Posted: 31 Oct. 2017 5 min. read

The millennial workforce: How can hospital CEOs keep up?

By Steve Burrill, Vice Chairman, US Health Care Providers Leader, Deloitte LLP

I have five children ranging in age from nine to 26 years old. They each engage differently with me, with school or work, and with each other. They all have different priorities, and different motivations. My eldest son fits the broad definition of a millennial. He cares about his work, he wants to do well, and he expects that hard work will allow him to advance. But his life revolves around his friends, his personal time, and doing what must be done to support it. His motivation for earning money is to make his free time more enjoyable. That, for example, might mean buying a new surfboard.

At Deloitte, we use something called “Business Chemistry” to help define people’s characteristics, working style, and relationship preferences. Regardless of age, the four profiles–Pioneer, Driver, Guardian or Integrator–help us understand how to improve collaboration among workers and increase the effectiveness of their interactions. In terms of Business Chemistry, my eldest son is a Guardian–as are about 30 percent of people in his generation, according to our research. Like other millennials, he’s a “secret introvert.” He is a hard worker, focused and practical, but not a risk taker.

Tapping into the millennial workforce in health care

Health care professionals are in short supply and many CEOs are concerned about their ability to find physicians, nurses, technicians, and other talent. Of the 20 hospital and health system CEOs we recently surveyed, 14 said finding talent was a major issue. That aligns with a similar research we conducted in 2015.

These leaders recognize that their businesses are changing and that they will need the right talent–now and in the future–to keep pace with the dynamic marketplace in which they operate. Whether they are patients, the parents of patients, or employees, health system CEOs want to know how to work most effectively with people born between 1987 and 2000–the millennials.

Business Chemistry uses analytics to reveal how each person aligns with four scientifically based patterns of behavior: Pioneers, Drivers, Guardians, and Integrators. Knowing which traits emerge more strongly in which people can help drive more rewarding collaboration among people, within teams–and now–even between generations.

  • Pioneer: More than anything, a Pioneer can be recognized by their spontaneity and penchant for brainstorming. Often the most extroverted of the four groups, Pioneers are energetic and expressive, and have broad networks and collaborative styles. They adapt easily to change and like to jump in and lead the charge toward new horizons. Pioneer motto: Have fun. It’s just work.
  • Driver: The most defining characteristic of Drivers is their technical and quantitative orientation. This could take the form of an expertise in math, engineering, mechanics, technology, or even music. The Driver type has direct style, a logical approach, a competitive streak, and a willingness to make tough decisions. Drivers are likely to take charge and enjoy experimentation. They tend to prioritize goals over relationships. Driver motto: And your point is…?
  • Guardian: Methodical. That is the dominant characteristic of the Guardian. They are also structured, meticulous, focused on the details, and practical. If you’re paying attention to these things, a Guardian is easy to spot. But they are also reserved, and don’t always make themselves known. Guardians are likely to be conventional, hierarchical, disciplined, and frugal. They also are likely to speak slowly or, often the most introverted of the four types, not at all, especially if others are dominating the conversation or fighting for the floor. Guardian motto: Changing the world, one spreadsheet at a time.
  • Integrator: A tendency to avoid confrontation and seek consensus is the Integrator’s strongest trait. They are empathetic and have a high tolerance for ambiguity. Integrators are connectors. They connect with people (and connect ideas), emphasize relationships, and strive to be helpful. Their way of thinking is nonlinear, big-picture, and contextual. They are traditional, trusting, and dutiful. Integrator motto: Consensus rules!

Millennials are often data-driven, goal focused

In a series of online studies, Deloitte researchers found that 60 percent of millennials fall into two Business Chemistry categories: Guardians (32 percent) and Drivers (27 percent). Because the Integrator type is diplomatic and people-focused, we were surprised to see that just 23 percent of respondents fell into that category.

Surveyed health system CEOs say that managing talent, especially the millennial generation, requires acknowledging and addressing different priorities. In some ways, this group can be easier to engage. That typically goes for all employees, from nurses, to administrative staff, to custodial workers.

Millennial physicians, for example, typically consider themselves to be more data-driven than their older counterparts, and 62 percent cite their reliance on EHRs as important in providing quality patient care.1 Unlike their older colleagues, millennial physicians tend to prioritize work-life balance: 92 percent of surveyed millennial doctors say that it is important for them to strike a balance between work, personal life, and family responsibilities.2 In an environment that often requires long hours and being on call, many CEOs are still learning how to meet these expectations.

I am a baby boomer. As a generation, we are often hard charging and motivated to a fault. Boomers made sure they created something significant for themselves, but it was often at the expense of their friends and families. I had to learn how to take a real vacation…and that took a while. Millennials are not all one thing, but do possess unique attributes. As hospital leaders prepare for the future, they should develop strategies that align with the expectations and work styles of rising generations. To help these employees reach their potential, hospital and health system CEOs should understand what motivates them.


1. Robert Nagler Miller, “Millennial physicians sound off on state of medicine today,” AMA Wire, March 2017.

2. Ibid.


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