Mentoring Millennials for Future Leadership
James Hernandez, M.D., Associate Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, and Medical Director and Chair of the Division of Laboratory Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Thomas Grys, Ph.D., Consultant in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, and Kenneth Poole, Jr. M.D., Consultant in Community Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, co-authored an article on mentoring millennials for future leadership.
According to the article, which was published in Physician Leadership, millennials will comprise the majority of the U.S. workforce by 2025. In a traditional health care paradigm, physicians are asked to be the best caregivers they can be while administrators take care of financial and operational logistics. In the current, rapidly evolving health care system, physician leaders are tasked to both deliver care and build efficient and sustainable systems. However, the skills necessary to build and improve systems are not generally included with the subject matter expertise physicians acquired throughout their medical education and during residency and fellowship training.
The authors emphasize the use of the T-shaped model to define effective leadership. They say, "The most valuable physician leaders possess a comprehensive understanding of business concepts, such as operations, strategy, finance, marketing and organizational structure. Seasoned leaders who have leveraged these domains and can help others learn to do the same are connectors. Connectors are invaluable as mentors and can teach millennial physicians how to develop and nurture these business-related skills."
As health care evolves, the need for physician leaders to develop a T-shaped skill set, and the social and collaborative characteristics of millennials, health care organizations need to consider nontraditional means of mentorship. Some of these mentorship models include:
- Reverse mentorship involves pairing senior executives with junior associates to bridge generational knowledge and cultural gaps and to empower leaders.
- Group mentoring includes dissemination of ideas and concepts among peers and through various modes of communication.
- Anonymous mentoring provides mentees electronic access (primarily online) to an anonymous senior executive outside the mentee’s firm for six to 12 months.
The authors recommend health care organizations offer mentorship with new physician onboarding, particularly for those deemed to be potential future leaders. At Mayo Clinic, all newly hired physicians are assigned a mentor called a “buddy” to assist with the adjustment to organizational culture and practices. This mentor usually is a physician who has spent a considerable amount of time within the Mayo Clinic system.
"People are the most important investment for an organization, whether the leaders of the organization realize it or not. Regardless of whether the millennial generation has a perceived, expected, or actual shorter tenure of employment in organizations, it is vital to establish and maintain a strong and varied mentorship environment," the authors said.
In the end, mentorship builds better leadership skills and can develop a deep loyalty. This investment pays off for the organization by avoiding the potential gaps in staffing when millennials otherwise could feel unconnected in their workplace and leave a job.