As a medical laboratory scientist and supervisor of our lab’s hematology department, I often sit in on interviews for open positions and take an active role in the employee selection process. If your lab is anything like ours, recruiting to fill an open position is no easy feat. Unfortunately, the next five to ten years will bring an even bigger challenge due to the expected retirement of a significant number of our workforce. While it’s likely too late to completely avoid any staffing issues with the retirement surge so near, it is crucial that we work to tailor our marketing efforts for the eyes and ears of our current audience – the millennial generation.
Interest follows awareness. First, and by far the most important, is that we must do the hard work of gaining awareness for our profession. We cannot possibly market a career that most millennials aren’t even aware exists. While this isn’t anything that can be accomplished in a short period of time, I believe we need to be doing this alongside any other recruitment efforts in order to maximize our potential audience. Personally, I know of many medical laboratory scientists (myself included) who would be more than willing to help with a project of this scope, but lack the appropriate platform to do so. Ideally, the laboratory community needs to come together with the support of a professional society and push our career out into the limelight.
Exude enthusiasm! We need to characterize the profession as the exciting environment that it genuinely is. If we stop to think of the value laboratories provide in healthcare it truly is amazing! The laboratory is a very fast-paced, challenging atmosphere that is in a constant state of change. Various disciplines within the lab have the potential to offer completely different responsibilities on a daily basis. Presenting our profession in a positive, exciting way will help to generate questions about what exactly it is we do.
It’s all about the Benjamins … not really. When marketing for the laboratory profession, the salary and benefit package must be competitive. Young people entering the workforce are likely doing so with far starker financial situations than those of older generations. Within the next few years, the level of competition for attracting qualified professionals is going to increase exponentially. Millennials value their pay, but more importantly they value meaningful work. They also view the total compensation package as important so be mindful of what you are offering in terms of health insurance, retirement funding, vacation time, and overall work flexibility (hello work-life balance!). We need to keep in mind that, while what we are offering now may be considered acceptable, we will certainly need to bring more to the table in order to attract great talent in the future.
Push for career advancement. We need to work to increase the opportunities for growth associated with the laboratory career. Millennials desire an employer who values their creativity and is willing to invest in their development. There are many administrative and quality-focused positions available that medical laboratory scientists are well equipped to handle. The problem is we need to start going after them! The current workforce needs to break the barrier between the lab and neighboring departments and highlight their capabilities.
The era of convenience. We also need to make applying for open laboratory positions convenient and mobile. I know from personal experience that many job applications cannot be easily completed on a mobile phone or tablet. While restricting the application process to a desktop platform may not completely deter all applicants, it will definitely slow them down. The more mobile the process is, the more likely the younger generation is to follow through.
While none of the above strategies are a “quick fix,” they will become necessary in the very near future. It will certainly take an enormous effort from the current roster of lab scientists, but nothing will ever begin to improve if we don’t start now. An increased effort working toward improvements is only in our best interest as it will have a positive effect on our “daily grind” down the road.
Kristen Holshoe, BS, MLS (ASCP)
Kristen Holshoe is the Hematology/Coagulation laboratory supervisor at a northwest Michigan hospital. As is evident in her quality of work, she is proud to be a valuable part of the healthcare team performing complex testing as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist.
With 13 years of experience in the field, Kristen is passionate about promoting her profession through education and networking in an effort to make the career more “visible” Find Kristen on LinkedIn.