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Money still talks, but it whispers to millennial medics

A Florida EMS agency is not likely to achieve its desired retention goal by offering medics a $35,000 bonus for working for 5 years

By Ginger Locke

Sunstar Paramedics recently promised to give a $35,000 bonus to medics who stay for five years.

This year millennials, workers born between 1980 and 2000, became the largest cohort in the U.S. workforce [1, 3]. Workforce experts offer a clear message regarding the attraction and retention of millennials; money still talks to millennials, but it’s more of a whisper.

To motivate millennials many employers are rapidly switching away from cash bonuses and toward the intangibles millennials crave. In addition to earning a living wage, here are the top three things millennials are seeking in a career:

1. Work-life balance
45 percent of millennials will emphasize workplace flexibility over pay [2]. Their generation watched and was influenced by the global economy plummeting in 2008. This life-event informs their philosophies about work and play. They aren’t waiting until retirement to begin having fun.

Excessive mandatory overtime disrupts work-life balance. Employees need money, but they also want time for a life outside of and away from work. Creative scheduling is a key tactic for retention.

2. Culture of happiness and purpose
Promise a cash bonus and applications increase. Failure to build a culture of happiness and employees will leave, regardless of a promised bonus. Happiness to a millennial, after they find work at a living wage, is rooted in a sense of purpose and opportunity for upward mobility [2].

One management practice to create a happy and purpose-driven culture is called reverse mentoring. In this process, managers ask tech-savvy millennials to be resident experts for technological advances within the system. Engage them in the research and implementation of a scheduling, ePCR, or billing software.

The benefits of reverse mentoring include:

  • Tapping into a skillset that some senior leaders may lack.
  • Establishing a sense of belonging quickly.
  • Creating a connection with a mentor helps offset the number one reason millennials leave employers; lack of career growth opportunities [4].

3. Honesty and transparency
Millennials are not afraid to question authority. When they ask a legitimate question, they expect an honest answer. Get their buy-in to the company’s mission and watch them work their magic on the job and giving praise on social media.

In the information age, negative posts can harm a company’s image. The opposite is also true. When a happy employee tweets positive thoughts about their work, it stands to positively affect recruiting and retention.

Pay the living wage now
If the agency budget can support adding $7K to every employee’s annual salary, pay the medics more now. But remember to add in intangibles life-balanced schedules, opportunities for performing work with a purpose, and transparency to the company mission if you want them to stay.

About the author:
Ginger Locke is a GenXer living in a millennials’ world. Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Georgia where she studied generational theory. Locke is a paramedic and associate professor of EMS Professions at Austin Community College. She believes EMS is ready to evolve and we need to keep the medics, but rethink the rest. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @gingerlockeATX.

  3. There is debate on the exact years of the millennial generation but it is generally considered to be people born in the 80s and 90s.