Friday, August 30, 2013

When Recruiting Physicians, Consider the Generational Issues

Hiring New Physicians
Presently, four generations are practicing medicine at the same time: The “Matures” (over 61 years old) make up 18% of the active physician workforce; “Baby Boomers” (born between 1946 and 1964) comprise another 49%; “GenX” (born between 1965 and 1979) makes up another 33%; and the “Millennium Generation” (born since 1980) is only now emerging from training.

Boomer doctors are predominantly male - some 88%—while Xers are but 58% male. But for the first time in history, the Millennials are mostly female (54%). Each generation brings its own work ethic, values system, and priorities to the medical practice. Boomers, Xers, and Millennials each categorically expect something different out of their practices. And each generation brings plenty of opportunity for friction and misunderstanding. And each generation presents a different challenge for those trying to recruit physicians to their respective practices.
Today, most recruiting physicians fall in the Boomer generation, while the ones being courted are Xers and Millennials. Boomers and Matures entered the workforce ready to pay their dues as they climbed the ladder of success—investing huge amounts of time (and sometimes money) with the hopes of a big payoff down the road. They expect the same from the new generation. But alas, that’s not the case. The younger crop of doctors has a very different set of expectations and priorities. More reluctant to “sell their souls to the company store,” they guard their time and want to diversify their time investment as they do other types of investments. Young doctors likely feel far less loyalty to their employer than Boomer doctors do. A new position for them may not be the start of a lifetime career as much as it is a means for building a personal - and portable!—portfolio of career assets. Young docs appear less motivated to their older associates. The Matures and Boomers think Xers and Millennials carry a demanding sense of entitlement. The young associates look at the “old guys” and shake their heads and ask, “Don’t the old guys know there’s more to life than work and money?”

In spite of these generation gaps, you can succeed at recruiting—and retaining—quality physicians. It requires taking a hard look at the different expectations and adapting to the changing currents. Older physicians in a practice can create an inviting environment if they remember that Xers and Millennials generally:
  • View parents as friends and confidants (They’d rather see older physicians in this light, not merely as authority figures.);
  • Use technology as naturally as breathing (They want to work for a practice that is technologically advanced—information technology, communications, EMRs, etc.);
  • Have been exposed to government and corporate scandals since birth (They have no inherent trust in authority; they’re looking for real integrity, and they won’t enter into a deal on the strength of a handshake. They want things spelled out in writing.); and
  • Come as a “package deal”—with a spouse on a career track of his or her own.
So if you’re a Boomer trying to hire Xers and Millennials, keep these points in mind:
  • Be prepared to offer carefully spelled out contracts covering a lot of details.
  • Don’t be surprised if young doctors either aren’t all that interested in partnership or want to see a “fast track” to partnership. “Paying dues” isn’t a natural part of their vocabulary.
  • Be ready to find ways to offer flexibility and control over time for new doctors.
  • Upgrade your technology; young doctors don’t want to be bogged down in what they consider unnecessary paperwork.
  • New doctors will likely balk at an offer that leaves the entire burden of tail insurance on them.
  • Approach dual-career couples together - involve the spouse early in the recruitment process. This helps you perceive whether they are “together” on the decision process and what your chances are of retaining your new, expensive recruit.
  • Provide full disclosure; it is your best policy with young recruits. If they perceive you’re not giving them the whole story, they’ll withdraw quickly.

In all, your goal is understanding—not simply criticizing your young counterparts. Inflexibility will simply guarantee that you leave no legacy in your community.

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photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc