentor at your employer company can be beneficial, establishing mentoring-type relationships at other organizations is fundamental to creating a solid network for both networking and leadership guidance. In the healthcare industry, this is especially true. Due to frequent mergers, acquisitions and other unforeseen events such as clinical trial failures, maintaining a strong network is important for career success.
Here’s where becoming a member of the HBA can help. The HBA is an organization of women dedicated to helping other women−not just in theory but in practice. Since joining the Greater Philadelphia chapter around a year ago, I have been impressed by how willing the members are to help each other, particularly in the area of mentoring younger generations of professionals. Working as a volunteer on the marketing committee and the digital elite team has allowed me to learn from talented women with years of experience in the industry. Participating in the group mentoring program has allowed me to bounce ideas off my peers in a supportive learning environment. As the millennial generation continues to define today’s workplace dynamics, I am excited to see how all generations come together to determine what will last.