3 Ways Nurse Managers Can Develop Millennial Nurses

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You’ve noticed one nurse is doing exceptionally well. They go above and beyond. First to arrive. Last to leave. You’ve often said to yourself, “she (or he) is ready for more.” Maybe they are ready for a promotion to unit manager. On the other end of the spectrum,  you have another nurse who always seems to be slacking. Documentation is never complete, seemingly always missing the important aspects of patient care. Medication passes are still late. Their communication is subpar, causing delays in the continuity of care. “These millennial nurses are lazy,” you tell yourself. Perhaps you need to let your slacker go? Or maybe they are very close to coming out on the other side but need help improving their weaknesses and developing their strengths. This is where you put your leadership skills (or lack of) to the test. Millennial nurses need more than a manager. They need a leader. As a leader, it is your responsibility to cultivate the strengths of your staff–enabling them to gain confidence. Choosing to help your employees grow, empowers them to take on more responsibility and make better decisions–millennial nurses included. 

Help each employee–individually–develop skills. Professional growth is high on the list for millennial employees. Take the time for one-on-one development. One nurse may be great at documentation but could use training in proper communication. Ask him or her to give other nurses tips on thorough documentation. Not only are you acknowledging this nurse’s strength, but you are allowing him or her to work on a weakness. Let your nurses know that you recognize their strengths! Acknowledge them! Create an environment that encourages your nurses to grow and develop new skills. Provide them with the tools and resources needed to be strong nurses. Make courses and training available–free of charge if possible– and accessible. Schedule the sessions for multiple days and times.

Delegate certain tasks. These tasks should be tasks that help each nurse grow in their weak areas. Some nurses may require these instructions to be step-by-step. Never leave them to figure it out on their own. Be available until THEY feel they no longer need your guidance. Once they have mastered one skill, slowly give them more tasks–showing you are confident in their abilities and building trust. Remember, a competent staff reflects highly on you. Be available to your nurses by making it easy for them to ask questions or get feedback, without the fear of being bothersome. Be eager and happy to answer questions.

Set expectations from the beginning of the manager-employee relationship. What are the goals? Share short-term and long-term goals. Ask questions. Have you asked that nurse why he or she has difficulty documenting? Maybe after sitting down, you realize he or she is not completing documentation because they really don’t know how to accurately chart. His or her short-term goal may be to document on each patient, thoroughly, for a shift. Long -term goal could be for you to be able to accurately paint a picture, based on their notes, in a month’s time. Setting an end goal leaves your employees empowered. Give objective feedback regularly. 85% of millennials say they want more frequent and specific input on how they are performing from their managers. Generation Y nurses want to know how they’re doing, what they can do to improve, and if they’re doing a good job–they want to hear it. 

Along with building skills, millennial nurses want access to leadership. Be available. Be supportive. Connect one-on-one. Know your nurses’ names, their roles, the shifts they work, etc. Listen to their concerns and provide feedback, ensuring that you tell them how much they’re contributing. To successfully manage millennial nurses, you need to learn to develop them. Enable your Gen Y nurses to grow professionally, develop new skills, and have access to you, when needed. 

4 Tips to Retaining Millennials

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Millennials, also known as Generation Y, make up one-third of the workforce. In 2015 they became the largest generation in the workforce. In 2016, they surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation. Although more and more Gen Y-ers are entering the workforce, retention is a rising challenge for many organizations. Gallup estimates that 60% of millennials are open to new job opportunities and are the generation most likely to switch jobs. Millennial turnover costs U.S. companies $30.5 billion annually and according to the Advisory Board’s research, the cost of replacing every nurse that turns over is approximately $90,000. With Baby Boomers retiring, retaining millennials is no longer an option, it’s a priority. Here are four tips for retaining millennials.

Define and Understand Millennials

Who are millennials? There are varying dates for when the millennial cohort starts and ends. Generational diversity expert Bruce Tulgan range millennials for those born between 1978 and 1991.* Pew Research Center defines millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996. Tulgan notes that millennials grew up in the “Decade of the Child.” Parents focused on building their children’s self-esteem, boosting their confidence, and instilling in each child a unique identity. Gen Yers grew up in the era of “everyone receiving a trophy.” They were not taught to compete but to collaborate. From Kinder years throughout high school and college, Millennials were taught to have their own identity and to express themselves. Tattoos, colored hair, and piercings are no longer taboo and are a part of cultural acceptance. One millennial nurse I spoke with stated, “I’ve earned my MSN (Masters of Science in Nursing) if a company doesn’t want to hire me because I have tattoos, then I’ll just move on to the next one. A tattoo has never stopped me from doing my job or saving a life!” Assembly line work and conformity is no longer going to work with millennials. They need the ability to express themselves and grow.


Gen Y is the most diverse generation in US history. Approximately 44% of this generation are a minority. A Deloitte study found that millennials differ from non-millennials as Gen Yers want to achieve diversity by incorporating ideas, perspectives, and a sense of belonging amongst their peers. It is no wonder that millennials network and collaborate well. Teamwork is a strong suit and many millennials thrive and excel in this type of environment. Not only do millennials desire diversity and inclusiveness, they expect open dialogue about it. As a matter of fact, 83% of millennials are actively engaged when they believe their employer fosters an inclusive culture.

Professional Development

In a recent independent survey that I conducted, 81% of Millennials stated that professional growth is important. Gone are the days of working 20 years with the goal of one day climbing the ladder. If you do not offer your millennial employees, from day one, opportunities for professional growth and development they will leave. It is not far-fetched that millennials are the most likely to speak out against unfairness or outdated policies and procedures and then implement problems to the solution.

Millennials are multitaskers; have more access to technology, knowledge, and resources than any other generation before; and are comfortable with the rapidly changing technology. Along with building skills, Millennials want access to leadership. This means that they want the opportunity to sit down with senior executives, managers, and etc. Millennials will show up, implement ideas, perform at a high level, but they want to know that someone is watching and that when the time comes they will be recognized for it. 85% of millennials say they want more frequent and specific input on how they are performing from their managers, in a survey by TriNet. This not only keeps them informed and at the forefront of professional development, it improves overall performance.


The Great Recession is a distinguishing event in the lives of many millennials. During the decline that the economy faced at this time, many millennials were just graduating college, entering the workforce, or starting to build families. The impact of the Great Recession is evident in how millennials save, invest, and spend their money. Many millennials were allowed to vote, for the first time in 2007 and were influential in electing the nation’s first Black president. Millennials want social impact and change and they need their employers to have a sense of community and purpose. In fact, approximately half of Gen Yers say they would be willing to take a 15% pay cut to work for an organization that aligns with their values.

Millennials are not going anywhere. In fact, we are to stay. Mold us, support us, give us purpose and we will flourish in the workplace. Deny us what we need and prioritize and we will flee.

“Yes, millennials will be more difficult to recruit, retain, motivate, and manage than any other new generation to enter the workforce. However, this will also be the most high-performing workforce in history for those who know how to manage them properly.” -Bruce Tulgan.