Employment Branding for the New Generation

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How can your organization reach out to young recruits on their own terms—and turf?

You already know the bad news: There's a shortage of healthcare workers, especially nurses and specialists. What's more, the next generation of workers bears no resemblance to their predecessors. Employers complain they don't work as hard, they're demanding and spoiled, and they aren't as loyal.

Recent graduates coming into the job market right now have been "coddled and catered to in lots of ways," contends Roger Gans, creative director at the Berkshire Marketing Group in Troy, NY. "This is the generation that was given trophies for just showing up. They expect to be awarded and praised and valued beyond their real value."

And yet because there are so few of them, every hospital in the country is competing to hire them—and trying hard to keep them. "We need them," Gans says "We can't do without them."

How to get 'em
To make your organization attractive to millennials, says Robin Lowey, associate creative director at TMP Worldwide Advertising and Communications in San Francisco, engage in what she calls "employer branding." In other words, use the unique benefits of your organization and your surroundings to lure recruits.

"You need to get smart about advertising and marketing yourself as a great employer," Lowey says. "People would like to work with like-minded people . . . They're looking for good benefits, they're looking for a culture where they are valued. They expect to be treated with respect."

An ongoing recruitment campaign for 159-staffed-bed Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, ID, touts the area's beautiful scenery, outdoor activities, and family-friendly neighborhoods. One of the taglines: "The scenery is beautiful. Wish you worked here."

"We've seen a big shift as far as recruiting physicians that are just coming out of their internships and their residency programs," says Ann Swanson, marketing and media manager at Portneuf. "You want to create a relationship and a personality for your community and extend that hand out to a potential physician."

Where to find 'em
Once you have your message in mind, the next step is to find the right delivery method. "This group is harder to reach through traditional means than any other group that went before," Gans says. "You have to go to where they go."

It shouldn't come as a surprise that one of the places millennials go is online to social networking sites such as Facebook. But what confounds many healthcare marketers is how to actually use the sites to market their organizations.

The trick, it turns out, is to get other people to do the marketing for you. You might, for example, create a community within those sites for recent recruits. That, in turn, exposes all of their contacts to your organization.

How to keep 'em
Such an online community also gives new employees a safe, welcoming, and familiar environment to get acclimated to your organization—which can help with retention. It gives them a chance to get to know your organization and their new colleagues in a virtual setting such as Facebook before they move to face-to-face communication in the real world.

"The capacity for word-of-mouth advertising is much greater than it ever was before," Gans says. "Trying to find ways to have the new recruits themselves be your recruiters is probably the most fruitful way to do this." It might seem like a lot of work short-term, but in the end that work can pay off.

"The reality is a lot of people aren't prepared to work, and if you want to grow your own work force, you really have to have some kind of process for gently and engagingly steering them into a view of what reality is and what customers need, what patients need," Gans says. "The goal should be to create better employees long-term."

—Gienna Shaw

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