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Four things millennials can teach older managed care colleagues


Millennials are tomorrow’s leaders, and they bring a lot to the table. Here are some benefits they bring to managed care organizations.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That’s a quote often attributed to the late management guru Peter Drucker. And it’s one that should provide guidance for today’s managed care executives who are trying to create and sustain the right culture at their organizations.


Pointing to that Drucker quote, Joe Tye, CEO and head coach at Values Coach, a training and consulting firm in Solon, Iowa, references Hewlett Packard’s experience when the technology giant-which he notes was once considered “the paragon of great culture”-introduced its first laser printers to the market in the early 1980s. While these early laser printers “flopped,” Hewlett Packard had such a vibrant culture that it didn’t miss a beat as a company, he says.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are 75.4 million millennials, Americans between the ages of 20 and 36. That means this generation outnumbers the baby boomer population (those between the ages of 53 and 71), which stands at 74.9 million. Millennials are working in managed care organizations across the country, where they will be joined by younger generations over the coming years-and they’ll need to work alongside their baby boomer colleagues.

Healthcare executives need to ask themselves if the “bridge” between millennial and baby boomer employees needs to be repaired, says Christina Maley Higley, director of leadership advisory services at executive search firm Cochran, Cochran, & Yale, and a millennial herself. Millennials are tomorrow’s leaders, which means that repairing this bridge is “an investment that will fuel performance for years to come,” she says.

Here are four things millennials can teach their baby boomer colleagues in managed care organizations:

1.              The importance of passion in everyday work

Millennials are ingrained with the need to be passionate about the work they do, says Tye, who previously served as chief operating officer at The Toledo Hospital in Ohio and Baystate Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. Thus, they can influence their older colleagues to “not think about this as just a day job,” he adds.

“Whatever you do will have an impact on other people for better or for worse. That means that the attitude you bring defines the work you do,”  Tye says, describing the approach millennials take to their work.

For example, he points to the culture created at outdoor apparel retailer Patagonia. “There are a lot of younger people working there, and it’s hard to get a job at Patagonia. It’s not because they want to stuff coats into a box … they’ve bought into the philosophy of the founder, Yvon Chouinard, who wrote a book called ‘Let My People Go Surfing.’ The young people who work at Patagonia want to be a part of something special, and that’s what they’re looking for in any workplace, including healthcare,” Tye says.

2.              The value of the team

Younger doctors have much more trust in managed care organizations than their older colleagues, says Travis Singleton, senior vice president at recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins. That’s because of their belief that the organization has “sourced, vetted, and prepared a total collegial team to utilize, versus feeling like they have to conquer all scopes of practice.”

Whereas older physicians have typically built up their referral network over many years, younger physicians are more likely to embrace a team-based approach where the managed care organization “owns” the patient and the physician is a member of the team that provides care.

“[Baby boomer physicians] are less comfortable just sending [a patient] down the hall to orthopedics for a referral or consult if they didn’t personally build that team,” says Singleton.

The lesson from millennial physicians to baby boomers? “You don’t have to ‘own’ the patient to provide good care,” he says.

Next: Two more lessons



3.              The benefit of fun at work 

While it’s unlikely that many healthcare organizations are going to encourage employees to play ping pong at work, Tye says there are ways to bring more fun into the workplace. Millennials, who tend to expect and thrive in lively work environments, can encourage their baby boomer coworkers to “lighten up, laugh more, and frown less,” he says.

Malley Higley

For inspiration, he says, look to companies such as Clickstop, an Iowa-based online retailer that sells a range of products from ratchet straps to organization supplies, and is frequently recognized for its fun work environment. It’s not surprising that one of Clickstop’s core values is “Make time for fun and family."

Malley Higley says that millennials can change the culture in managed care organizations simply by setting a more upbeat tone. For example, she points to the impact that she and other millennials have had on the recruiting firm where she works. The positive energy becomes contagious, she says, while adding that millennials are also more competitive in spirit. “This creates a whole new culture, which is still evolving at our company,” she adds.



4.              The ability to focus on what’s important, then relax.


Jaciel Keltgen, PhD, is assistant professor at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Her doctoral dissertation focused on job satisfaction among millennial physicians. To describe how the attitude between millennials and baby boomers might differ, she points to an experience her son Casey, a millennial physician, had during his residency. At one point, a more experienced physician told Casey he needed to shave more often.

In response Casey said, “I’m here to deliver excellent service. I don’t believe that whether I have facial hair or not is impacting the care I give to patients,” says Keltgen.

Her son’s point was that he was trying to manage a semblance of work-life balance, and if he could save some time by not shaving, “it’s not that big a deal,” she says.


Aine Cryts is a writer based in Boston.



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