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Does Your Staffing Firm Know How to Engage Millennial Nurses and Gen Z Nursing Grads?

What values and desires drive younger nurses? What motivates them to stay with a job? How important is pay? Which benefits matter most? What influences their career choices?

Does Your Staffing Firm Know How to Engage Millennial Nurses and Gen Z Nursing Grads?

By: Reva Nelson

The statistics illustrate the trend all too well:  the need for skilled nurses continues to outstrip supply. The American Nursing Association projects that 700,000 nurses will retire or leave the labor force by 2024. Further complicating the situation is a projected 15% increase in nurse employment by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Yet there’s cause for optimism that comes with a growing wave of millennial nursing talent and Gen Z graduates. 

These two generations are poised to fill the nursing void. Each brings a unique point of view to the workplace that is worth exploring. What exactly do they want from employers? What is their ideal job? Most importantly, how can you position your travel nurse opportunities to attract their interest?  

Understanding their desires, motivations and strengths will give you the means to successfully meet their needs and the needs of your healthcare clients. 

Let’s take a look at how your staffing firm can recruit, engage and capitalize on the strengths of each of these groups, particularly for travel nursing jobs. 

Tapping Millennial Nursing Talent 
Who they are: Born between the early 1980s and late 1990s, millennials (sometimes referred to as Generation Y, or Gen Y) have quickly taken the work baton from Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the workforce. 

As author Bruce Tulgan points out, it’s best to split this enormous group into two waves.  

First wave millennials grew up in economic prosperity and were deeply impacted by the events of September 11th. Second wave Millennials grew up in the 2000s and experienced both economic uncertainty and the longest war in American history.  Both groups are self-starters and entrepreneurial-minded. 

Why they’re well-positioned for your healthcare clients: “Millennials are not afraid of new technology,” says Tim Teague, president of Blue Sky Medical Staffing Software. This is helpful for healthcare providers who must meet the need for ongoing adoption of technology tools such as electronic health records. Technology-savvy millennials are likely to be more comfortable with these administrative roles.  “The chief nursing officer is more often than not a baby boomer, whose predilection for technology goes to a certain level and then stops,” says Teague.

Gen Y workers also tend to be ambitious and highly-effective networkers, says Brian Hudson, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Avant Healthcare. As such, they are more likely to use social media to interact with their community and comment online about their employment experience. 

Millennial's recruitment motivations:  Both quality of life and exposure to different environments typically rank higher than pay as a priority for millennials. “Millennials are more likely to use travel assignments to travel and see the world, looking for ample time off in their schedules for sightseeing and work-life balance,” notes Jennifer Mensik, PhD, division director at Oregon Health and Science University.

Teague agrees with this perspective. “Millennials do not always put pay as their top priority. More often it ranks second or third on their list of priorities.”

Millennial turnoffs: Since work-life balance is a top priority, millennials are likely to be turned off by jobs that invade their private lives,” says Mensik. “Calls and texts to home looking to pick up more shifts, or requesting extended working hours mess with work-life balance.” Working remotely, on the other hand, is always a plus.

Millennial challenges: Millennials tend not to be particularly loyal—neither to your staffing agency nor to the healthcare client—which makes millennial retention an issue. “They’re loyal to the profession, but not to an institution,” says Hudson.

How to snag them: Sell Gen Y candidates on the location and experience of a would-be assignment. If there are remote work opportunities, be sure to highlight them. Since millennials are great at networking on social media, they can be instrumental in helping find your next hire, even if they don’t stick around themselves.

Get to Know Gen Z
Who they are: As the first generation born in the 21st century, Gen Z workers have grown up in a connected, online world. Social platforms are their go-to sources for peer perceptions. They're selective about the brands that align with their own personal brand.  Above all, they value authenticity.  

Accustomed to on-demand services (think Netflix and Uber) Gen Z is comfortable doing freelance or contingent work. As writer Curtis Odom points out, even more than their Gen Y predecessors, this younger generation brings a “try before you buy” mentality to their work. Odom adds that traditional one-size-fits-all benefits packages are less likely to appeal to them than a “cafeteria style” menu of choices.

Why they’re great for your healthcare clients: “Gen Z nurses are eager to improve their organizations and be involved in their communities,” says Hudson. They may join (or even start) an organizational task force to address a particular work issue, or they may organize a team volunteer outing. In either event, these skills are a plus for healthcare organizations and their organizational culture.

Having watched their parents struggle through the Great Recession, “Gen Z is financially focused, risk adverse and stability minded, says Mensik. As such, your staffing company may be able to snag these travel nurses for permanent placement. “They are likely to prioritize longer travel assignments and use this as an opportunity to find a ‘forever’ home,” he adds.   

In addition, Gen Z tends to process information quickly. That makes them great multi-taskers—which are, of course, great on-the-job nursing skills. 

Gen Z recruitment motivations: Gen Z nurses have a strong desire to avoid debt. They recognize that college is important, but are often reluctant to go break the bank to fund it. Compounding this belief is their ability to access free information online. 

Gen Z turnoffs: Gen Z is very distrustful of companies who excessively self-promote themselves on social media. “They are much more likely to seek out the reviews of other people about these companies to guide their opinion,” says Mensik. 

Gen Z challenges: Highly collaborative workplaces can be challenging for Gen Z. Generally speaking, this demographic likes to work alone and wants to be judged on their own merits. 

How to snag them:  Given that they’re budget-minded, “tuition reimbursement is very important to this group; they are less likely to go to school until they can pay for it through other avenues,” says Mensik. 

This generation is intent on making a difference in the world. When courting them for assignments, you’ll want to emphasize the organizational values of the employer they’re considering working with. As you guide them through the recruiting process, keep in mind that they crave feedback and yearn to be frequently recognized for their individual contributions.

Given the looming nursing shortage, your staffing firm—and your healthcare clients—need these talented nurses. Engage them by understanding their needs and wants—whether it’s tech-savvy Millennials and their desire for work-life balance or community-minded Gen Z nurses who are in it for the long haul. Provide them with the right offers and environments in which they can thrive. Both groups will bring excellent skills and qualities to your healthcare clients.