How to Work With Millennials

Making an effort to understand your youngest staff members can lead to employees who bring a unique passion and drive to your veterinary practice.

Have you given up on understanding millennials, a.k.a. Gen Y? Do you believe they feel entitled, lazy and selfish? Here are some key insights to help you better understand them and work with them. Sure enough, this “largest generation” (80 million Americans) is very different from its predecessors. 

First, who is a Millennial? Exact ages and definitions vary, but here is how the Center for Generational Kinetics1 defines the five generations currently making up our society:

  • iGen or Gen Z: Born 1996 and later 
  • Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 to 1995 
  • Generation X: Born 1965 to 1976 
  • Baby boomers: Born 1946 to 1964 
  • Traditionalists: Born 1945 or before 

The Center for Generational Kinetics recently published a white paper2 that compiled data on Millennial employment and provided five insights. The insights pertain to employment in general and apply to veterinary medicine as well. 

Insight No. 1: What Motivates Millennials? 

The first insight is the five motivators for Millennial employees, ages 19 to 37, to engage with their jobs:

  1. They must feel valued within the organization (by far the most important driver).
  2. They must have confidence in the organization’s leaders.
  3. They must enjoy what they do.
  4. They must feel like they are making progress at work.
  5. They must feel that their organization treats them like individuals, not numbers.

Insight No. 2: Who are Millennials’ best employers? 

The first four traits relate to Millennials’ understanding of the organization and how they interact with it:

  1. Millennials understand how their organization is doing financially.
  2. They believe there is enough staffing to offer good products and good services.
  3. They feel they can advance in the company.
  4. Their supervisors inform them of changes before they take place.

The next four traits relate to Millennials’ self-image within the company—for example, how they perceive their self-worth, opportunities and compensation:

  1. Millennials feel valued.
  2. They feel they can express their feelings without repercussions.
  3. They believe they will get a promotion if they do a good job.
  4. They feel their wages are satisfactory.

Insight No. 3: What attracts Millennials to a Position? 

Millennials are attracted to well-advertised jobs and to organizations with good branding. Related factors include the job description, the employer’s career page and how easy it is to apply for a job. This last point is crucial: 43 percent of Millennials believe they should be able to use a tablet computer to apply for a job, and almost 40 percent think they should be able to apply on a smartphone.

Other factors include the information provided by social media outlets, such as, a website with employment ratings. 

An organization’s mission appeals more to Millennials (60 percent of them) than to other generations. Part of the mission statement should include valuing employees and their personal and professional growth.

Insight No. 4 How Long Will Millennials Stay? 

Data on how long Millennials plan to remain in one job and how many jobs they want over their lifetime is not consistent in the white paper. This actually makes sense because their ages vary so widely—19 to 37. So they are at different stages of their lives. For example, young Millennials studying in college often hold part-time or transitional jobs that they don’s see as leading to careers.

After graduation from college, however, the time that Millennials will stay at a job lengthens. One study revealed that 54 percent of Millennials wanted to work for two to five employers throughout their careers.

The Center for Generational Kinetics offers advice for supervisors looking to retain Millennial employees. Supervisors can compare their rates of retention to those of a peer group in the same industry. This is helpful because, depending on factors like industry and geography, turnover among Millennials can vary from 15 to 150 percent.

Supervisors also can determine the six-month period in which Millennials have the highest turnover rate. This period depends on several things. For example, the increase in turnover could be seasonal.

Four months before the turnover mark, supervisors should decide what to do to retain their Millennial employees for another six to 12 months.

Insight No. 5: What Motivates Millennials at Work? 

  1. The feeling that they belong.
  2. Tasks that are challenging or interesting.
  3. A fondness for their coworkers and bosses.
  4. A mission they believe in.
  5. Benefits and compensation.

Of note, the center also revealed that most Millennials prefer weekly feedback.

The study shares many excellent ideas to get the best out of Millennials. Give them a try and you may be surprised to discover a few superstars among your youngest employees.

What Millennials Need

Here are six things you can do to improve Millennials’ performance. 

  1. Provide specific, visual examples of what you expect. For example, show employees a picture or a video of the dress code. This way you can hold employees accountable for not dressing properly. 
  2. Develop a space where Millennials can “interact with leaders of different ages, experiences and titles,” according to the Center for Generational Kinetics. For instance, you might invite Millennials to participate in a quarterly meeting with supervisors. Allowing these groups to interact is fundamental: Millennials can learn from the leaders, and the leaders can get a “better view [of] their talent pipeline,” the center notes. 
  3. Assign stretch projects to Millennials. These are specific challenges through which employees can demonstrate their potential, such as preparing a presentation on new equipment. 
  4. Make Millennials’ first day on the job memorable. For example, new employees at Barnum Financial Group, which co-sponsored the white paper, have their picture taken on a stage as if they were celebrities walking the red carpet. The picture is taken using their smartphone so they can easily post their picture on social networks. 
  5. Help Millennials develop their skills. For example, at the Center for Generational Kinetics, employees identify areas in which they would like to improve, and they have quarterly training to improve their skills. 
  6. Give Millennial employees a paid day off on their birthday. It’s done at the Center for Generational Kinetics. 



  1. The objective of the Center for Generational Kinetics ( is to research issues surrounding Millennials in the workplace and the marketplace. The paper was published in collaboration with Barnum Financial Group and the Best Companies Group. 
  2. “Unlocking Millennial Talent 2015: Brand New Insights For Employing The Fastest Growing Generation in the Workplace.”

Originally published in the February 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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