Graham's Corner

Dr. Graham Sher

Whether it’s our workforce, volunteers, or donor base, Canada’s youth have a unique impact on our various lines of business. The necessity for Canadian Blood Services to remain vital is to maintain a critical focus on the younger generation.

The media is calling today’s youth – Gen-Y or Millenials – the “Lost Generation”. I think this is a gross misunderstanding. Canadian Blood Services is an example of how we continue to reach out to this group in a variety of ways so that we remain agile, efficient, and with an eye towards the future.

The youth joining our workforce now are employees born between 1980 and 2000. Unlike the Gen-Xers and the Boomers, the Millennials have developed work characteristics and tendencies that are far different from their parents. They seek leadership, and even structure, from their older and managerial coworkers, but expect that we will draw out and respect their ideas.

They seek a challenge and are used to balancing many activities such as teams, friends, and philanthropic activities. Today’s youth want flexibility in scheduling and a life away from work. Our young people are the most connected generation in history and will network right out of their current workplace if these needs are not met.

It’s important to note these traits if one is to understand how to engage, recruit and retain young people in our various activities. We must operate and build this idea within our corporate culture to remain relevant.

We have recently shifted our strategy in stem cells to target young, ethnic males, particularly under the age of 35. Research indicates that younger donors are associated with better long-term survival rates. That is why OneMatch is making a concerted effort to recruit younger donors, as well as increase the database with a sharper focus on ethnic representation. We continue to put our efforts on recruitment in this area to build and maintain a youthful registry for the future of patients.

The other challenge is in our blood collection efforts. Statistics continue to show that our current donor base is aging. And while we continue to appreciate the dedication of our donors, it is important to find new, young donors and keep them in the system. But what makes our recruitment efforts more difficult within this demographic are policies and guidelines that are perceived as stigmatizing certain groups within society.

It is why our organization continues to review and reassess our deferral policies. As new scientific data emerges, cultural and societal behaviours change, we too must be nimble or risk losing tomorrow’s donors.

Any perceived unfairness in our policies and we run the risk of causing them to stay away.

Oscar Wilde once said that youth is wasted on the young. But investing in the future, the leaders of tomorrow, is more than just good business sense – it’s a necessity for survival and success.