I am still a long way from my twilight years, but I’ve noticed that I’m starting to look at our industry and The Center for Heath Design with a new perspective as I enter the next chapter of my career. I likely have fewer years of working in front of me than I can see in the rearview mirror, and that has me thinking about our industry’s future leaders.
Many of us are where we are today because of people who provided a guiding hand or opened new doors for us to explore. I can trace the genesis of my career to a single moment my sophomore year in college when a professor asked a simple question, “Who would like to help plan a student career day?” By the time I graduated a few years later, I had taken the lead in turning a one-day local student career day into an annual four-day regional student conference that continued to run for years after I graduated. The skills I picked up planning and executing the conference, combined with the people I met along the way, sent me directly on a path to what I do today. It’s a path I never would have discovered if I’d relied only on the traditional education I received at my alma mater.
The young professionals who will become the future leaders of our firms, institutions, and healthcare organizations are likely all under 40 years old today and have different work habits or career expectations than those in leadership now. Understanding these differences and what keeps them satisfied and engaged in their work is critical so we don’t lose great talent to other fields.
The good news is that many are already finding satisfaction working in healthcare design. A 2016 study from the Institute for Health + Wellness Design at the University of Kansas School of Architecture & Design surveyed 173 healthcare design firm employees, all under the age of 40, to gather insight into what keeps them satisfied in the work environment and where things are lacking. Overall, a majority of respondents said they’re satisfied with both their work environments and their opportunities for creativity in their work, and plan to continue to work in healthcare design. Fifty-six percent felt their creative capabilities were being used appropriately, while 42 percent didn’t feel this way, showing there’s still a need to better engage this group’s creative skills. Not surprisingly, the largest dissatisfiers were tied to compensation and benefits and the level of communication and interaction with firm leaders.
Another interesting finding was learning that young staff members list camaraderie with their coworkers as a top priority when ranking satisfaction with their work environment. This means there’s a great opportunity in every organization to engage peer groups and connect them with the current leadership in a more informal way, which will help grow these relationships and provide opportunities to share job knowledge and strengthen communication.
When it comes to benefits, there are many creative ways to provide value to employees, even if finances don’t allow for large salary increases. At The Center, we moved to an unlimited paid time-off policy that allows employees to take the time they need to make their lives work, as opposed to being restricted by a standard two-week vacation allotment. We are over a year into the policy change, and it’s working well for everyone. In addition, we have a masseuse who comes to the office once a month for chair massages, and birthdays are considered personal holidays that should be taken off to do something that brings you joy. These things add very little cost to the budget but help people deal with the stress that can come with managing multiple priorities.
It’s clear this industry has a dedicated group of professionals who care about the future of healthcare design and want to stay engaged. We need to continue to find ways to break down barriers between young professionals and senior leadership not only to improve job satisfaction but to help transfer the wealth of knowledge from one generation to the next. Investing in our collective future will, in the long run, pay back significant dividends in the decades to come.
Debra Levin is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.