Millennials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers are all unique in their own way. Learning how to manage multiple generations within a single workplace can definitely be a challenge. Chances are you’ve already experienced this within your own veterinary practice.
In the veterinary profession, most practice managers are Baby Boomers or Gen-Xers. Meanwhile, many practice employees are Millennials, and they’re a common source of frustration for their managers. To help you minimize the stress of managing a multi-generational practice, here are four common traits of Millennial employees that practice managers complain about, along with suggestions on how to handle them.
1. Unrealistic expectations
Many practice managers find that Millennial employees expect to make more money than they do, earn pay raises more often than they will, and enjoy a good work-life balance. Perhaps it’s because Millennials are new to the workforce and don’t yet have an understanding of average sales in the veterinary industry. Maybe they’re beginning to realize that they’ve chosen a job that doesn’t earn them quite as much as they need. Regardless of the reason, you can manage these high expectations by being up front with your employees before the issues even arise. For example, let them know that the salary you’re paying them is consistent with industry standards and their fellow employees. Let them know if and when they can expect to receive a pay raise. When you do this, they won’t be left wondering, and you won’t be left fielding complaints based on unrealistic expectations.
With regards to work-life balance, it’s important to recognize that Millennials value having a life outside of work, bonding with friends and family, exploring the world and even participating in charity work. The veterinary industry often demands long hours at unusual times, and that’s before you throw emergency situations into the mix. Again, be up front with new Millennial employees so they know what they’re getting into. Let them know that the hours this industry demands can far exceed the hours demanded by other professions, and explain why. That said, do keep in mind that good work-life balance is extremely important for one’s well-being and keep a watchful eye to ensure your demands aren’t causing an employee to lose that balance. Remember, the happiest employees are often the best employees!
2. Close coworker relationships
Another common complaint is that Millennial employees tend to build strong friendships with their coworkers, unlike older employees who tend to keep their work and personal lives completely separate. This tendency can be frustrating to practice managers for two reasons. First, it can lead to high turnover. When one employee decides to leave the clinic, those who are close to that individual often choose to follow suit, thereby causing the practice to lose multiple employees at once. Second, these close relationships can lead to a lack of professionalism within your practice. Consider, for example, two employees engaged in a conversation about their weekend while a third employee is checking out a client at the front desk.
What can you do about these close relationships? Frankly, nothing. Keep in mind that while, yes, they may result in higher turnover on occasion, they also bring your employees happiness, and happy employees do better work. You should, however, set clear boundaries about non-work-related conversations, and explain why you need them to be aware of their surroundings before engaging in personal chit-chat.
3. A “grass is always greener” mentality
Another source of frustration for practice managers is that Millennials often want to be anywhere they’re not, i.e. in a place where they expect the grass will be greener. Whatever role they’re in, they believe there’s another position within the hospital that is sure to be better, or that working in a different hospital will be less stressful and deliver better pay. Many employees who leave for a competing clinic end up coming back when they realize how green they had it, but still, their constant quest for greener can be extremely frustrating.
What can you do about it? Accept that this generation is always looking for bigger and better. Recognize that Millennial employees are hard to satisfy and willing to jump between jobs. And then do everything you can to make them feel valued. Speaking as a Millennial myself, I can tell you that a “thank you” goes a long way, as do small gestures like the occasional employee lunch. Show your appreciation and you’ll have better luck curbing their enthusiasm for “greener” pastures.
4. Attachment to technology
Last but not least, technology. Over the last decade, social media has exploded. As a result, Millennials are constantly checking their smart devices to avoid missing a beat. Unfortunately, they do this in the workplace as well as at home, which is extremely frustrating to practice managers.
The only way to address this behavior is to set clear boundaries regarding technology usage. For example, tell employees when and where it’s acceptable, if at all. Tell them why you have parameters in place, i.e. explain the negative effects that their technology usage can have on your clinic’s productivity. And explain that, even when your practice is quiet, a quick peek at their smart phone still conveys a serious lack of professionalism to whoever happens to be sitting in your waiting area. In the same breath, consider acknowledging their technology proficiency and inviting them to use it to your practice’s benefit. Updating your practice’s Facebook page or snapping photos for your practice’s Instagram page are ways for them to put their social media habits to appropriate use.
|Generational differences within the workplace are inevitable so even though it may not always come naturally, we have to find ways to work together. My advice to practice managers: try to find that perfect balance between accepting the traits you’re unable to change, setting parameters around those you can, and learning how to use the rest to your advantage. You may not always realize it, but Millennials can actually be a great asset to your veterinary practice !|
|A final thought: Let your Millennial employees know you value them by engaging them in your practice’s bigger goals. The VetSuccess Forward-Booking Staff Meeting in a Box  is a great tool that will help you do just that, while simultaneously optimizing the success of your practice. Be sure to check it out!|